Schulz came in and did a good job for us on Saturday night. If we’re at a point where we know Travis is not available we’ll have Schulz and Conner Manning take all the reps this week in practice. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to injured Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, there is still a lot of uncertainty concerning his status for this week’s game at USC and beyond.
The sophomore, who did not return to action after leaving Saturday’s 35-24 loss at Arizona in the second quarter with a hand injury, will find out where he stands as far as being able to grip and throw the ball when the Utes resume practice on Tuesday.
Before being replaced by backup Adam Schulz, Wilson completed just 3-of-9 passes for 15 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is hopeful that Wilson’s status can be determined on Tuesday, noting that the decision will be made by the medical staff and Wilson himself.
In the meantime, there are alternate plans in the works.
“Schulz came in and did a good job for us on Saturday night,” Whittingham said. “If we’re at a point where we know Travis is not available we’ll have Schulz and Conner Manning take all the reps this week in practice.”
Whittingham added that if Manning outplays Schulz then the true freshman could come out of a redshirt year and become the guy.
“But that’s worst case scenario,” Whittingham said after addressing the possibilities. “I think best case scenario is Travis will be able to go and we’ll be business as usual.”
Whittingham made it clear, however, than Schulz would be the starter if Wilson were to only miss one game. He said they have no plans to utilize Manning in that scenario — with just five games left to play. Whittingham also noted that he doesn’t feel Wilson’s injury is going to be an extended thing.
Schulz led Utah’s last drive of the second quarter at Arizona and played the entire second half. He completed 12-of-23 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown, a 55-yard scoring strike to Sean Fitzgerald off a flea flicker.
“I think Schulz is a great quarterback. He’s very capable,” said Utah running back Lucky Radley. “We feel comfortable with Schulz or Travis or any of those quarterbacks. We have confidence in all of them.”
When asked if a quarterback switch would change Utah’s scheme against USC, Whittingham said that it might alter things a little bit.
“You’ve got to take advantage of the guy who is pulling the trigger, and Schulz obviously has the big arm and Conner is a thrower as well,” Whittingham said. “So if that is the case, then yeah, that will alter the game plan — not radically but somewhat.”
Radley is not expecting much of a dramatic change, either. He’s also not counting Wilson out at this point.
“Travis is a tough guy. He works really hard. If he can play, he will play,” Radley said. “He’s going to do everything in his power to play. He’s from California and this game means a lot to him as well, so he wants to beat USC like everyone else.”
Utah defensive end Trevor Reilly has similar thoughts about Wilson, who has played in all 19 games since joining the Utes — including the past 14 as the starter.
“I know Travis is tough and I think he’ll play. I don’t know for sure but I’m hoping he plays,” Reilly said. “But I have confidence in Adam and Conner. So if they do have to play, I think we should be OK.”
Reilly acknowledged, however, that it’s often a hard deal when a team has to employ a backup quarterback.
“It’s almost like blood in the water for sharks as a defense,” he explained. “When you see the second string or third string guy come in, it’s almost like it kicks in another gear for you like ‘Hey, let’s just on this guy.’ ”