The long quarterback battle finally ended Monday afternoon when Utah coach Ron McBride called Brandon Jones and Mike Fouts into a meeting room and gave them the news.
It was good news for Jones, who was named the starter and not sogood for Fouts, who will be the backup when the Utes open the season against Oregon in 11 days.
McBride, quarterback coach Tommy Lee and offensive coordinator Fred Graves had struggled with the decision through spring ball and the first 10 days of fall camp. With the opener creeping up, they felt an urgency to choose a starter, even though there was no clear-cut winner on the field.
"I think we all feel a little more comfortable with Brandon," said McBride, who admits Fouts may be the better passer. "It's certainly not a clear-cut decision by any means. Mentally (Brandon) understands our package a little better and is better at reading the coverage."
Jones was obviously happy about the decision and says the pressure will work both ways.
"It has taken some pressure off, knowing I'm the guy," said Jones. "But there's pressure because Mike McCoy left some big shoes to fill."
Jones backed up McCoy last year, but saw little action, throwing just six passes all season. Most Ute fans know little about Jones, who grew up in Henefer and played for North Summit High School.
He is 6-3, 209 pounds and 21 years old. While at North Summit he played on six state championship teams (3 football, 2 track and 1 basketball) and was 1A player of the year in 1992. His father played basketball for Utah State, and the Jones family used to regularly attend BYU football games, of all things.
During his senior year of high school, Jones committed to play football for Snow College. But soon after that he was offered a scholarship to play for Utah, but it was too late. So he went off toEphraim, but played little behind Joe Borich. "The coach knew I was only going to be there one year, so he didn't give me much of a chance," he said.
Jones came up to Utah and played for the scout team in 1993 before earning the backup role in 1994, beating out projected backup Ryan Shea.
"This is a happy day - I've always wanted to be a Division I quarterback," said Jones, who understands he won't be for long if he doesn't do the job. "It's mine to lose. I've got to go out and perform. I still have to go out and be focused and work hard."
UTE NOTES: McBride found out Monday that his "sprained" left ankle is actually a broken ankle. He'd been hobbling on it for a week since getting bowled over by Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala in practice. He finally had it X-rayed and a small broken bone was discovered. He'll have to wear a brace for four weeks . . . Running back Teneil Ethridge saw his first action as a Ute Monday and impressed the coaches . . . Starting running back Juan Johnson will be kept out of practice this week because of an injured hamstring. He said it's more precautionary than anything . . . Defensive end Jeff Kaufusi is the only starter questionable for the opener at this time. He also has an injured hamstring . . . The Utes showed confidence in Jones by electing him an offensive captain along with Henry Lusk. Other captains named were Henry Kaufusi, Jeff Kirkman, Harold Lusk and Daniel Pulsipher.