The Utes headed into the spring with plenty of questions at quarterback, and came out of it without all of the answers they wanted.
Things started off well in spring for one quarterback, but not the one most expected as it was Conner Manning stealing the show on day 1. That may have been the highlight for Manning in spring as he struggled at times and didn't build off of his tremendous first day performance. Manning does have one thing going for him, and that's comfortability. He's generally the most poised and composed when in the pocket, leading the team with a confidence that the others often didn't show. Manning did makes strides over where he was at the end of last season, but not enough to overtake Wilson, or come within a mile of doing so. The redshirt freshman to be did move up the depth chart to the backup spot, but that will be short lived as soon as Kendal Thompson steps on campus. The future for Manning is big question mark. He doesn't have the on the field skills or upside to overtake Wilson and that's likely the same scenario with Thompson. That puts the Southern California native at least two years (2016) before he's ready to make an impact at Utah. Is he willing to wait those two years for his shot?
Brandon Cox is a long ways off. After redshiriting in 2013, his second straight year off the field after missing his senior season due to injury, Cox didn't make the spring strides that most had hoped. Instead, he cemented his place as the fourth best quarterback on the roster for 2014. Cox doesn't put enough heat behind the ball and plays in a way that appears very slow and deliberate. That said, there were glimpses that Cox could eventually be a player down the line. He's got very good athleticism and doesn't always look to run the ball when pressured, instead using his legs to buy himself time. A step in the right direction for a young QB. Time and patience will be vital for Cox over the next few years as he continues honing his skills and developing, but it's clear after spring 2014 that he's nowhere near ready to contribute.
A tale of two different QBs is the tale of Travis Wilson in the spring. Day 1 was awful as he looked rusty, slim, and nothing like the guy we saw slice and dice defenses for the first half of the 2013 season. Instead we saw someone that looked like they hadn't played any football in months, which was the case. It started off poorly for Wilson, but the strides over the 4 weeks of spring were encouraging as he rebounded to look more like the early 2013 version of himself and clearly cemented his place as the starter heading into fall. There still are concerns with Wilson, most notably his health as he hasn't been fully cleared for contact yet. That will have to wait until later in the summer. On the field, Wilson doesn't have the pocket presence you'd like out of a Pac 12 quarterback, often taking off earlier than he should to avoid a rush or misfiring on a ball when under pressure. Those mistakes may be fixed with more reps as he continues shaking off the rust. Wilson is now closer to 230 pounds, down from around 245 last season, and that made him noticeably quicker. With the Utah coaches insisting that they want a QB that can be a threat with their legs, Wilson looked more adept at turning on the afterburners than in years past, which will help him in his race against Kendal Thompson in August. Was it a productive spring for Wilson? Absolutely. He was significantly better by the end of camp than at the beginning. Was it enough for Ute fans to be comfortable with him under center come the regular season? Probably not, but the junior to be will have months to show that he's not only recovered from his injuries, but is confident enough and has developed enough to be the kind of guy that wins his team games in the Pac 12.
Adam Schulz is what he is, and that's a serviceable Pac 12 backup that can take a few snaps if needed. Schulz didn't win any games by himself last season at Utah, and it would be a stretch to ask him to do that going forward. Starting out at number 2 on the depth chart, the junior to be was given plenty of reps and opportunity to overtake Wilson as the starter. He never capitalized, instead falling down the depth chart to number 3 behind Conner Manning. Schulz lacks the ability to put much touch on short to intermediate passes, and with Utah uses a lot of quick hitters in spring, he struggled at times. He's now a depth guy who may never take a snap at Utah. Whether or not he chooses to finish up his degree and transfer to a place where he can get a shot is unknown, but he loves the U, loves the team, and is a valuable commodity with age and experience that will help the program more off of it than on at this point.
Spring Quarterback Rankings
1) Travis Wilson
2) Conner Manning
3) Adam Schulz
4) Brandon Cox
Spring Recap: Quarterback
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