Utah junior quarterback Travis Wilson received final medical clearance on June 24th to resume playing football for the Utes. This could be the sort of good news that finally turns the fortunes of a struggling program in a positive direction.
Wilson’s football career appeared to be in serious jeopardy at the end of the 2013 season. He suffered a concussion on November 9th in a 20-19 loss to Arizona State. Concussion tests following the game revealed an injury to his intracranial artery. Wilson was sidelined for the rest of the season and team doctors were not sure if he would be able to play for Utah ever again.
For Wilson, it marked a scary end to a frustrating junior season derailed by injuries. He started in nine games as a sophomore in 2013 and led the Utes to a 4-2 start before injuries got the best of him.
It all started when Wilson sat out the second half in two consecutive games against Arizona and USC because of an injury to his throwing hand. Then came the concussion against Arizona State and he did not play at all in the final three games against Oregon, Washington State and Colorado.
Wilson finished the 2013 season with 1,827 yards passing and 16 touchdowns. He also ranked third on the team in rushing with 81 carries for 386 yards (4.8 average) and five touchdowns. But he also struggled with interceptions, throwing 16 picks in nine games.
Things began looking brighter when a test done in February showed the intracranial artery injury was not as serious as previously thought. Wilson was cleared to participate in non-contact drills in the spring and participated in spring camp.
Another CT scan on June 20th showed the intracranial artery had remained stable since February. A clean bill of health means Wilson has been cleared to play and will now enter Utah’s fall camp as the no.1 quarterback on the depth chart.
Getting an experienced quarterback back on the field is good news for the Utes. The team is breaking in a new offensive coordinator this fall in Dave Christensen. The former Missouri offensive coordinator and Wyoming head coach has the pedigree to revive the Utah offense and now he has an important tool to work with in Wilson.
Before injuries slowed him last fall, Wilson showed significant progress from his true freshman season when he took over as starting quarterback for the final seven games. He has passed for 3,318 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Wilson already ranks fourth all-time among Utah quarterbacks in career yards per completion (12.02) and seventh in career completion percentage (.592)
Wilson is not a lock to remain the starter when the season starts. He will have to hold off a crop of challengers led by Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson. Still, it’s safe to say Wilson has the inside track to be the top QB again as a junior. He has game experience and he has plenty of playmakers like wide receivers Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott and running backs Bubba Poole and Devonte Booker to help give the offense more teeth in 2014.
What else cannot be discounted is that Wilson has a new lease on his football life. Being given a second chance to play the sport he loves will no doubt serve as a great motivator to do everything in his power to help Utah finally climb the last hurdle to becoming a bowl team once again.
John Coon covers University of Utah football and other college sports in Utah for the Associated Press. You can follow him on Twitter at @johncoonsports