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Kragthorpe: College Football: No looking back

Published August 8, 2006 2:26 am

Utah's Grady not focused on past
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Quarterbacks are trained to keep looking downfield, which explains how Tommy Grady can shrug off the recent developments at Oklahoma and focus on trying to pull off the biggest upset of the college football preseason by becoming Utah's starting quarterback.

Just imagine, though: If Grady had stayed a Sooner instead of transferring last August, he would be Oklahoma's QB right now. The country's most stunning booster scandal since the bad, old days of the Southwest Conference led to Rhett Bomar's dismissal from the Sooners, which naturally led to what-ifs about Grady in Oklahoma.

And in Utah, although Grady acknowledged only "a little bit" of wondering himself.

"I'm here; I'm happy to be here," he said after the Utes' first practice Monday. "I'm happy to move on."

Exactly where the move to Utah will take him is another issue.

Grady could overtake Brett Ratliff and start against UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 2. Or he could become the starter next season as a senior. Or he could spend five years at Oklahoma and Utah and never start a college football game, after being the country's No. 2 quarterback recruit out of high school in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Really, any of the above is possible.

This much is certain: Utah's quarterback picture has changed dramatically since last summer, when Grady's brother, Jeff - who once played for Ute offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig at Fresno State - helped him shop for another school.

Utah seemed like a logical place in the post-Alex Smith era, with Brian Johnson being handed the starting job and Ratliff recruited for insurance.

So what happened? Not only did Johnson thrive, even if the Utes went only 5-5 with him before his knee injury, but the unimaginable took place: Ratliff led Utah to victories over Brigham Young and Georgia Tech, establishing himself as the front-runner to start this season.

So it looks like another lost year for Grady. And then Johnson could return from a redshirt year as the starter in 2007. So when might Grady ever play?

"Hopefully, it's this year . . . against UCLA," he said. "I think I'm the best."

For the record, he made that declaration after praising Ratliff and Johnson. So what, though? Quarterbacks are supposed to think that way.

"You don't want a guy who's not sure of himself," said Ute coach Kyle Whittingham. "Cornerback and quarterback are two positions where you need a certain air of cockiness. All three of these guys are very confident."

The 6-foot-7 Grady has all the physical attributes anyone could want from a quarterback. His only problem? Timing.

When Oklahoma's starting job was available last August, after he played behind Jason White in 2004, Grady had to take an "intersession" course - four hours a day for three weeks - to earn a necessary three credits.

Fine, except the communications class came during two-a-day football practices.

Figuring he would lose ground on the field and get stuck behind Bomar, Grady looked into transferring and eventually left Oklahoma after about a week of practice.

Fine, except the Sooners struggled in his absence.

Paul Thompson started in the season-opening loss to Texas Christian, then was benched and moved to receiver (he's now back at QB). Bomar took over, but was so shaky that the Sooners did not even attempt a pass in the second half of a win over Tulsa.

So Grady probably would have had a chance last year - and certainly this year, after the discovery of Bomar's lucrative, no-show job at an auto dealership.

When he heard the news, Grady called a former teammate to ask if it were true. Sadly so.

"Hopefully," Grady said, "they'll let him play college football again."

Grady also hopes the same for himself.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

QB Rotation

Assuming that Brian Johnson redshirts this season, Utah could have a different starting quarterback (counting Johnson twice) in season openers for eight years or more. One projection:

2002 - Lance Rice

2003 - Brett Elliott

2004 - Alex Smith

2005 - Brian Johnson

2006 - Brett Ratliff

2007 - Tommy Grady

2008 - Brian Johnson

2009 - Kevin Dunn