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Utah football: QB Travis Wilson impresses in Red-White game

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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kicker Andy Phillips attempts a point after during the University of Utah's Red-White Spring football game, Saturday April 20, 2013 in Salt Lake City.

By Tony Jones

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Apr 20 2013 05:28PM
Updated Apr 21, 2013 04:56PM

You could see it from the first snap.

Travis Wilson had the arm strength. He had the poise. He made the right reads. He executed at a high level at all times.

Sorely in need of a breakout performance in Saturday’s spring scrimmage, Utah’s rising sophomore quarterback carved out just that. With pressure from Adam Schulz and his rocket arm to be the 2013 opening-night starter against Utah State, Wilson picked the best time to have his best outing of the spring.

"I was comfortable out there," Wilson said. "I feel like I made the right plays and guys made plays for me."

Before 8,633 at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Wilson led the White team to a 35-28 win. The score was an afterthought. What’s important was Wilson’s first half, where he went 13 of 17 through the air with 210 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t get sacked. He didn’t turn the ball over. He didn’t make any big mistakes.

It was a game in which he looked like a starter, a leader in an offense starving for one. He looked much-improved from his freshman season. He made throws down the field that connected with receivers on the run. In the first half, he led five drives. Those five drives ended up in touchdowns.

Wilson’s performance says a lot when you take into account that Schulz was no slouch himself. The sophomore threw for 245 yards and two scores in his own right. But Wilson was so good and so mistake-free that he forced himself to the forefront.

"I thought he put some separation between himself and Adam today," Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. "The competition to be the starter is by no means over. But it’s obvious that Travis has improved significantly from the end of the season to now."

That’s just what Wilson needs. He said confidence has been the biggest improvement that he’s made so far in the offseason, simply realizing that he has the talent and the ability to play football at the Pac-12 level.

But now, Wilson has instilled confidence in his coaching staff. Heading into the summer, there is little doubt that the starting quarterback position is his to lose. Everyone from Whittingham to co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson came away impressed with Saturday’s effort.

"He certainly picked a good time to have his best performance of the spring," Erickson said.

Whittingham was quick to point out that the defense missed a lot of regulars on Saturday. They played mainly a base formation. There was hardly any blitzing. As a result, Saturday’s scrimmage was set up for Utah’s offense to have success.

Still, that has been the case in previous spring scrimmages, without the outburst of scoring that took place on Saturday. Wide receiver Kenneth Scott impressed with five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. The running back position looked deep and talented. The offensive line was dominant.

Wilson was at the front of this, taking charge precisely when he needed to take charge. Because of this, he is likely the man heading into fall camp.

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