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Utah football: Utes name Wilson starter, say Thompson will play

Published August 18, 2014 3:23 pm

Utah football • Incumbent wins QB battle, but newcomer Thompson also will play.
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Conjecture will hold that there was no fall quarterback competition, that it was always going to be Travis Wilson.

Before Monday's depth chart was ever released, that was the popular talk-radio opinion, and why not?

Wilson's a "known commodity," as coaches are fond of saying. He's a team leader. After what he went through, you could argue that he deserves it.

But while those things may be true, Kyle Whittingham said after Monday morning's practice that it wasn't a remotely easy call to name Wilson starter over Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson this weekend.

"It was about as tight as it could be," he said.

Quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick sat down with the two quarterbacks Saturday night, after a scrimmage in which both performed well, and broke down the coaches' evaluations: Wilson would be the starter, they were told. Thompson, however, had earned the right to play.

Whittingham elaborated Monday:

"It's not a two-quarterback system," he said. "It's not first quarter, second quarter. It's when we get the opportunity to put Kendal in and get him some work, he's earned that right, and you will see him play, as well. But Travis is our starter."

Whittingham didn't say if there will be a special package for Thompson, although highlights like a 44-yard scamper down the right sideline Saturday indicate that the junior would be well-suited to running the ball.

Coaches say Thompson handled the news graciously. Thompson told media Monday that there is some relief in having an answer, and that he's heartened by the fact that he'll play.

"We both did a good job competing and both elevated our games," Thompson said.

Wilson agreed. There was pressure, he said, but it was a productive pressure, and he and Thompson don't have any hard feelings toward each other.

"We're always talking to each other," he said. "I think the relationship between us is great and I think it's going to carry on for years to come."

Whittingham said Wilson scored slightly higher because his completion percentage was better throughout camp and coaches valued his experience. But, repeating what he had said all week, it was almost a "dead heat" between the two.

He didn't share any personal preference between the two quarterbacks, but senior wideout Dres Anderson said he was pleased to know Wilson will have the chance to start again after a concussion test revealed last November that he had a pre-existing intracranial artery condition.

"He's been through a lot," Anderson said. "He was out the second half of the season, and he wanted to play. … We all trust him."

In a less-heralded quarterback battle, Brandon Cox beat out fellow redshirt freshman Conner Manning for the No. 3 job.

"He outplayed Conner," Whittingham explained.

Manning was the subject of interest last season when junior Adam Schulz was called into relief duty, and some thought the quick-passing freshman should have had his redshirt pulled to gain some game experience. But in addition to being a capable thrower and runner, Cox has proven himself to be one of the team's smartest players, Roderick has said previously.

"Our depth is amazing right now," Anderson said. "We have four guys who could get in there and start on Week 1, and so, being a receiver, knowing that, you just feel so much more comfortable."

mpiper@sltrib.com —

Idaho Stateat Utah

P Aug. 28, 5:30 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network —

Travis Wilson's statistics

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