CFB on FOX Q&A: Utah’s Travis Wilson

Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1, Utah welcomes No. 12

UCLA to Salt Lake City in a big Pac-12 matchup.

I caught up with Utah quarterback to talk about the game, how

he’s improved, playing in memory of his late friend (and Bruin)

Nick Pasquale and more.

Coy Wire: Will this be an emotional game for you because

your best friend, Nick Pasquale, was playing for UCLA just a few

weeks ago before he passed away?

Travis Wilson: It’s a huge game. First of

all, they’re ranked 14th in nation. They are very good on

both sides of the ball, so it’s a huge challenge. It will be

emotional because of that. Nick — he’s always on my mind,

but I know he’s going to be watching us. I’m playing

for him. His family is coming out to watch, and I’m playing

for them too.

You’ve learned from many teachers, coaches, etc. Is

there anything that someone told you or taught you that has

impacted your life or shaped the Travis we see today?

Recently with my friend, Nick, passing away, I’ve realize

that life is short. I want to make every opportunity count.

I want to give it my all in everything I do. Life is too short

not to.

You’re a huge dude playing QB, an anomaly. Who were

your inspirations at the position? I’m assuming you’re

not going to say any lil’ fella like Drew Brees.

Actually, I grew up watching Tom Brady. I think he’s

amazing. What he does on the field is incredible to watch.

Whenever he’s on TV, I’m watching.

Watching film of you, you run like your hair’s on

fire and it’s easy to see that you’re a fierce competitor.

Where does that desire come from, that hunger to conquer the down

and the situation?

When I’m running I really just run as fast as I can. I

always pretend that someone’s right on my heels. But making

it to the NFL is my main motivation.

That’s what drives me to succeed. Ever since I was little

that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

Last year, Utah had only 37 plays of 20-plus yards. Through

only four games this year, your offense already has 28 plays of

20-plus yards. What in the world has changed this year with the

offense’s ability get the big play?

Last year we didn’t make big plays, but every game this

year we’ve made progress. I think it has a lot to do with

having trust in the wide receivers and knowing what they’re

going to do.

We have a great group who knows how to get open. We definitely

try to establish the run first. It helps to open up the passing

game. Establish the run, definitely.

Also, we try to always make sure the defense doesn’t know

what we’re going to do. We keep the same plays, but we change

our personnel and put playmakers at different positions from play

to play.

You look like a different guy out there this year. How has

new co-offensive coordinator, Dennis Erickson, helped

you?

He has definitely been a great help. He’s made the offense

so much more simple, especially with certain pass concepts that we

run.

He really helped me know where I’m supposed to go with the

football, so I’m much more comfortable.

Has coach Erickson done or said anything to motivate you?

Does he have a mantra or any particular saying that resonates with

you the most?

He doesn’t have a particular saying, but the whole time

he’s been here he’s been a great person to talk to

outside of football. He was really there for me when my friend,

Nick, passed away.

I know he’s somebody I trust and can go talk to whenever I

need it.

When UCLA played Nebraska, it did a phenomenal job of

containing QB Taylor Martinez. You’re a mobile quarterback, and

UCLA has enough speed to contrain the edges. When you look at this

UCLA defense on film, do you think you’ll be able to

run?

Definitely. They’re going to be tough, and I know that

they’re aware of my running abilities.

But I know that there will be opportunities throughout the game,

so I need to take advantage of them when I see them. I need to pull

the ball and run it whenever I can.

Oregon State put some pressure on you early but then, all

of the sudden, you started to take off running. You rushed for 142

and 3 TDs that game. What changed in that game?

I started recognizing the opportunities to pull ball and run.

I’ll be looking for those same opportunities against

UCLA.

When I see them, I need to take advantage and make good runs —

long runs.

UCLA’s defensive coordinator Lou Spanos learned his

system from the defensive mastermind that I also had the great

privilege of learning from, Dick LeBeau. UCLA utilizes some of the

elaborate and aggressive blitzing philosophies that LeBeau is known

to use in Pittsburgh. How do you combat that chaotic

attack?

Anthony Barr is always moving around and lining up in different

places, just like Kyle Van Noy did when we faced BYU.

I believe that UCLA will do that to us too, and we need to

recognize it. I need to be great at recognizing it and setting the

protection.

(Football Knowledge Bomb: “Setting the

protection” is what the QB does before the snap on pass plays

to put his offensive line in the best blocking scheme to pick up

any blitzes. Usually, you will see the quarterback point to a

player — most often a linebacker– call out his number and then

say something like, “52 is the Mike!” The ‘M’ in

“Mike” stands for middle. It is towards that player

that the offensive linemen will “slide.” All blocking

assignments are based off of the “Mike” to whom the QB

sets the protection. If the QB has set the correct protection —

and each of the linemen executes his assignment — he will have

time to throw the ball. If the defense is bringing more rushers

than the offensive players are able to block, the QB will know

which defender will be the unblocked man or “free

rusher” based on the protection he has set, and he can be

sure to throw the ball or scramble away before that man sacks

him.)

The last time UCLA’s defense really got exposed was against

Baylor last year. Baylor was able to get good mismatches in space.

How, or with whom, do you think you guys can attack

them?

I’m really confident in our wide receivers right now. Dres

Anderson, Sean Fitzgerald, Anthony Denham. They’re doing a

great job of finding me.

I expect that they’re going to have good games. And our

tight end, Jake Murphy, has been great, and I think he’ll

have a good game too.

RAPID FIRE

What sound or noise do you love?

Any good ol’ fashioned classic rock!

What is your power animal?

A super-powered Giraffe with turbo boosters.

What is your favorite word?

Faith.

What is your least favorite word?

Losing.

Favorite book?

Bible.

If you could play another position for the rest year, not

your own, and be really good at it, what position would you

pick?

I’d play wide receiver. I love catching the ball.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you

like to see play the lead role?

I’ll say Jerry McGuire because I kind of look like

him.

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your one

superpower to be?

To fly.

Three words to describe yourself?

Tall, athletic, smart.

If you could trade places with any other person for a week,

famous or not, living or not, real or fictional, with whom would it

be?

My best friend that passed away a few weeks ago, Nick Pasquale,

to see what Heaven’s like.