Quarterback play is so important. It cannot be overstated. It’s critical. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — For the University of Utah, things were sweet — real sweet — the last time the Utes had a starting quarterback durable or successful enough to start and finish a season.
It was the 2008 campaign and senior Brian Johnson played in all 13 games, capping an undefeated season for Utah with Most Outstanding Player honors in a 31-17 upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Since then, the Utes have split things up — mostly because of injuries to Jordan Wynn. After unseating Terrance Cain for the final five games of 2009, Wynn played in just 16 of the next 38 games that followed over the next three seasons. During that time, three quarterbacks made starts for Utah — Jon Hays (12), Travis Wilson (seven) and Cain (three).
The lack of continuity has been especially costly since the Utes have joined the Pac-12 in 2011. They’ve posted back-to-back losing conference records.
“Quarterback play is so important,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “It cannot be overstated. It’s critical.”
As such, the Utes open fall camp this year determined to get some continuity at quarterback — just like in 2008 when Johnson ran the show.
“If we’re going to have a chance to be good that’s got to change,” Whittingham said. “That’s got to happen.”
Wilson headlines a promising cast of candidates to get the job done as Utah seeks to bounce back from its first losing season (5-7) since 2002. He appeared in all 12 games as a freshman, starting the last seven.
“He’s the incumbent. He’s the guy. It’s his job to lose,” Whittingham said. “But there is nobody who is a guaranteed starter. You’ve got to continue to produce and we’ve got some talented players behind him.”
Sophomore Adam Schulz and freshman Brandon Cox also participated in spring ball, while freshmen Conner Manning and Micah Thomas join the mix this fall.
“We’ve got five very talented quarterbacks,” Whittingham said. “ ... It’s a young group, but talent-wise we feel like we’re in as good a shape as we’ve ever been at that position.”
With the Aug. 29 season opener against Utah State drawing near, Whittingham acknowledged that the plan is to trim the primary quarterback reps down to three as soon as possible and then eventually get it down to two.