Great Debate: How Much Will Wilson’s Injury Hurt the Utes?

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Utah Needs its Dual-Threat QB at the Helm for Pac-12 Play

Juan Jose Negrette

Last Friday night’s game in Salt Lake City was a thrilling one. Although the 24-14 score would indicate otherwise, the game wasn’t over until just minutes remained, when the Utah defense came up with a big strip-sack on Chuckie Keeton.

However, the game came at a price. In the second quarter, Travis Wilson injured his left shoulder after running the ball a couple of times, forcing him out for the rest of the game. The loss of Wilson will have a significant impact for the Utes.

Senior quarterback Travis Wilson (7) throws the ball during a game against the the Utah State Aggies at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Mike Sheehan, Daily Utah Chronicle.

Senior quarterback Travis Wilson (7) throws the ball during a game against the the Utah State Aggies at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Mike Sheehan, Daily Utah Chronicle.

Initial reports suggest Wilson is only expected to miss a couple of games and could even return for the Oregon game. This seems to suggest the loss won’t hurt the team too much, but his absence the next two weeks could damage the team’s start to the Pac-12 campaign.

With a date against Fresno State this weekend, whoever is at quarterback has to be as reliable as Wilson was for the game against Michigan and for the quarter he finished against Utah State. I’m not convinced other options on the team can live up to that play.

Kendal Thompson was able to do enough to secure the Utes win against the Aggies, but during his limited time in that game, he made some poor decisions. He threw a poor pass to the left sideline that was nearly picked off, and another throw could have been intercepted. He needs to limit these mistakes and manage the game for Utah.

Wilson was off to a good start, displaying good touch on his throws. He knew when to run, and when he did run, it was usually for big gains. He was finding the right mix of throwing and rushing that made him a dual-threat weapon for Utah’s offense. Although Thompson also has great athleticism, he doesn’t have quite the same arm as Wilson. Thompson seemed a little hesitant at times, and he needs to display more poise and confidence against Fresno State.

Part of the solution should be how the coaching staff works with Thompson’s running ability and how it works to his strengths. The offense should feature more screens and more play action to take some of the pressure off.

A player who has surprised early on and looked more like a veteran than a rookie is Britain Covey who should be the main focus of the passing attack. Aside from Covey, the player who should benefit the most this week is Devontae Booker, who will need to carry the team on his back while Wilson is out. He is more than capable of providing the majority of the offense during any game.

The issue with Wilson’s absence isn’t the length, as missing two weeks is not as bad as it could have been. It’s that it comes right as the team will begin facing the meat of their schedule. Thompson’s play might not be enough against these opponents. He will have to raise his level of play.

This week’s game will test the whole team. If it is a victory, it should be one of those classic team victories, where both the offense and defense come to play, and the team will have to do so without Travis Wilson.

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@Juanderful887

 

Thompson Has the Skill, Experience to Lead Utah

Brock Jensen

Who would have thought that only two games into the regular season there would already be talk about whether Travis Wilson or Kendal Thompson should be starting quarterback? This time around, it’s not as much of a controversial topic as last season since Wilson’s injury brought up the debate.

I think Wilson’s injury isn’t as big of a deal as many people are making it out to be.

Senior quarterback Kendal Thompson (1) looks to throw the ball in a game against the Utah State Aggies in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Dane Goodwin, Daily Utah Chronicle.

Senior quarterback Kendal Thompson (1) looks to throw the ball in a game against the Utah State Aggies in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Dane Goodwin, Daily Utah Chronicle.

First off, I wholeheartedly believe in Wilson. I think he has earned the starting position and is the best option for the Utes at quarterback. Unfortunately, during last week’s game against Utah State, the Utes were forced to turn to one of their temporary starters from last season, Thompson.

Wilson’s presence and leadership will be missed on the field for whatever length of time he is off to recover, but according to Whittingham, we can assume the injury is not season-ending. He may even play this weekend, but Utah is not giving anything away. Wilson started the season stronger than ever, and I believe he will continue this play when he returns to the field.

In the meantime, the Utes will most likely open Pac-12 play against the reigning Pac-12 champions with a quarterback dilemma at the helm. The Utes will take on the Ducks in two weeks with a matchup against Fresno State coming up this weekend.

The game against Fresno State gives Thompson a full week of practice to work with the starters, which will give him a chance to gain some chemistry with the offense and make sure everyone is on the same page. The matchup also benefits Thompson since it is one of the easier games Utah has on its schedule. Thompson will have this game to work out the kinks before Pac-12 play starts if he is going to start later in the season.

I think the main reason the Utes shouldn’t be terribly
concerned with Wilson’s injury is that Thompson has the experience of starting (and winning) games for Utah, which he did last season. Though his throwing talent is inferior to Wilson’s, his threat as a runner should give Devontae Booker more room to run. He obviously presents a problem for defenders on the read option plays, and opposing defenses will have to respect that and learn to defend against it. It will be critical for the wide receivers to help by coming down with all of the jump ball throws while Wilson is on the sideline. A guy like Kenneth Scott makes things a lot easier on the offense. Scott can win a lot of those 50-50 balls if Thompson’s throws aren’t exactly on the money each time.

Like I mentioned before, Thompson has already started at quarterback for Utah for multiple games, so it will be no problem should his number be called. He is familiar with the team, and the moment isn’t going to be too big for him since he’s done it before.

Yes, we will miss Wilson, but in the meantime, Thompson will be Utah’s slinger as they inch closer to meaningful Pac-12 play.

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@brock_jensen02