Some great news emanating from Utah Tuesday, as the university announced quarterback Travis Wilson is cleared to resume his football career.
Wilson’s clean bill of health is a positive transcending its impact on Utes football, as doctors discovered a previously sustained intercranial artery injury when running routine concussion tests on the junior quarterback in November. The injury was potentially career-ending, though that was the last of what could have gone wrong.
Wilson said the following, per UtahUtes.com:
My condition is stable and the neurosurgeon predicted it will remain stable in the future. I had a feeling nothing would change from the previous scan, so I’ve been working to get back into shape. I feel totally comfortable about returning to football and full contact.
From a purely football perspective, Wilson’s return to the lineup is a huge step toward Utah returning to the postseason from a two-year hiatus. Wilson showed off a dynamic skill set through the first half of 2013, most notably a 279-yard passing, 142-yard rushing and five-touchdown performance against Oregon State; and controlling the tempo in a two-touchdown effort to lead Utah’s upset of Stanford.
Utah was 4-2 with Wilson in the lineup. After he suffered a finger injury against Arizona midway through the campaign, and a concussion upon returning, the Utes were 1-5.
In his place, back-up and former walk-on Adam Schulz was pedestrian. Such is the refrain to Utah’s song of lament since joining the Pac-12, as the Utes have repeatedly encountered midseason quarterback issues that limited their offense.
Jordan Wynn’s nagging shoulder injury forced him into retirement in 2012, which cleared the way for Wilson to start as freshman. But previously, Wynn’s injury problems created a back-and-forth between him and both Terrance Cain and Jon Hays that extended from 2009 through 2011.
In other words, Utah has had zero quarterback stability since Brian Johnson led the Utes to their 2009 Sugar Bowl defeat of Alabama.
Now, Utah’s quarterback conundrum is not solved simply because Travis Wilson is cleared; he could return to the sidelines at any time. But Utah is more adequately equipped to handle the loss, thanks to Oklahoma Sooners transfer Kendal Thompson.
In February, I examined Thompson’s potential impact on the Utes, particularly through the scope of new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen’s game plan.
There are others intrigued by Thompson’s potential at Utah–namely Thompson’s former head coach, Bob Stoops. Stoops offered the following to Dirk Facer of the Deseret News:
“He’s what you want…That part of it [Thompson’s talent], selfishly, we wish we still had him. But, again, quarterback is a different position and the way it worked out we’re all understanding. He left in good graces with all of us. So we all want him to do well.”
Praise for Thompson is emanating from another, more unlikely source, per Patrick Kinahan of 1280 The Zone in Salt Lake City:
BYU OC Robert Anae is friends with coaches at Oklahoma and said he's heard good things about transfer QB Kendall Thompson, now at Utah
— Patrick Kinahan (@PKKinahan) June 24, 2014
An exciting quarterback competition could unfold this summer. Both quarterbacks will have the luxury of throwing to Dres Anderson, one of the best wide receivers in the Pac-12.
— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) June 20, 2014
Add a typically stout Ute defense on the other end to this suddenly more stable quarterback situation, and Utah’s outlook is far rosier than recent seasons.