Devontae Booker doesn’t care and neither should you.
As the U of U football team prepares for this week’s game at Oregon State, head coach Kyle Whittingham isn’t saying whether he’ll go with Travis Wilson or Kandal Thompson as his starting quarterback.
At his weekly press conference Monday, Whittingham said it’s not a huge deal – it’s not like he’s keeping a lid on the next Kardashian wedding site or anything like that – but still, he’s not giving anything away until Thursday night, when the Utes meet the Beavers in Corvallis, Ore.
“That's the plan going forward,” he said. “It's not a huge strategic move, but why tip your hand if you don't have to, and we don't have to. It's not like the NFL where you have to declare what's going on.”
While others wonder who’s going to direct the offense, Booker, Utah’s bruising running back, insists its not an issue for him. As long as he gets the ball in stride, it’s all good.
“It just really doesn’t matter to me,” Booker said last week, days after rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown as the Utes knocked off then-No. 8 ranked UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
The man makes a lot of sense.
Wilson is bigger in stature and can throw it farther, with more accuracy.
Thompson is built closer to the ground, is more mobile and adds a different element to the Utes’ offense.
Booker, on the other hand, can do what he does best, regardless of who’s getting him the rock. For that reason, he’s more valuable to the offense. He’s the key and it’s imperative the Utes’ utilize as they did against the Bruins, when he carried the ball 33 times.
Whatever offensive woes the Utes face – quarterback play, dropped passes, inconsistent pass-blocking – Booker is the perfect elixir to cure those ills.
His 33 carries against UCLA were the most all season and they took a ton of pressure off the rest of the offense.
He may not get that many carries on Thursday but if it’s anywhere close, it means the 20th-ranked Utes won again.
There’s no shortage of offense in the Pac-12 and most of it is of the wide-open variety, where QBs routinely chuck the ball around the field. The Utes, however, are better equipped to compete with a style that is, at best, balance and perhaps trending toward the ground game.
Booker, a junior who goes 5-foot-11 and a little more than 200 pounds, isn’t exactly a tank. But he’s strong and powerful and he likes contact, so much so that he seeks it out.
“I just love running physical, running hard, every play,” he said. “I’ve been doing it since Pop Warner, going out there just running hard, running into defenders, running them over, whatever I’ve got to do to get into the endzone.”
If you’re a fan or if you’re a teammate, that must feel good to hear Booker say such things. Lots of guys talk tough but they don’t all show it on the field.
But don’t take my word for it. In fact, don’t even take Booker’s word for it. Take the word of UCLA’s Myles Jack, a punishing running back/linebacker who has cult-figure status in southern California.
During the UCLA game, Booker overheard Jack talking to his Bruin teammates.
“I think I ran him over or something, something happened in a play to where I ran him over or I juked him or something,” Booker said. “He got up, he was like ‘Man, this dude is good. I can’t do nothing about it.’ He said that to his teammates and I just started laughing.”
The way Booker said it, he wasn’t bragging or talking trash. In fact, he was trying to be respectful but it’s hard to sound reverential when you’re telling a story like that.
“I don’t know what he thought of me as a running back, as a runner,” he continued. “But for him to say that I was just like, ‘Oh that’s kind of impressive.’”
Yes, impressive. That’s the perfect word.
And as Booker continues to impress, he’ll do wonders for Utah’s offense, regardless of who’s handing him the ball.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo