Really the scrimmage is the major measuring stick. We’ve got one more extensive live work scrimmage on Saturday. After that the live work will be very sparse and so this is a big scrimmage for us on Saturday. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — “It is.”
That’s what Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said when asked if the battle between Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson for the starting quarterback job was “wide open” at this point.
“They both understand that it’s a competition,” said Whittingham, who explained that Wilson held the upper hand throughout the early part of camp but that Tuesday’s scrimmage was pretty much a dead heat. “Really the scrimmage is the major measuring stick. We’ve got one more extensive live work scrimmage on Saturday. After that the live work will be very sparse and so this is a big scrimmage for us on Saturday.”
Both Wilson and Thompson know it.
“It’s big. It’s the closest thing we can get to a game-like situation, and I feel like as an entire offense we need to go out and perform better,” Thompson said. “The quarterbacks as well — more so than any other position — and if we do that, things will work out well rolling into the season.”
Wilson, meanwhile, is determined to make a strong showing and re-establish his status as the starter.
“I’m handling it just fine, “ he said of Whittingham’s statement that the battle with Thompson was now wide open. “I thought I had a really good practice today, did a lot of good things, so I’ve just got to keep playing well and just make sure by the end of this week he knows who the for-sure starter is going to be.”
The upcoming scrimmage, Wilson acknowledged, is going to be really big on Saturday.
“I’m definitely going to be really prepared for it and just got to keep on working hard through practice this week and be ready to play on Saturday,” he said.
When it comes to being the starter, Wilson emphasized that he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Thompson, though, has made a race of it.
“Obviously, coming in, I knew I was behind the eight ball,” said Thompson, who noted Wilson’s experience and having gone through the spring and things like that. “I’ve just tried to continue to do what I’ve been doing day in and day out and I feel like they’re starting to see that I can be consistent.”
Thompson explained that getting more familiar with the offense, the personnel and matchups has helped him elevate his game in the past week. So, too, is his measured approach to not look at the big picture during the competition.
“You just have to go out and do what you can each day and learn from your mistakes, and I feel like I’ve been able to do that,” said Thompson, who feels like the battle in camp has been beneficial for both of them. “Definitely. I’m a lot better player than I was when I left Oklahoma, and I feel like he’s a lot better player than he was last year.”
TOUGH ONE: Utah cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah noted that the season-ending knee injury suffered by sophomore Reggie Porter makes him sad to talk about. He said Porter was on the brink of being outstanding and planned to use him in a rotation with projected starters Eric Rowe and Davion Orphey.
Shah noted that the injury has been “crushing” for Porter, but added he has been blessed to have a lot of teammates to rally around him as well as a wonderful family to give him a lot of support.
“I have no doubt that he’ll come back faster, better and stronger, but it’s hard,” Shah said. “It’s been hard on him.”
SPLISH, SPLASH: After Thursday morning’s practice at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Utes made their way over to the indoor swimming pool at the nearby Salt Lake City Sports Complex for another competition in the “Training Camp Olympics.” This event was titled the “Rafting Relay Medley.” The winning team of swimmers included wide receiver Kaelin Clay, defensive end Hayden Clegg, tight end Siale Fakailoatonga and graduate assistant coach Joe Dale.