Utah Utes football: Even with Chase Hansen's injury, Utes no longer thin at quarterback
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Things are much better now.
A precarious quarterback situation at Utah has been stabilized by the addition of depth — in both personnel and experience.
The Utes have gone from one extreme to the other in that regard. A near famine at the position has evolved into a feast, of sorts.
Utah opened preseason camp with five quarterbacks in the mix — veterans Jordan Wynn and Jon Hays; newcomers Chase Hansen and Travis Wilson; plus developing talent Adam Schulz.
"There's definitely depth there and you can't ask for more than that," said senior receiver DeVonte Christopher. "We feel like we have 4-5 quarterbacks who we are confident in. That's definitely good because the more ability you have in your backups the better your team will be."
Quarterback depth, acknowledged head coach Kyle Whittingham, represents this year's biggest roster transformation for the Utes — even with Hansen sidelined for the season with shoulder surgery.
Things were quite different last season.
A precarious situation became dire midway through the fourth game when Wynn was sidelined for the year with a shoulder injury.
Quarterbacking duties shifted to Hays, whose only previous experience in major college football was a handful of plays in a blowout win at BYU two weeks earlier.
The junior was a relative newcomer to the program, signing with the Utes after spring ball when Div. II Nebraska-Omaha dropped the sport.
Even so, Utah didn't have any other quarterbacks who had even thrown more than one pass in a game since high school. The options included sophomore Griff Robles, as well as freshmen Tyler Shreve and Schulz.
"We weren't real deep," Whittingham said. "That happens on occasion."
Whittingham explained that recruiting is very circumstantial in a lot of ways — especially at quarterback, where a variety of situations often come into play.
As such, things change from season to season.
Just ask the Utes.
"We were pretty thin last year," Wynn said. "If Jon would have went down who knows what would have happened? But he did a good job and battled and stayed healthy."
Hays was continually reminded about the latter.
"That was stressed to me," he said. "But at the same time you don't want to go out and play soft. I tried to walk the line with that."
It all worked out. Hays gained valuable experience with nine starts, guiding the Utes to six wins including a victory in the Sun Bowl during his tenure as the starter.
"I think I got better as the season went on," Hays said. "But I think where I really improved was just sitting back in spring ball, soaking everything up and taking a step back."
With Wynn back at full health, Utah now has two quarterbacks with starting experience.
Experience isn't the only upgrade for the Utes. The addition of highly touted high school stars Wilson (California) and Hansen (Utah) have enhanced the program's talent level and profile at quarterback.
"(The Pac-12) is all about quarterback play and the top offenses in the league have the best quarterbacks," said Utah offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, who is also the position coach. "We've got to make sure that we get the necessary amount of production out of the position."
The quarterbacks are working hard to make that happen.
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