In assessing quarterback Adam Schulz's performance against Washington State, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he felt the sophomore "grew" as a quarterback.
Has he grown enough to have the leading edge on the starting role next year? That will be one of the many questions facing the Utes as they head into the offseason following Saturday's season finale against Colorado.
If sophomore Travis Wilson can't play again a decision that will be made based on more exams of the intracranial arterial condition that cut short his 2013 season Utah will head into another season with a new quarterback.
It's a situation the Utes never imagined they'd be facing, until post-concussion tests after the Arizona State loss revealed Wilson's pre-existing condition.
Though Wilson's status is uncertain, the Utes must go forward with contingency plans, Whittingham said.
Excluding Wilson, the Utes have four quarterbacks on the roster, all of them freshmen save Schulz.
Schulz, who will make his third straight start against Colorado, is the only one with game experience, but no one is assuming he has the inside track on the starting job.
Schulz has a strong arm and is an accurate passer, but he isn't as mobile as other quarterbacks the Utes have and want in their system.
What he does have in his favor is the experience and the improvement that has come with it. Yes he threw two pick-sixes against WSU in the first quarter one which wasn't all his fault since it came off a tipped pass but he did handle the pressure well, and in the end earned positive reviews from Whittingham.
"We've seen growth in Adam and that growth needs to continue," Whittingham said. "We've got some good quarterbacks in the program that are redshirting, so it will be very competitive this spring in that position group."
Schulz says he isn't thinking of his starts as auditions for next year, saying it' too early to think that way with. Especially with Wilson still potentially part of the equation.
"I don't know right now," he said. "I haven't thought about it to be honest. Last week it was about getting ready for Washington State and this week for Colorado and playing for the seniors. It hasn't crossed my mind. I want to do whatever I can to help the team win now."
Conner Manning is next in line after edging out Brandon Cox and Micah Thomas in practice.
Manning is much like Schulz in that he is known more for his accuracy than his mobility. As a senior at El Toro H.S., in Lake Forest, Calif., Manning broke Matt Barkley's Orange County record for single-season passing yards as a junior in 2011, completing 327-of-527 passes for 4,219 yards and 41 touchdowns. His 9,449 career passing yards ranks second in Orange County history behind Barkley's 9,471 yards.
Cox and Thomas are more athletic quarterbacks. The intriguing option is Donovan Isom, a 6-5, 235-pound recruit out of Louisiana who has committed to the Utes.
Yet, do the Utes want to head into the 2014 season without any quarterbacks with any collegiate experience other than Schulz? It's a question they are still trying to answer, Whittingham said.
The Utes brought in Jon Hays during the Jordan Wynn era as a backup option but haven't decided if that is the way to go now. What complicates Utah's situation is they won't know until after signing day if Wilson can return a predicament that could make Utah a harder sell to recruits.
The Utes weren't anticipating signing any more quarterbacks other than Isom, but that could change.
Utah's QB depth chart
If Travis Wilson isn't cleared to play again, this will be Utah's quarterback depth chart going into the 2014 spring practice:
6-1, 205, So.
Of note: The one-time walk-on is currently Utah's starting quarterback...He was 21-of-46 for 347 yards against WSU with his total being the most by a Utah quarterback since Jordan Wynn threw for 362 yards against San Diego State in 2010...He has played in five games this year and one last year...He is 56-of-121 for 775 yards and five touchdowns and four interceptions for the season.
6-1, 205, Fr.
Lake Forest, Calif.
Of note: Currently listed as the backup behind Adam Schulz...Isn't as good of a runner as some of the other quarterbacks but known for his accurate passing...Broke Matt Barkley's Orange County record for single-season passing yards as a junior in 2011, completing 327-of-527 passes for 4,219 yards and 41 touchdowns.
6-2, 220, Fr.
Of Note: Currently third on Utah's QB depth chart...Played in just two high school games in 2012 due to a foot injury...Known to be a very athletic quarterback but has also worked to improve his arm strength.
6-0, 178, Fr.
Of note: Has not played this year...the Utes have experimented with him on defense in some practices...Known for his speed and athleticism, he passes for 849 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 734 yards and 10 touchdowns on 92 carries as a high school senior.
Colorado at Utah
O Saturday, noon