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No one needed a telescope to see the brightest star of Utah's scrimmage Saturday at chilly Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Junior quarterback Brandon Cox, putting together his second straight impressive performance of spring practice, completed 16 of 24 passes for 158 yards and four touchdowns. With junior Troy Williams sidelined because of injuries, Cox is now leading the Utah quarterback derby over freshman Tyler Huntley.
"Brandon is ahead," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "… If we started tomorrow, it would be Brandon. There's still a lot of opportunity between now and when we do have to play for change to occur. But right now, Brandon would be the guy, with Troy hurt and Tyler being not quite ready."
Asked what he liked in a scrimmage that was billed as the most important of spring, Whittingham said, "Brandon looked like he was in control of the offense. … There was a lot of good stuff."
Huntley also had his moments, although his statistics were not quite as flashy. He completed 10 of 23 passes for 65 yards and one touchdown. Both quarterbacks threw interceptions. Linebacker Sharrieff Shah Jr. returned Cox's interception 65 yards for a touchdown.
"I thought Tyler Huntley took a step forward, even though his numbers weren't [huge]," Whittingham said. "Just the way he carries himself and extends the play he can get out of the pocket and extend the play is a huge asset."
On the first series of the scrimmage, Cox led the offense on a scoring drive. At one point, he completed 11 of 14 passes for 136 yards and two scores.
"We had in our minds we wanted to start as fast as we could," Cox said. "We came out and set the tone. That was a main goal, to set the tone and play with intensity. We wanted to show the defense we were ready to play."
Cox praised his blockers and credited them for having an outstanding scrimmage.
"Going against the best defensive line in the country, they have no choice but to get better," he said. "I have no worries that the offensive line won't be great this year. They're improving day-by-day. … When everybody does their job, there's no reason we can't make a lot of plays."
Generally, Utah's offense outplayed the defense, except in two-minute drill situations, which Whittingham says "is a weakness for us right now."
Asked about his overall impression of the two-hour session, he said, "It was good. I thought it was productive. It was good to see the offense come out and get a fast score. We had a lot more production today. … Overall, just a very positive scrimmage. We got a lot of work done."
While Cox owns the lead over Huntley at quarterback, senior Joe Williams and junior Joe McCormick remain neck-and-neck at running back as the Utes seek a replacement for Devontae Booker.
Williams rushed five times for 16 yards and a touchdown. McCormick carried four times for four yards.
"We'll have to watch the film," Whittingham said. "I think they both did some good things. But it's close and I couldn't tell you just off what I saw. We're going to have to go study the tape. Those guys are right there with each other. We'll see what happens."
R Brandon Cox completes 16 of 24 passes for 158 yards and four touchdowns in Utah's scrimmage Saturday.
• Freshman quarterback Tyler Hundley finishes 10 of 23 for 65 yards. He also threw for one touchdown.
• Freshman tight end Chad Hekking caught three passes, including two touchdowns.
Brandon Cox • 16 of 24, 158 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Tyler Huntley • 10 of 23, 65 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Joe Williams • 5 carries, 16 yards, 2 TDs
Brandon Cox • 8 carries, 8 yards, TD
Troy NcCormick • 4 carries, 4 yards
Tyler Cooperwood • 4 catches, 35 yards
Caleb Repp • 4 catches, 32 yards, TD
Troy McCormick • 3 catches, 27 yards, TD
Chad Hekking • 3 catches, 20 yards, 2 TDs
Tyrone Smith • 3 catches, 20 yards
Harrison Handley • 2 catches, 32 yards
Ken Hampel • 2 catches, 20 yards