With the start of a new season less than two weeks away (fist pump), head coaches at various programs across the country are getting down to the business of naming a starter at the most important position on the field.
In one of the more high-profile competitions left unsettled, Utah confirmed that the incumbent Travis Wilson had, to the surprise of some, fended off the challenge of Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.
After starting the first three-quarters of the 2013 season, a concussion — technically, an intracranial artery injury — sidelined Wilson for the last three games and led to questions as to whether he would ever play the game again. Wilson, though, was cleared to participate in spring practice, albeit in non-contact mode, and was ultimately cleared medically for full contact.
His 16 interceptions last season were the second-most at the FBS level, leading some to believe Thompson would emerge from the summer camp fray as the starter. In July, Wilson was cited for underage consumption of alcohol.
Neither of those, though, caused Wilson to be unseated.
“It was close,” Kyle Whittingham said of the competition. “It was just about a dead heat.”
The head coach also confirmed that Thompson will play, although he stressed that the Utes will not be a two-QB team; instead, they will be one that will look for opportunities to insert Thompson into the game and utilize a skillset that’s about 180 degrees from what Wilson brings to the table.
“It’s when we get the opportunity to put Kendal in and give him some work,” Whittingham explained. “He’s earned that right and you will see him play as well.”
Along with Utah, Iowa State and UConn both named starters at the position as well.
On the former front, ISU head coach Paul Rhoads confirmed that Sam Richardson will be his starting quarterback for the season opener against North Dakota State. Richardson was the starter for the first eight games of the 2013 season before he was benched — partly because of injury, partly because of ineffective play — in favor of Grant Rohach.
Those two were the main combatants this time around as well, with the coach citing leadership and Richardson’s quick acclimation to new coordinator Mark Mangino‘s offense as the data points that tipped the scales in the “incumbent’s” favor.
“Sam has displayed great leadership and that certainly includes poise in the pocket where he has been very much in control of our offense and of himself,” Rhoads said in a statement. “His understanding of the scheme and his decision-making has really grown in the last two weeks, and maybe as much as anything, he is throwing a great ball, an accurate ball, a tight ball and a catchable ball.”
On the UConn front, Bob Diaco announced that sophomore Casey Cochran had beaten out senior Chandler Whitmer for the Huskies starting job. The head coach said the difference between the two was “negligible,” but that the younger player’s leadership, oddly enough, was better than the veteran’s.
Whitmer started the first four games last season before being benched — in favor of true freshman Tim Boyle –after being the starter for every game in 2012, while Cochran started the last four games last year.
Boyle, who has been battling minor injuries throughout summer camp, is likely headed for a redshirt season.