April 02, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) For the first time in four years, Utah will have a new full-time starting quarterback.

Travis Wilson set the school record with 38 starts during his four seasons and is second with 24 career wins, but now he's hoping to catch on with an NFL team. That leaves two newcomers and a three-year backup vying for the top job.

The Utes wrapped up their second week of spring practice Friday with Brandon Cox, Troy Williams and Tyler Huntley sharing snaps with the first team. A starter is unlikely to be named until the fall, but the coaching staff has heaped praise on the trio early on.

''All three are dual threats,'' coach Kyle Whittingham said. ''All three get the ball out of their hands quickly. Very athletic, all of them. Really impressed with Tyler Huntley's leadership. Not that the other two aren't good leaders, but as a true freshman, the leadership skills that he's demonstrated, he's got a quarterback's personality.

''Brandon does have a head start. He's been in the program going on four years now. He's obviously more comfortable in the scheme. But they're all going to get their chance. It'll be equal opportunity. It doesn't matter if you've been here four years or four weeks, the best guy's going to play.''

Cox redshirted as a freshman in 2013 and was behind both Wilson and Kendal Thompson the last two seasons. Both have exhausted their eligibility. Cox said he never really considered transferring for more playing time and was able to learn behind Wilson and Thompson. He's also embraced the competition with Williams and Huntley.

''Learning from them (as a backup) and their mistakes and what they did good and what they did bad,'' Cox said. ''It made me a better player at the end of the day.

''When you have two good quarterbacks behind you, it makes you better. It pushes you to the limit. With them having good days, it makes you want to have an even better day. We're all trying to push each other and make each other better.''

Williams transferred from Santa Monica college in January after throwing for 2,750 yards and 31 touchdowns with four interceptions. He initially signed and redshirted with Washington in 2013 and played five games in 2014 before transferring. He was rated the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals after his senior year of high school.

''I'm a competitor,'' Williams said. ''I'm confident no matter what I do. Whether I make a bad play or (whatever) it doesn't matter. I'm going to be confident at all times.

''Show them I can take charge of the offense and lead them down the field. Be that guy everybody can look up to whenever we're down or we need a play. Just be that leader of the team.''

Huntley is a true freshman that has already made a move up the depth chart. Cox and Williams were both listed as the No. 1 the opening week, but Huntley joined them this week. He enrolled early after being named the 2015 Florida Gatorade Football Player of the Year

''Utah talked to me before any other colleges talked to me and they just made me feel like a family,'' Huntley said. ''My strengths is just to make a play. I love making plays. I can do it well. Run or throw.''

The offense will look a little different in 2016 from what Wilson ran. The system will still be a spread attack, but the quarterback will be under center more than in the past to help the downhill run game and play-action.

Whittingham and co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick gave near identical answers when asked what they're looking for from the starter. Don't turn over the ball was the first from both. They want him to be adept at moving the chains and to have a high completion percentage. They want touchdowns in the red zone after the Utes ranked No. 65 in the country last year with a 60.87 red-zone touchdown conversion percentage.

The coaches are also looking to push the ball downfield more than the offense has in the past.

''It's everything,'' Roderick said about throwing downfield. ''It's us having more plays in our offense that allows us to throw the ball down the field. It's the quarterbacks making the right read and throwing it down the field when it's there. It's receivers getting open and making plays.

''It's all of it. It's all of us. It's a whole program thing. It's a program mentality to be more aggressive about getting the ball down the field. We're working on it.''

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