March 24, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah coach Kyle Whittingham wants to finish spring practices with a top-three defined quarterback depth chart.

That may be easier said than done with the options he has at the moment.

The Utes began spring workouts Tuesday with six quarterbacks taking reps.

Senior Travis Wilson is getting the majority of the snaps with the starters and Whittingham said the rest are being distributed equally. The plan is to reassess the position after the first week and then ''thin the herd''.

Wilson is the returning No. 1 with 27 starts in his first three seasons. He threw for 2,170 yards and 18 touchdowns with five interceptions and a 60.7 completion rate in 2014, but was benched for Kendal Thompson twice.

''The key for Travis (is) consistency,'' Whittingham said. ''Play at that high level day in and day out. Not two or three good days and then a day that's not so good. He needs to really focus on consistency and playing at the level we need to day after day.

''There's been some bumps in the road, there's no question about that. But he's been in the program a long time. He knows our system. He knows the expectations. This could be a breakout year for Travis. We'll see. There's some good quarterbacks that are going to be pushing him. But that's a good thing.''

At 6-foot-7, 233 pounds, co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Wilson has all the tools for the position. He can run, throw and has a toughness to his game. Roderick, who recruited Wilson, wants to see development in the mental part of the game.

''Each year he's gotten a little better with decision-making, with reading the game,'' Roderick said. ''Would like to see him this year just keep progressing in that manner. ... Be very efficient with the ball. That's the key.

''It isn't to say he's a bad decision-maker, it's just a process that young quarterbacks go through. ... We don't need to throw for a million more yards, but we need to be more efficient, a little more opportunistic and little bit more explosive.''

The coaching staff praised Wilson, but he was sat down twice last season for a reason. The Utes had the No. 95 passing offense in the nation in 2014 and the No. 52 scoring offense.

''There's been some bumps in the road, there's no question about that,'' Whittingham said. ''But he's been in the program a long time. He knows our system. He knows the expectations.

''This could be a breakout year for Travis. We'll see. There's some good quarterbacks that are going to be pushing him. But that's a good thing.''

Enter Thompson.

Thompson was the starter against Oregon last year, but went down with a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. He is No. 2 on the depth chart and is cleared to participate in non-contact drills, but is still working his way back. The senior, however, was the starter when he went down with the injury.

Thompson said he's using the spring to work on his timing with the receivers and the details of the game, but is not concerned with the starting job - at the moment.

''When I get back in fall camp, I'll be able to handle that,'' Thompson said.

Behind Thompson is sophomore Conner Manning, sophomore Brandon Cox, redshirt freshman Donovan Isom and redshirt freshman Chase Hansen returning from a mission. Transfers are a possibility depending on how this spring works out.

Wilson has every opportunity to show the coaching staff that he can lead the Utes. He returned to the field Tuesday with a new short haircut after donating his previously long locks to charity.

Whittingham said Wilson has started to carry himself with that air of confidence needed to lead the team.

''I've grown up a lot,'' Wilson said. ''I've definitely been through a lot. Been through a lot of adversity. Just really thankful for the opportunity that I've gotten. ... Just make sure I'm practicing harder and making sure I'm executing on the little things. That's the biggest thing.

''I definitely feel confident.''

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