Utes football fall practice position preview: the offensive backs
Hugh Carey, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — All eyes will be on the backfield when the Utes open fall camp on Aug. 4.
Returning quarterback Travis Wilson (6-7, 240 pounds) has been cleared to play as he heads into his junior season and is expected to be the starter to start the season, but Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson (6-1, 199) should give Wilson a run for his money.
Meanwhile, running back Bubba Poole (6-1, 197), who averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season, returns, and the Utes will add depth to the position this year with incoming junior college transfer Devontae Booker (5-11, 209).
Wilson’s return should be a huge boost for the Utes’ offense. The junior has been given a clean bill of health following a scary intracranial artery injury that could have threatened his career. He’s already been given a few votes of confidence by being named the starter on the 2014 Utah football media guide and once against by head coach Kyle Whittingham at the Pac-12 media conference.
With that clean bill of health, Wilson will now look to improve on his 2013 season, where he finished with 1,827 yards passing and 16 touchdowns — but 16 interceptions, too. More importantly, Wilson has knowledge of the offense and his receivers, which is key for any offense.
Junior Adam Schulz (6-1, 210) threw for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns in replace of Wilson last season. Freshmen quarterbacks Conner Manning (6-1, 190) and Brandon Cox (6-2, 200) each redshirted last season, but are eligible this year.
At running back, Poole returns as the team’s leading rusher last season. The speedy Troy McCormick (5-9, 172) redshirted last season, but is expected to see a few handoffs too this year.
Another speedster, Dre’Vian Young (5-9, 174), also redshirted last season and will look to make an impact. Andrew Fletcher (5-10, 199) did not play last year either. He is a transfer from Valparaiso.
Thompson comes over from Oklahoma, where he played sparingly, but has two years of eligibility with the Utes. He was a three-star recruit prior to enrolling at Oklahoma.
Incoming freshman Donovan Isom (6-5, 235), a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, also joins the quarterback corps this year.
Booker sparkled in spring, rushing for 103 yards on 19 carries and scoring two touchdowns in the red/white scrimmage. He showed the ability to break out big carries too. The junior college transfer figures to split time with Poole this season.
Freshman Tavaris Williams (5-10, 180), a two-star recruit from Fort White, Florida, will also join the running back group.
With all of the eyes on Poole and probably Booker too, McCormick and his 4.38 40-yard dash speed could be a lethal threat in certain situations. He had a solid spring game and has the ability to break out the big play on opposing defenses.
The quarterback position is looking much better than it did by the end of last season. Wilson is healthy, while Thompson adds more depth behind the projected starter.
Poole and Booker should be able to combine to form a solid running back combo behind the quarterback as the Utes will look to improve running the ball again this season. The running backs behind the top two on the roster provide game-changing speed and could play a factor in games.
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