The last time the Utes football team threw an unknown quarterback into the fire was when Brett Ratliff took over for Brian Johnson at the end of the 2005 season. Now, it's Jon Hays' turn as he will make his first Division-1 start this Saturday against #22 Arizona State in place of the injured Jordan Wynn.
It is amazing the similarities between Hays and Ratliff. They both are from the Chico, California area, they both went to Butte Junior College, and they both had zero Division-1 experience before their first starts with the Utes.
Ratliff became somewhat of a folk hero at Utah, leading the Utes to an overtime win over BYU, then throwing four touchdown passes against Georgia Tech in an Emerald Bowl victory. Ratliff ended up going 10-5 as a starter, and is now with the Tennessee Titans, his third NFL team.
If Hays can come even remotely close to Ratliff's early success, the Utes will be thrilled.
Kyle Whittingham said Hays and Ratliff are very similar quarterbacks. He said they both have a calm demeanor about themselves, they both make sound decisions with the football, they're both pretty mobile, and they both have strong arms.
Norm Chow said Hays actually has a stronger arm than Wynn, but he obviously lacks the experience. It is a little scary to think the only reason Hays is at Utah is because Nebraska-Omaha dropped its football program back in March. So, instead of facing the likes of Missouri Southern State University this Saturday, Hays will be staring down the Arizona State.
It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but I have faith in Whittingham and Chow to get Hays ready for the Sun Devils. It wasn't exactly like Wynn was tearing it up when he was out there. I expect Hays to put up similar numbers as Wynn, but if the Utes are going to have any kind of chance against the aggressive Sun Devils defense, Hays can't turn the ball over. Ratliff was especially adept at taking care of the football, and if Hays is like Ratliff in that respect, the Utes may actually be OK.