Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is absorbing more than just the Utes' offense in preseason camp. The true freshman from San Clemente, Calif., is also taking some big hits.
In Thursday's scrimmage, Wilson did a complete "windmill" flip while trying to jump over a pile of players at the goal line for a touchdown. He fell just short of the goal line.
Friday morning, the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder went high on another play and was stopped in a violent collision with cornerback Mo Lee.
"I just leaped up and got hit. I didn't really mean to, it just kind of happened," said Wilson, who returned to practice just a few minutes later. "I was just trying to make a play."
Wilson shrugged off both hits, although he is being implored by the coaching staff to go low in those situations.
"I need to start learning how to dive so I just started working on that," Wilson explained. "But I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help this team and keep the drives going."
While acknowledging the need to slide more often, Wilson has no plans to shy away from running the ball.
"I feel like I'm a pretty good runner. It's one of my threats as a quarterback," Wilson said. "I like having that dual-threat kind of thing."
Although Wilson passed for 2,289 yards and rushed for 467 as a high school senior, the Utah coaching staff has taken a closer look at the latter early in camp — allowing him to be hit by tacklers in practice.
"We wanted to see what his capabilities are in the run game with him being live and I think we've just about got that accomplished," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "So, at some point in the near future, you're going to see us back off on that."
Wilson, he continued, is a nifty runner for his size — as well as tough, competitive and physical.
"He's got a lot of those qualities that you like to see in a quarterback," Whittingham said.
However, Wilson is still a work in progress. He's being indoctrinated in "diving for daylight" — a last-second move for Utah's quarterbacks.
Getting hit high is something that Whittingham said has got to be corrected.
"We want to coach that out of him," Whittiingham said. "He's just trying to be competitive and get everything he can get, but we've got to teach him to stay low and dive for daylight."
Besides enduring hits this week, Wilson had a strong showing in the scrimmage — completing 6-of-7 passes for 65 yards. He also had a 16-yard run, finishing with 22 yards on five carries.
Wilson entered the week third on the depth chart behind returning starters Jordan Wynn and Jon Hays, who have been off-limits to would-be tacklers in camp.
"He's making plays and he's taken a big stride in the last couple of days with his play," Whittingham said. "He's closing the gap."
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