U.'s Johnson will redshirt; Ratliff, Grady fight for job

Published: Friday, Aug. 18 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

With starting quarterback Brian Johnson, left, redshirting, Brett Ratliff, middle, and Tommy Grady will battle for the starting job.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

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Utah's quarterback derby is now a two-man race.

Brett Ratliff and Tommy Grady are still in the running. Brian Johnson is not.

"Brian is going to redshirt. We made that decision," head coach Kyle Whittingham announced after Thursday's scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "It's a conclusion that we came to last night."

Johnson, who is working his way back from a serious knee injury, was involved in the discussion. So, too, was Johnson's father, Stacey, and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

"I think it's the right decision. As for me not being able to play, that will be the tough decision," Johnson said. "I prayed about the situation . . . I'm a man of faith and I think God has a plan for me.

"I've just got to go out there and work my butt off to get healthy and get 100 percent," he added. "There's no doubt in my mind when I get healthy and get 100 percent that I'll tear it up."

Whittingham said it was a medical decision to redshirt Johnson.

"He was having a nice camp but the knee was getting sore (with) a little bit of swelling," Whittingham said. "It just wasn't quite right."

And that, he vowed from the beginning, would determine whether or not Johnson would play this season.

"If it's not 100 percent perfect, we were not going to force the issue. We have the luxury to take the medical redshirt," said Whittingham, who explained that no risks were going to be taken. Especially with what he considers the best quarterback situation in the country as far as depth.

"That leaves Brett and Tommy to battle it out for the No. 1 and No. 2 spots," he said. "So it cleans up the picture quite a bit."

A decision on who'll start in the Sept. 2 season opener at UCLA could come as early as this weekend.

"We'll evaluate this scrimmage," Whittingham said. " I think they both looked very good today."

With Johnson watching from the sidelines, Grady and Ratliff split the 70 snaps in the second scrimmage of camp.

"I think Brian's knee was hurting a little bit. I think it was the best decision for him and for the team this year," Grady said. "I'm trying to learn as much as I can every day. Rat's doing a good job. We're helping each other out and running this offense."

Grady, a junior transfer from Oklahoma, completed 11-of-16 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns in a scrimmage that pitted ones against twos.

"I feel like I'm doing everything I can do," Grady said. "I come out here every day and just try to do my best."

Ratliff, a senior who guided the Utes to victories over BYU and Georgia Tech last season, also had a solid outing. He was 7-of-16 for 116 yards and three TDs.

"I think I did a lot better today," said Ratliff, who wasn't totally pleased with his performance in last week's first scrimmage. "I did good, I didn't do great. There's still things I need to improve on."

That's always the case, he added, even in his strong showings against BYU and in the Emerald Bowl.

Whittingham, however, liked how the offense executed. Derrek Richards and Freddie Brown Jr., each caught two touchdown passes, while Marquis Wilson and Matt Sims each had one. Mike Liti rushed for a score.

"I thought it was a big step forward (today) based on what we had the first scrimmage," said Whittingham, who was pleased with how the defense tackled, the lack of penalties, clean work by the secondary and the kicking game.

"It's time to start building confidence in both units (first and second)," Whittingham said. "They did a nice job."

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