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Utes' quarterback competition between Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson commences

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 5 2014 8:35 a.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 5 2014 8:43 a.m. MDT

Kendal Thompson passes during University of Utah football practice in Salt Lake City, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Preseason camp wasn’t the only thing the Utah Utes started on Monday. They also opened a quarterback evaluation as Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson and returning starter Travis Wilson took a majority of reps with the first and second units.

Both players drew positive reviews — as did the offense as a whole — on the opening day of practice.

“They looked real good. They’re both making the right reads, doing a good job,” said senior wide receiver Dres Anderson. “They both know the offense pretty well and it’s going to be a fight.”

Even so, Anderson considers Wilson the front-runner. The junior is back in action after missing the final three games of 2013 following the discovery of an intracranial artery injury.

“You can tell Travis is still in the lead. He’s still running things,” Anderson said. “He’s still No. 1. But Kendal, he’s right there. He’s a solid No. 2.”

Wilson and Thompson entered camp as the top two quarterbacks on the initial depth chart. The coaching staff plans to give Thompson, a graduate student with two years of eligibility, a close look to see what he can do.

“Once we find out what his capabilities are and where we feel he fits and what his readiness is then we’ll make a decision based on that how to set the depth chart (in the future),” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who noted that the plan going in was to find out more about Thompson.

While acknowledging that the decision on a starting quarterback should be made at least a week before the Aug. 28 season opener against Idaho State, Whittingham said there is really no timeline to do so before then — essentially giving the staff three full weeks to try and get it sorted out.

“It’s an important decision obviously and we’ve got to make the right one and we’ve got to have enough of a body of work to evaluate to make that right decision,” he said.

Whittingham noted that Thompson’s strength is making something happen when everything is broken down — turning imminent disaster into a positive.

Wilson, meanwhile, drew praise from the coach for being in the best shape he’s ever been in — weighing in at 235 pounds with very little body fat. Whittingham added that Wilson has accepted the challenge.

Ultimately, though, a decision will have to be made. Whittingham said offensive coordinator Dave Christensen and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick will do so.

For now, Whittingham continued, all of the quarterbacks are just going to compete and show what they’ve got.

Problem is, with six scholarship quarterbacks in camp, the Utes have a lot — and others performed well Monday.

“Connor Manning did some good things. Brandon Cox threw some really nice balls in the second part of practice,” said Whittingham, who admits the Utes are in a good situation at quarterback. “We’ve just got to continue to sort it out. You can’t do it in one day. You can’t do it in one week, most likely. But we’ve got to get it done eventually.”

As they walked off the turf at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Christensen mentioned to Whittingham that they’ve got a lot of quarterbacks here.

”It’s a good problem to have. You don’t ever want to go into a situation where you don’t have a quarterback or a backup and so I was real pleased today,” Christensen said. “We’ve got a lot of guys competing.”

The neat thing, he explained, is that they all do some things differently and there’s a lot of ability at the position.

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