Mike Sorensen: Utah Utes football: Utes' QB situation is plain awful

Published: Sunday, Oct. 23 2011 8:01 p.m. MDT

Utah Utes quarterback Jordan Wynn (3) calls a play during the Utes' season-opener at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — It was just a few years ago that Utah coach Kyle Whittingham declared he had "the best quarterback situation in the country" because he had Brian Johnson, Brett Ratliff and Oklahoma transfer Tommy Grady to choose from.

Right now it looks like the Utes may just have the worst quarterback situation in the country.

Let's see, the Utes' starter threw as many interceptions as touchdowns in junior college last year and wasn't recruited by any other major colleges. In just three and a half games this year, he has already thrown seven interceptions and been sacked 15 times.

The Ute backups include a guy that until recently has been practicing as a third-string linebacker all season and an 18-year-old true freshman from Muskego, Wisconsin who walked on to the team this fall.

Of their recruited quarterbacks from the past three years, one is a starting safety, another is the top wide receiver on the team, while another was just announced as a redshirt, the day of the California debacle.

That's the situation the Utes find themselves in for perhaps the most important position on the team with five games still left on the schedule.

It isn't pretty.

Of course, this isn't what the Utes planned on for their initial year in the Pac-12 Conference. After all, they had an experienced quarterback in Jordan Wynn, who started last year and half of the year before, coming back.

However, because of Wynn's history with injuries, the Utes probably should have seen this coming and had a better backup plan.

Just look at Wynn's injury history.

In the Red-White game before his sophomore season, he injured his left shoulder diving for a loose ball, which necessitated arthroscopic surgery and hindered his summer workouts.

In the opening game of 2010, he sprained his right thumb and had to sit out two games. A couple of games later, he injured his throwing shoulder against Iowa State, which negatively affected his play the rest of the season and eventually resulted in surgery.

That surgery was the most serious of all his injuries and he had to miss last spring's practice and rehab for more than six months, again slowing his progress coming into this season.

His shoulder didn't look quite right in the first few games this year, but Wynn was improving his velocity on the ball when he injured his left shoulder — again — in the first half against Washington earlier this month.

That's four injuries in less than two years

So where are all of the Ute quarterbacks, besides current starter Jon Hays, Griff Robles, walk-on Adam Schulz and Tyler Shreve, the recently-declared redshirt?

They are playing other positions.

DeVonte Christopher, a top QB out of Las Vegas, was switched to receiver soon after his redshirt season in 2008. Brian Blechen, was the 14th-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2009, but was switched to safety, where he immediately became a starter for the Utes as a freshman. Robles, the No. 2-ranked prospect out of Utah in the 2006 recruiting class, was a backup QB last year before being switched to linebacker before this season. Now he's back at quarterback where he hasn't been practicing all season.

The Utes have a history of transforming recruited quarterbacks into other positions under coach Whittingham.

Paul Kruger came out of Timpanogos High as a QB, but switched to defensive end after his LDS mission and is now playing in the NFL. Chad Manis was a JC transfer quarterback, who after a brief stint as a backup QB, became a starting linebacker in his senior season.

It's not a bad idea to move players to positions where they'll be more useful. Utah's philosophy has always been to get their best 11 players on the field, regardless of where they used to play.

However, some would argue that quarterback is the most important position on the field and if you don't have a top quarterback, your team will flounder.

If the Utes offense performs as abysmally as it did Saturday, the Utes won't win any more games this year. As mediocre as Utah's future opponents — Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado — are, they at least have offenses that can score points.

There is hope on the horizon for the Utes, who have two top-notch quarterbacks coming in next year.

Travis Wilson, a 6-foot-6 QB from the San Diego area, chose Utah over several other Pac-12 schools such Arizona, Arizona State, Washington and UCLA.

Lone Peak's Chase Hansen might be the best prep player in the state, although he may not be an immediate solution, as he reportedly plans to go on an LDS mission straight out of high school.

For now, the Utes will have to see if they can scrape by with the unheralded JC transfer, the former linebacker and the freshman walk-on manning the quarterback spot.

That's the bed the Utes have made and they must sleep in it.

Email: sor@desnews.com

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