Still no starting QB named for Utes

Updated: August 25, 2003, 8:45 PM ET

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah coach Urban Meyer isn't ready to name a starting quarterback.

The race between Brett Elliott, Lance Rice and Alex Smith for the starting job has been decided, but Meyer won't say who won until the opening series of Thursday night's season opener against Utah State.

"The kids probably know already. Those three kids mean too much to me. They all battled real hard," Meyer said Monday. "To be honest with you, not one ran away with it. If one ran away with it, I wouldn't have that big of a deal."

Elliott started the last six games a year ago and is the likely front-runner. Whoever starts, Meyer said the No. 2 quarterback will also play Thursday night.

The Utes will probably be without defensive end Jason Kaufusi, who hasn't practiced since having arthroscopic shoulder surgery in July. Kaufusi was hopeful last week that he could be a game-time decision, but Meyer said Monday it was doubtful for Utah State.

Playing next weekend when the Utes visit Texas A&M is more likely.

"All he wants to do is be healthy. Hopefully we have him against A&M," Meyer said. "He's in great running shape and cardio shape, but his upper body strength's not good."

Running back Marty Johnson's status is still questionable. He's expected to be healthy after a foot injury, but still faces a one- or two-game suspension after pleading guilty to driving under the influence.

Meyer won't say which game or gamesJohnson will sit out.

Johnson and Brandon Warfield, who took over the job after Johnson blew out his knee two games into last season, are both listed as starters on this week's depth chart.

Meyer is anxious to make his debut as Utah's coach. Since taking over for the fired Ron McBride in December, he's made a buzz around Salt Lake City with the up-tempo offense he brought over after two seasons at Bowling Green.

Fans have heard plenty about the faster pace and spread-out offense and want to see how it works.

"It's definitely a new era and a changing time for Utah football," center Max Peterson said. "I think fans should expect that from us and I think they're going to enjoy what they see."

The Utes have won five straight against the Aggies and 13 of the last 15 meetings. Utah State was the last team to beat Utah in a season opener, winning 21-14 in 1997 in Salt Lake City.

Another loss to the Aggies would be a disastrous start for Meyer.

"It's huge. I hate to put it all on this one, but it's life and death right now," Meyer said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index