This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
After the blocking and tackling, the passing and catching, the running and sweating stopped in the Red-White spring game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday afternoon, it all came down to what it always comes down to these days with Utah football.
The rest will be sorted out the offensive line, the defensive secondary, the receivers, the running backs. Come fall, those concerns will have been addressed and covered.
The most important position on the field, though, as has been the case at Utah for the better part of a decade now, remains a fog to be lifted, a path to be found, an epiphany to be distilled.
The showing at the spring game offered no conclusions.
You want stats? We've got 'em: Troy Williams completed 9 of 15 passes for 73 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions; Tyler Huntley hit on 8 of 12 throws for 65 yards, no touchdowns, one pick; Cooper Bateman was 5 for 5 for 53 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions; Drew Lisk completed 7 of 15 passes for 118 yards, one touchdown, one pick.
Williams looked a lot like the quarterback on display for so much of last season. Nothing spectacular, nothing horrible, just Troy being Troy. Good arm, decent athleticism, strong leadership, still no coronation, no absolution.
Huntley is intriguing … a confident, wild dude trying to figure out the boundaries of responsible play. He can run, has good tempo on his throws, but ultimately, when he's behind the wheel, you're never sure how it's going to work out.
Bateman is the traditional passer of the bunch. He knows his limitations and relies on his arm to make plays. The Alabama transfer loves Troy Taylor's new offense, as do all the other guys, and while he doesn't provide any fleet-footed component to the attack, he's counting on everything he has learned from his five years of college football to give him his shot.
This much is certain: none of these quarterbacks, nor their talents, hits you over the head like a swinging socket wrench. They have considerable ability, but it isn't the kind of ability that prompts an evaluator to sit up and say, "Wow." If there's a star in any of them, it's down deep. But … how deep?
That's what Taylor, in his first year as Utah's offensive coordinator, is trying to uncover. So far, he's left not in the lurch, but in the search. He classified the quarterback play Saturday as "sporadic."
"They made some plays," he said, "but we'll have to look at the tape."
Taylor complimented Bateman's touchdown pass, and Lisk's, and said he was pleased with the quarterbacks' collective progress, but he might have been fibbing. "We still have a long ways to go," he said, adding that "all of them have a chance. … We're going to let them compete in fall camp. We're still open-minded."
Taylor would have preferred to become a little more close-minded at this juncture, but none of the quarterbacks has surged ahead so far. Listening to the candidates, you'd have thought each was pleased to have surged clearly ahead.
Said Huntley: "It's going good. … I've matured in this offense. I'm much more mature. My strength is just being able to make a play. That's what I'm able to do. I just want to show everyone that I can make a play at any time. … I can make a play when we need it, I can make a play when we don't need it."
Bateman said he thought he had done enough to move into proper position as one of the favorites, but it wasn't his call: "I'll go out and take advantage of the reps I do get. … I've been playing football for a long time … so I have some experience. I'll take what I learned at Alabama and apply that to the field here. There were fast defenses down there, so reading coverages. I've studied the game for a long time. … I'm definitely a passer, not a runner. But I can run if I need to. I'm a pocket guy, that's my strong suit, where I feel most comfortable."
Said Williams: "I feel like it's going good so far. I just have to stay focused and continue to do my job and compete. … Limit the turnovers, take care of the football, try to have fun. The offense is very quarterback-based, so I try to go out there and play ball. … I'm not too worried about it. I just try to be better every day. I feel very comfortable with the offense."
He also said, "I'm sure it will come together as time goes on."
It will have to … or else.
Even during a general Pac-12 upswing, Utah football has seen more than its share of … or else … at quarterback. As Williams mentioned, Taylor's offense seems contradictory from this standpoint: It simultaneously drops a whole lot on the QB, while also simplifying his decision-making. It's certainly given each of its quarterback candidates a lot of confidence. None of them would declare himself the front-runner Saturday, but if demeanor alone did the talking, each of them would have declared it.
Taylor has a different idea. He'll let their play do the pronouncing.
"We've got to name a starter at some point," he said. "Please, dear Lord, let it happen soon."
OK, he didn't actually say that last part, but he might have, could have, and probably should have.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM. Twitter: @GordonMonson.