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Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Better know a Pac-12 QB: Travis Wilson

By Kevin Gemmell

Editor's note: Beginning Aug. 3, we're counting down the days until the college football season with a look at the 25 most interesting people in the sport.

The Pac-12 is blessed with an abundance of returning starting quarterbacks in 2014. With 10 starters coming back, many are wondering if the league is on pace for its best quarterback year ever. This week the Pac-12 blog will give you a snapshot of all 10.

Name: Travis Wilson

School: Utah

Grade: Junior

2013 passing stats: Completed 133 of 237 attempts for a 56.1 completion percentage and 1,827 yards. Threw 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with a raw QBR of 41.3 and an adjusted QBR of 56.1.

Career passing stats: Completed 261 of 441 attempts for a 59.2 completion percentage and 3,138 yards. Threw 23 touchdowns and 22 interceptions with a raw QBR of 41.7 and an adjusted QBR of 52.0.

2013 rushing stats: Rushed 81 times for 386 yards and five touchdowns.

Career rushing stats: Rushed 145 times for 426 yards and nine touchdowns.

Travis Wilson
Travis Wilson spurned much of the Pac-12 when he picked Utah.
What you need to know about Wilson:  He started the final seven games of the 2012 season a true freshman, leading the Utes to a 3-4 record during that stretch, and was the only Utah quarterback to appear in all 12 games. But 2013 was derailed by assorted injuries before suffering a season-ending concussion against Arizona State in November. A scan after that concussion revealed a pre-existing trauma to an intracranial artery. He was cleared to practice (non-contact) in the spring and now is full go. At 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, he’s an imposing figure. But he can run too, making him that much more difficult to prepare for. And in the event football doesn’t work out, he could find a gig in the next 300 movie. (Dang!)

Career high point: Wilson took a knee as the clocked ticked down, and despite an injury to his throwing hand, he was still able to flash a “U” toward the MUSS as they stormed the field following Utah’s 27-21 win over No. 5 Stanford last year. Wilson completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also added eight rushes for 35 yards. And while Utah’s season spiraled following the game, it’s still considered one of the greatest regular season victories in school history and a reminder to the league that the Utes can’t be taken lightly. Wilson was all guts in that game.

Career low point: Rewind seven days from the career high point. The Utes could have pulled off an upset a week earlier with UCLA in town. But Wilson tossed six interceptions, including his last one in the final minute inside the UCLA 15. Now, for those who remember the game, all six weren’t Wilson’s fault. There were tips and bad routes by his receivers. But in the annals of college football, it's remembered as a six-pick game. He did throw a pair of touchdowns, but was just 22 of 44 passing in what goes down as a statistical nightmare. But he obviously has a short memory since the Utes knocked off Stanford a week later.

When he was a recruit: The Utes made a statement with their first recruiting class as members of the Pac-12, walking into California and coming away with a commitment from Wilson, who also held offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA and Washington. Wilson targeted the Utes early and cited the depth chart as one of the reasons he committed to Utah, but despite his terrific size -- listed at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds as a high school senior -- it wasn't anything close to a slam dunk that the nation's No. 39 quarterback would step into the starting role midway through his true freshman season, despite some high praise in his ESPNRecruiting Nation profile. "Reminds us of Zach Mettenberger only Wilson is a much better athlete. Has a great feel in the pocket. Will rarely panic or take off too early. Flashes the arm strength to drive the ball down field. … Overall accuracy is sound and he can really get into a rhythm and get hot."

Opposing head coach’s take: "Thankfully he’ll come back and he’s healthy. I’m excited for him. He’s in that Sean Mannion mold to a certain degree. If he can play the way he did against Stanford last year on a consistent basis, you’re going to be talking about him as one of the better quarterbacks in the nation, not just the conference."

 What to expect in 2014: If Wilson can stay healthy -- and hold off a fall charge from Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson -- he has all of the physical tools to be a very successful quarterback. Working against him is the fact he’s adjusting to his third offensive coordinator in as many years. It was Brian Johnson in 2012, a combination of Dennis Erickson and Johnson in 2013 and now Dave Christensen in 2014. Though Christensen told the Pac-12 blog in January that his offense has a lot of crossover from what the Utes have been doing the last couple of seasons. He already has familiarity and chemistry with his receivers -- including Biletnikoff watch list receiver Dres Anderson. The Utes are looking to dispatch a three-headed rushing attack that could help take some of the pressure off Wilson. The completion percentage has to rise and the picks have to drop. That’s a given. But he was forced into action early and responded fairly well. He’s won big games and lost some close ones. The potential is there for him to be the front man Utah has been lacking since joining the league.

Erik McKinney contributed reporting.