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Utah's fall camp opened Monday, and so too did the hunt for subtext in comments about quarterback Travis Wilson and his challenger, Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.
Good luck with that.
So far, coaches say they're pleased with Wilson. So far, coaches say they're pleased with Thompson.
The juniors traded off series during an 11-on-11 session observed by media in the final 20 minutes at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Wilson went 9 for 10. Thompson went 7 for 9.
Most throws were short, to tight ends and backs, but Wilson connected with junior Kenneth Scott deep down the left sideline on a pass lofted over the reach of senior Davion Orphey.
The southpaw Thompson countered by pinpointing a 15-yard, back-shoulder toss to senior Andre Lewis that rendered helpless freshman cornerback Casey Hughes.
And then, when they were done facing pressure, they took turns facing the press.
Wilson, on whether he can be the starter: "I know every year there's going to be somebody else coming to take my job, so I'm excited for the competition. Kendal's a good QB, so we're going to have a great fall camp."
Thompson, on whether he can be the starter: "As a competitor, I feel that way. That's up to the coaches to decide."
Thus, the world turns and the intrigue continues.
Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen praised Wilson's assertiveness in leading the offense, and he was in rare spirits about the overall tempo.
"We're at least where we left off in the spring, and it took us 15 practices to get there in spring," he said.
The Utes played without pads, per the NCAA-mandated six-practice acclimatization period, so it was hard for a casual onlooker to draw any meaningful conclusions about much beyond the offense's pace.
Between Wilson, Thompson, juniors Adam Schulz and Jason Thompson, redshirt freshmen Conner Manning and Brandon Cox, and true freshman Donovan Isom, the group in white quarterback shirts seemed at times to rival the red (other offense) and black (defense).
But besides Wilson and Thompson, only Manning threw a pass and just one pass, at that in the final 11 vs. 11 period. If it was ever really in doubt, it seems clear after Day One that coaches expect the starter to be either Wilson (last season's No. 1) or Thompson (No. 1 in your program).
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said there's no concrete timeline. What there is, however, is a general sense of urgency surrounding the decision because the Utes play Idaho State on Aug. 28.
Thompson said he felt like he "hit the ground running" on Monday.
He was on hand for three practices in spring as an observer and took part in summer strength and conditioning. He knows 100 percent of the playbook, he said, and that looked to be no lie.
In fact, he quipped, he's now ahead of where he was last year. On the first day of Oklahoma's fall camp, he broke his foot and ended his part in a three-way battle with Trevor Knight and Blake Bell.
"He made some plays," Christensen said of Thompson. "He showed some ability to get out of the pocket and extend the play."
That's what makes Thompson special, Whittingham said: On the six or seven plays a game when "disaster strikes," Thompson has the ability to extend the play and continue looking downfield.
Of course, Whittingham didn't say Wilson doesn't.
Utah Camp Corner
Standout • Kenneth Scott showed off his "100 percent healthy" knee on Monday morning, including grabbing a 35-yard catch down the sideline by winning a jump ball. Kyle Whittingham said Scott gives a "big boost" on the field and the locker room as one of the most well-liked members of the team.
Position spotlight • Whittingham said he has been impressed with Isaac Asiata, who is splitting time at both right guard and right tackle, but may move inside. Depending on how freshman Jackson Barton develops, he could start at right tackle. Whittingham called Barton's first day of camp promising.
Injuries • Although Jason Whittingham is back for the linebackers, the Utes are still waiting to see if Gionni Paul can get healthy prior to the season opener against Idaho State, but Whittingham said he'd be happy if Paul can get back for Pac-12 play. Jacoby Hale likely won't be ready to go until at least midseason, if that soon.
Former minor league baseball player Wallace Gonzalez gets a shot as a tight end for Utah. › http://www.sltrib.com