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Utah football: Utes will burn Conner Manning's redshirt year if Adam Schulz goes down

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 1:52 p.m. MDT

Conner Manning passes as the University of Utah football team scrimmages in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013.  (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Conner Manning passes as the University of Utah football team scrimmages in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — With Travis Wilson out for the season, the Utah quarterback situation has become tenuous. Former walk-on Adam Schulz has taken over as the starter and a pair of redshirt freshmen are serving as the backups.

While Schulz has shown he can handle the pressure of being the starter — he played fairly well in his first-ever start against the No. 6 team in the country with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run last Saturday — the scary question for the Utes is what happens if something should happen to Schulz.

Not only would the Utes have to use an untested, teenaged freshman, but they would have to burn a redshirt season for one of their two promising young quarterbacks from Southern California.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said if something happened to Schulz, the Utes would go with Conner Manning, who passed for 9,447 yards at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif.

“We’re one snap away,’’ said Whittingham. “We’ve had that discussion with Conner Manning and if he has to play, he has to play. Unforseen things happen.’’

Behind him is Brandon Cox, who starred for Pasadena (Calif.) High last year.

“Those two guys have both had that discussion and if called upon are ready to go,’’ said Whittingham.

When talking about Manning, Whittingham used words like “mature,’’ “cerebral” “accurate” and "poised,’’ while acknowledging he doesn’t have the arm strength of Schulz or the running ability of Wilson.

“Manning’s looked good all year. He’s progressed each week and taken a step forward,’’ Whittingham said recently. “As a true freshman, he’s really done a lot of good things as far as his command of the offense goes.’’

Whittingham wouldn’t say what the plan is, but if Schulz must go out of the game for a play or two — if, for example, a helmet comes off or he gets the wind knocked out of him — Utah's head coach said, “We do have a situation to cover ourselves for a play or two.’’

Some Ute fans may remember how quarterback Alex Smith lost his redshirt year in 2002 when he came in for a handful of plays in a loss at San Diego State. It seemed like a big deal at the time and coach Ron McBride was criticized for it, but as it turned out, Smith left for the NFL after three years and didn’t even use one of his eligible seasons.

Whittingham emphasized that wouldn’t happen this year — that he wouldn’t bring in a redshirt freshman because of ineffectiveness by the starter.

“We wouldn’t burn it for that,’’ he said. “Adam is our guy and we’re down to the last few games.’’

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