Senior Travis Wilson looks like he will be the starter in 2015, but senior Kendal Thompson showed improved arm strength in spring football and has made a speedy recovery from the knee injury that cut the 2014 season short for him, so he could challenge for the starting spot. Each quarterback brings different skills to the table, so each quarterback would be expected to contribute slightly differently if named the starter. Wilson has the better arm, so the offense would likely rely a bit more heavily on the downfield passing game if Wilson starts. Thompson is the more capable runner, so the read-option would likely be featured more with him behind center.
Once teams began to figure out that Booker was Utah's best offensive weapon, his stats began to decline. Booker ran for over 100 yards in each of Utah's first five conference games with six rushing touchdowns, but he only topped 100 yards rushing once in the final four conference games and managed only one rushing touchdown. Teams were able to stack the box and slow him down. He averaged 5.78 yards per carry in Utah's first four conference games and only 4.22 yards per carry in Utah's final five games and was held under 4.0 yards per carry in five of Utah's final six conference games. Utah's quarterback needs to do enough to keep opposing defenses honest, so there are running lanes for Booker.
Wilson has a strong arm and a quick release. He showed against a stout Stanford front seven in 2013 that he could get the ball out quickly to backs and receivers on
Utah is 7-1 in games where Wilson throws two or more touchdowns and one or fewer interceptions (the lone loss was against Arizona in 2012). Utah is 0-8 when Wilson throws more than one interception. Utah is a ball-control team, running the football, playing great defense, and controlling field position with an elite punting game, so turnovers even more costly to a team like Utah than most other teams. In 2014, there was a marked difference in Wilson's stats in games Utah won versus games that Utah lost. In Pac-12 wins (excluding the UCLA and Oregon State wins), Wilson completed almost 66% of his passes, averaged 227.3 yards passing per game, 7.03 yards per attempt, and one
Looking at Wilson's stats in Pac-12 wins over the last two seasons, it becomes clear that he usually needs to throw for about 225 to 250 yards per game, over 7.0 yards per attempt, complete about 66% of his passes, throw at least two touchdowns a game with less than one interception per game, giving him a quarterback rating in the 145 range, which would put him in the middle of the Pac-12. These are stats Wilson can achieve, but the question is whether he can do it consistently. I would like to see Wilson cut down on his running if he is the starter for several reasons (but not completely eliminate his running game). The first is to minimize the chance he is injured. He suffered a terrible looking injury (that he returned from) against Michigan in 2014, and he suffered several injuries in 2013 as well. Secondly, many of Wilson's
Thompson's arm looked stronger this spring than it did last season, but he still may not have a strong enough arm to consistently throw the ball down the field, especially compared to Wilson. Where Thompson can help Booker is through effectively running the option. In Utah's spread offense, there is not a lead blocking fullback for Booker, the fullback is instead replaced with an extra wide receiver. The read-option causes the defensive end to have to make a decision to take either the running back or the quarterback. Thompson is a dangerous enough runner that the defensive end has to respect his running ability, which is effectively like having a lead-blocking fullback block the defensive end because he is out of the play. If the defensive end crashes in on Booker, Thompson can do damage
The stats I believe Thompson would need to have would be a completion percentage over 67%, at least 7.0 yards per attempt, roughly 175 to 200 yards passing per game, 50 to 75 yards rushing per game with better than 4.0 yards per carry (including sack numbers), and at least two total touchdowns per game. He would also need to have fewer turnovers than Wilson because the offense would be more efficient but less explosive under Thompson, so ball security would be key. This would mean he would throw the ball about 25 to 28 times per game, completing about 17 to 19 passes per game and carrying the ball about 15 times per game. This would yield a quarterback rating in the 138 to 140 range, which would put him in the bottom half of the Pac-12. Thompson lacks the game experience Wilson has, so it is hard to really know what to expect from him and what he is capable of. He also has a history of injuries and does not have the size of Wilson, so durability is a question.
Looking at the stats, neither Utah quarterback would need to be elite to help lead Utah to a lot of wins in 2015. Because Wilson is not as good of a runner as Thompson and therefore cannot stress the defense as much in the option game, he needs to make up that production in the passing game. Thompson would need to be the more efficient quarterback (higher completion percentage and fewer turnovers) because his game will likely center on more consistently moving the ball where Wilson can lead a more explosive offense due to his