Utah football: Needed or not, backup QB Adam Schulz is ready
The Utah Utes are hopeful sophomore Travis Wilson's injured hand will heal enough to let him play against USC on Saturday.
If he can't, Adam Schulz will be there waiting to fill in, just as he always is.
Schulz, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore from Muskego, Wis., will be Utah's quarterback if Wilson can't play against USC or if his hand injuries sideline him at some point during the game, as they did against Arizona.
As the No. 2 guy, Schulz knows he always has to be ready to play, but being on the mental "Go," button all the time is more challenging than it might seem.
Luckily, Schulz showed he was up for the challenge against Arizona, having just a few minutes to warm up before he relieved Wilson at the end of the first half.
With Utah in the two-minute drill, Schulz completed his first six passes to get the Utes within field goal distance. Andy Phillips missed a 42-yard field goal attempt, but the drive gave both Schulz and his teammates encouragement despite the quarterback change.
"It was good because I just went in the game and reacted instead of looking at it and thinking about it," Schulz said.
Schulz finished the game 12 of 23 for 142 yards. Although the Utes lost, the defeat certainly wasn't on Schulz's shoulders alone. He graded out with a solid effort.
If he has to play Saturday, Schulz and his teammates believe he can handle the pressure, even if it would be only the fourth game of his career and at the Coliseum against the storied Trojans, no less.
"We have all the confidence in the world in Adam," running back Lucky Radley said. "He is a great quarterback. He is lacking some experience, but if Travis can't go, Schulz will be great."
Schulz is a different kind of quarterback than Wilson. He lacks Wilson's mobility but has a stronger arm. The Utes would have to tweak the offense a bit to suit his style, but there wouldn't be a dramatic change, according to Ute coach Kyle Whittingham.
"He has the strongest arm of all the quarterbacks and he has a lot of confidence in his ability," Whittingham said. "He can make all the throws."
Helping Schulz in his preparation is his experience in Utah's program. Since his high school ran the ground-oriented wing-T offense and he spent most of his time handing off the ball, Schulz didn't get much of a chance to show off his passing skills and went unrecruited. However, his high school coach believed Schulz would do well if given the chance to prove himself.
Utah proved to be a promising situation, given quarterback Jordan Wynn's uncertain health status. Schulz walked on for the 2011 season and immersed himself in Utah's offense.
He proved he not only had the arm to be a Division I quarterback, but also the leadership abilities. Last spring, he did well enough to beat out freshmen Conner Manning and Brandon Cox for the No. 2 position and keep the pressure on Wilson.
"Travis really separated himself in the fall, but that doesn't mean Adam hasn't improved, too," Utah co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson said. "He has gotten better, a lot better."
Considering he didn't have any offers coming out of high school, Schulz is happy with his progress. He has a scholarship and has a role with a major college football program.
"It's turned out how I wanted and hoped for," he said. "The biggest change [from high school] is you come in expecting to throw the ball. In high school we may have thrown five or six times a game, unless we were behind. There is more watching film, more reading the defenses, a lot more on your shoulders here."
If Wilson is healthy enough to play Saturday, Schulz knows he may not get in the game at all. He is OK with that possibility, knowing that is the life of a backup quarterback.
As always, he'll be ready.
"You prepare the same way every week," he said. "The only difference is you play or not."
Adam Schulz file
Height • 6-foot-1. Weight • 205 pounds
Class • Sophomore
Hometown • Muskego, Wis.
Of note • Had a career-high 12 of 23 for 142 yards and a touchdown against Arizona. ... Only other game experience this season came against Weber State, where he was 3 of 5 for 26 yards. ... He has rushed 10 times for 37 yards. ... Passed for nine touchdowns and 745 yards as a high school senior to lead his school to a 9-1 record. ... Also lettered in baseball and basketball. ... Member of the honor roll for four years.
Utah at USC
O Saturday, 2 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network