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Monson: BYU back in QB business, Utah back in state of confusion

Published October 22, 2013 4:41 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The status of college quarterbacks in this state has been chucked in the air by the fates like a dough-slapper tossing an extra large at a local pizzeria. Judging by what occurred Saturday, that spinning pie would have been intercepted by somebody in a different colored apron. Nobody could have expected what has happened around here at the position that matters most to Utah, BYU and Utah State football.

One overall emerging truth is that the quarterback at Quarterback U. presently is the best of the group.

After his performance at Houston, Taysom Hill should get a week off, floating on a raft somewhere in the Bahamas with a virgin Miami Vice in one hand and a pack of ice in the other, not having to turn around and play Boise State on a short week. There were too many elements ­— most positive, a few negative ­— to his showing to list here. But any quarterback who accounts for 545 yards — 417 through the air and 128 on the ground — and four touchdowns, including the game-winner in the closing seconds, is hard to characterize as anything but exceptional.

Yeah, there were the three picks, which cost the Cougars a minimum of 14 points and one was returned for a touchdown and the other taken in the end zone to wipe away a BYU score. But that's part of what comes with Hill at this early juncture. He's still a bit wild.

But his athleticism is exceptional. There are reasons Jim Harbaugh wanted this kid at Stanford, and they were on full display Saturday. When Jamaal Williams went out of the game on account of a hip pointer, the BYU pass and run games fell in tandem directly on Hill's shoulders and blew straight through to his cleats.

There's no other active quarterback in Utah who could have pulled off what he did at Houston. Maybe no other quarterback would have been required to do what he did against an opponent with a glossy record but not much authentic pop.

But having witnessed a lot of the Cougar quarterbacks of the past and their undulations along the way to their greatness, I'd say there are some fairly profound pieces in place for this sophomore. He's far from a finished product, and he's not a sure thing. But right now, on the downward slope of the college season, he's the best quarterback in the state — and it's not even close.

BYU is back in the quarterback business.

Travis Wilson's performance in the first half at Arizona — a forgettable span during which he completed 3 of 9 passes for 15 yards and squeezed off two interceptions, one a pick-6 and the other the start of a Wildcat touchdown drive — made everybody wonder about his health. His right hand is hurt.

And right in the middle of its Pac-12 season, Utah now finds itself back in a familiar bind — a state of quarterback confusion, the exact state Kyle Whittingham had so hoped to avoid in 2013. That's five straight seasons, one for each digit on Wilson's injured hand, during which either injury or ineptitude has messed over things for the Ute offense.

Somebody needs to get Ron McBride's lucky holy man back to the program to take off the curse.

The Utes are experiencing the expected hardships, the vicissitudes of early existence in the Pac-12 — losing their initial four league games in each of their first two seasons and now lurching at 1-3 this year — but trying to climb out of that without consistency at quarterback is undoable.

Wilson has had some soaring moments, including leading Utah to a fantastic win over Stanford almost two weeks ago. The aroma of that victory wafted away a week later though. The sophomore has completed 122 passes in 202 attempts for 1,655 yards this season, including 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His future remains bright. But in the present, it looks as though backup Adam Schulz might be leaned on — he came on in the second half in the Arizona loss — to help extricate the Utes from their current heap.

All anyone has to know about the quarterback situation at Utah State is to look at Chuckie Keeton's crutches. Freshman Darell Garretson was solid with a simplified offense against New Mexico. He hit 15 of 23 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in his first start. He'll move through the remainder of this season, keeping Keeton's spot occupied until the Aggie great returns next year. Check back with us on Garretson in 2015.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson. —