PULLMAN – As a walk-on quarterback lightly recruited out of high school, Adam Schulz didn’t exactly stand out when he first stepped onto Utah’s campus.
Now a redshirt sophomore, Schulz said he still lives a life of relative anonymity. It may be hard to remain inconspicuous for long, because Schulz was named the Utes’ starting quarterback following news of Travis Wilson’s playing career being in jeopardy after the discovery of a pre-existing head condition.
Schulz started last week in the Utes’ 44-21 loss to Oregon, and will do so again at Washington State (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) on Saturday.
“It is very, very sad to see someone so close and your teammate go through that,” Schulz said. “But at the same time it’s a great opportunity to help the team, my family is proud of me for sticking with it and it’s a great opportunity to help get a couple more wins.”
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In high school, Schulz led a wing-T offense for a run-heavy team. As a senior he passed for 745 yards and nine touchdowns, and in doing so set a pair of school records. With so few opportunities to show off his arm, Schulz had a hard time impressing recruiters.
“I didn’t have any film,” Schulz said. “I went to camps and they’d say that I had some skill but without any film it was hard to evaluate me.”
To become Utah’s starter, Schulz had to climb his way from the bottom of the depth chart. As a preferred walk-on, Schulz wasn’t guaranteed a scholarship, or even a spot on the roster beyond fall camp. But the Muskego, Wis., product made the most of his opportunities and was rewarded with more reps during spring practice.
“I think it’s really impressive because that’s kind of a tough road,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “Being a walk-on is harder than people on the outside realize. People on the outside just think you sort of volunteer, show up for free and it’s as simple as that.”
Now Schulz must take over an offense geared to Wilson’s strength – his mobility. Wilson was second on the team with 386 rushing yards, and his five rushing touchdowns were more than double any other player on the Utes roster.
That’s not to say Schulz doesn’t have talents of his own. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Schulz has by far the strongest arm on the team and is an adequate runner.
That arm strength has been shown in glimpses so far. In Utah’s 35-24 loss to Arizona, Schulz came in and threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Sean Fitzgerald on a flea-flicker play. He also completed a 48-yard pass against the Ducks last weekend.
But Schulz said he isn’t worried about the notoriety that comes with being a starting quarterback in the Pac-12. If he leads the Utes (4-6, 1-6) to a 6-6 record and a bowl game, he may not have a choice.
“I don’t see it that way; I don’t really pay attention to any of that,” Schulz said. “Obviously we have to get two wins, obviously the door’s still open, but there isn’t any room for those thoughts.”