Backup QBs vying to replace Elliott

The U football team (1-1) lost more than the game on its failed two-point conversion against Texas A&M-the Utes also lost their starting quarterback for at least a month, and probably more.

“[Brett Elliott] will be out four weeks at best,” U coach Urban Meyer said.

The official prognosis is that he will be out four to six weeks.

Elliott scrambled on the two point play and was rocked by two Aggie defenders. He landed directly on the wrist of his throwing hand.

Senior Lance Rice and sophomore Alex Smith are the candidates for the starting job against California Thursday night.

“Alex hasn’t stepped up and neither has Lance, so we are going to see how they do in the next two days of practice and make a decision,” Meyer said.

Smith has been the backup in the past few games and saw time in the opener against Utah State.

He completed 5-of-7 passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Most of his playing time came in the second half of the game, when the USU defense was worn out and there was no doubt that the Utes were going to win.

“Game experience helps so much,” Smith said.

If experience was the only factor in Meyer’s decision, Rice would be the starter without question.

Rice was the starter for the team most of last season and all of the year before.

But his lack of arm strength and big-play ability was the reason why Elliott replaced him last season.

Even though Elliott is out, Meyer has always kept in mind that, in his offensive scheme, the quarterback is always susceptible.

“In our offense, quarterbacks get hit,” Meyer said. “We don’t run an I formation where the quarterback just watches the play happen.”

With that in mind, all the quarterbacks have been taking reps in practice.

“That is the difference between this year and last year,” Smith said. “Everyone gets many reps in practice and it helps a lot.”

Smith’s arm is stronger and he has been the listed backup for the first two games of the year, but he does have a bruised vertebrae in his back, which may keep him out.

Not only is there a question in talent and experience, but the turnaround time from the Texas A&M game is much shorter than usual. The team plays on Thursday night this week. Meyer has never had to replace a quarterback in such a short amount of time.

Regardless of who starts, the new quarterback will have lead wide receiver Paris Warren back after his suspension.

The short week is a huge area of concern for the Utes since they are coming off a tough game against Texas A&M.

“It’s not too bad to play,” U linebacker Spencer Toone said. “We are happy to get on the field and will work really hard.”

“I think the coaches are more worried than the players are about playing Thursday,” wide receiver John Madsen said. “It’s tough, but we’d rather be playing than practicing.”

However, the injury bug is still biting a few of the Utes’ skill players.

Wide receiver Steven Savoy is doubtful after bruising his ribs against the Aggies.

Running back Marty Johnson will also be out for a third-straight week, along with defensive end Jason Kaufusi.

Offensive lineman Chris Kemoeatu should be back for Thursday’s game to add much needed depth to the offensive line.

The short week should really affect running back Brandon Warfield, who carried the ball 36 times last week and will have to carry the load again Thursday without Johnson in the rotation.

Warfield has been awarded the MWC Offensive Player of the Week award two weeks in a row, and he will have just as big, if not a bigger, role with a new quarterback in place this week.

But Smith knows the problem with the passing game and hopes it gets smoother this week.

“We kept the ball moving against Texas A&M,” Smith said. “Our problems in the passing game were from miscues by the quarterbacks and wide receivers. We should do well this week.”

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