Utah football: Travis Wilson eager to go live Thursday

Published August 26, 2014 10:22 pm
Utah notes • Idaho State coach says road losing streak "not in danger" this week.
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He hasn't played a game since Nov. 9, and he's only gone through one full-contact practice in that time.

Travis Wilson knows there are some skeptics out there who question if he's truly ready to re-start his football career when the Utes open the season Thursday against Idaho State. For the junior quarterback, that switch has already flipped on.

"It's really when I got to play in that scrimmage and I was live again, it was definitely good to just get in that mindset of 'Yeah, I get to play football again,' he said. "It's not just two-hand touch with me anymore."

Wilson's ready to return at the helm of the Utah offense, and his teammates and coaches agree the discovery of a condition that almost ended his football career has driven him to chase his football dreams more aggressively.

It was last fall when the Utes learned that he had pre-existing damage to an intracranial artery that ended his season and left him out of the game for months. Since then, there have been slow but steady signposts toward progress: clearance for non-contact drills, clearance for contact.

Throughout the ordeal, coach Kyle Whittingham said he saw Wilson's increased hunger manifest itself in the weight room, where he built a chiseled physique. He voraciously studied Dave Christensen's new offense and ultimately prevailed in a camp position battle with transfer Kendal Thompson.

"I think he's really embraced and found out how much he loves the game during that period in time," Whittingham said. "Not that he wasn't a hard worker and a guy that wasn't all in and competitive, but when you have something that's been taken away from you for a period of time, it opens your eyes a little bit."

The ultimate test is Thursday afternoon, when Wilson finally goes live against tacklers who aren't teammates. Wilson knows he'll get taken down at least once, but he doesn't have butterflies about it.

"Obviously when I run, I'm going to get hit," he said. "Obviously I'm going to be safe about it, but I'm definitely not going to shy away from contact."

Bengals tempering their expectations

Speaking in a Big Sky conference call ahead of his team's opener in Salt Lake City, Idaho State coach Mike Kramer acknowledged that his Bengals' 44-game road losing streak, among other losing streaks, "are just nasty."

"Opening up at Utah and next week at Utah State, I'm sure that that streak's really not in danger," he said.

He feels good about his team's progress, however.

The fourth-year coach said Idaho State now has the athleticism and experience to compete in the Big Sky. His defense has improved considerably since an "unmitigated disaster" in 2012, when eight opponents scored 49 or more points, and four scored 70. Last year, only three opponents scored 49 or more, and two of those (BYU and Washington) were FBS opponents.

They haven't come so far, though, that he can expect to beat Utah or Utah State.

"We're still trying to build ourselves toward winning the games we should win," he said. "Those games that you can't win unless something fortunately comes to you, we're probably a little ways from doing that."

Utes planning scoreboard upgrade

Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill told The Tribune on Tuesday that the U. plans to install a new south end zone scoreboard at Rice-Eccles Stadium by the start of the 2015 football season.

The scoreboard will be larger and have a higher-quality picture than the current one, Hill said. The sound system — which Hill acknowledges is bad — will also be improved.

"Just making sure that we give our fans the right experience," he said.

Hill gave a rough cost estimate of $4 million to $6 million. He called it a "standalone project," and has nothing to do with whether Utah will or won't expand the stadium at the south end.



Idaho State at Utah

P Thursday, 5:30 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network



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