Our eyes and memories are imperfect things, and when it comes to measuring the Utes’ quarterbacks, it’s hard to draw a conclusion. On one hand, it’s easy to recall masterful play from each: Wilson’s bootleg scramble and Herculean
In the end, the decision over who should start was made
I’ve gone through each of the QB's
Traditional Quarterback Stats (Sacks Removed)
These two players look pretty close, going by these simple stats. Wilson’s a slightly better passer, and clearly better at taking care of the ball, but Thompson rushes for over half a yard more per carry, which could make up for that difference. Removing sacks help both player’s rushing numbers, but it’s the impact on their passing numbers that tells the story.
Stay On Your Feet and Hang on to the Ball
Sacks are the first area where Travis Wilson is clearly superior to Kendal Thompson. Wilson was roughly average as a PAC 12 QB, avoiding sacks well enough to keep drives comfortably alive. Kendal Thompson allowed sacks more than twice as often as any starting QB in the conference.
It’s a relatively simple matter to add these statistics into your passing numbers; just count the yards against the passing
With this taken into account, Wilson has a better completion percentage, and is throwing for almost a yard and a half more per attempt than Kendal Thompson. 1.5 yards per attempt is huge; it’s the difference between Conner Halliday and ISU’s Sam B. Richardson. If you count the time they spent on the turf, Travis Wilson is the superior passer by a wide margin.
Using percentages instead of raw counts also helps highlight how much better Wilson was than Thompson. Wilson was more likely to throw a touchdown, and much less likely to throw an interception. He also took many, many less sacks.
Making Plays when it Counts
A quarterback’s greatest contribution is being able to turn lost possessions into a fresh set of downs. Advanced metrics split
This is where the ground slips out from under Kendal Thompson. It settles the debate over who should be starting for the Utes. Travis Wilson kept his passer rating over a hundred and completed nearly half of his passes. He was successful more than one out of every four plays and kept many drives alive. Thompson’s passer rating cratered and he missed his target on two out of three plays. 13.04% speaks for itself.
A deeper analysis shows that Wilson's 2014 was far superior to Thompson's. He functioned as a conservative game manager who held it together in tough, long yardage situations. Thompson has stats which suggest his
Just like Wilson can’t be expected to improve much at this late stage in his career, Thompson’s curve is leveling out as well. He’s 22 years old and has three years of training
You want your quarterback to be able to contribute when you have no other options, particularly with a Utes team that features an excellent offensive line and an All-Conference running back. You want him to avoid negative plays like interceptions and sacks, and to be able to dig your team out of a hole when you’ve got a long way to go to move the chains. These are the exact areas where Kendal Thompson struggles the most.
There’s a lot to like about Kendal Thompson. He’s a young man of high character, a hard worker, and has a reputation as an energetic and talented leader. The coaches may well see something in fall camp that convinces them that he’s the best choice to lead the Utes to victory. Our eyes and memories can deceive us, but the stats are the stats. There are sound football arguments to be made in favor of Thompson, but they can't be based on his on-field performance. Thompson wasn’t as good as Wilson in 2014, and it was not close.