Kyle Whittingham told Cameron Rising he felt it was in Rising’s best interest to return to Utah for the 2024 season. Rising wants to play in the NFL. Utah’s head coach feels that Rising needs a year to remind scouts and the rest of the country how impressive a quarterback he is.

Rising announced on Sunday his intention to return for his seventh season of eligibility. After a devastating knee injury in January, Rising has missed the entire 2023 season.

Whittingham mentioned to reporters at his news conference on Monday that an official medical exception from the NCAA is still pending, but that is viewed as more of a formality. Rising hasn’t played a snap this season. He should get the year back.

Whittingham expects he’ll be ready to go for spring ball as well. “I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be,” the Utah head coach said, but that decision will obviously be made by Rising’s doctor.

There are still a few things to be tidied up, but getting a public announcement from Rising with a week still to play in the regular season is huge for Utah.

“That’s a huge (decision) going forward for our program. That’s a huge component to our team. It’ll help in recruiting. It’ll help maybe a few guys that are on the fence — “Do I come out, do I stay?” Maybe a few of those guys decide to return because of that,” Whittingham said.

“Cam has got to be one of the best if not the best returning quarterback in the country. He’s won two championships for us. Ultimate leader. Supreme leader. He’s an alpha dog. Can’t tell you how excited we are, how elated we are. It’s gonna be a great start and a big part of our outlook on next year’s season.”

Whittingham said he tries to leave “all the self-serving components” out of his discussion with players about their future once a season ends. For Rising, he wanted to tell the quarterback to do what was best for him regardless of what was best for Utah.

In this instance, the two are one and the same.

“Cam wants to play in the NFL and I feel he’s perfectly suited for that. Coming back and proving that he’s healthy again and can perform at the same level … gives him an opportunity to prove that he belongs and he’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the country.”

Bryson Barnes has been the starter for most of this season in Rising’s absence. He has more eligibility. Both Nate Johnson and Brandon Rose are redshirt freshmen. Mack Howard signed with the program in the 2023 class. Four-star Corner Canyon quarterback Isaac Wilson is committed to the 2024 class.

Rising’s return will make for a pretty crowded quarterback room, right?

“Probably not,” Whittingham said. “I think natural attrition, and with that being the most volatile position in football, I think it will sort itself out and we won’t have to make any tough decisions.”