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 in relative anonymity. But it might be hard to remain inconspicuous for long. With Travis Wilson’s playing career in jeopardy after the discovery of a pre-existing head condition, Schulz was named the Utes’ starting quarterback.
Schulz started in last week’s 44-21 loss to Oregon, and he will do so again Saturday at Washington State (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12 Conference).
“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.”
At Muskego High School in Wisconsin, 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 college 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 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 he 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,” Washington State 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, a sophomore, is second on the team with 386 yards rushing, and he leads the Utes with his five rushing touchdowns.
But Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the 6-foot-1, 205-pound 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 on Oct. 19, 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 recognition that comes with being a starting Pac-12 quarterback. If he leads the Utes (4-6, 1-6) to a 6-6 record and a bowl game, he might not have a choice.
“I don’t see it that way,” Schulz said. “I don’t really pay attention to any of that. Obviously, we have to get two wins; obviously, the door’s still open, but there isn’t any room for those thoughts.”