Utah has been hammered with injuries this season, but UCLA coach Chip Kelly just shrugged when asked Monday if he would be watching injury reports closely throughout the week.

“We’re preparing for Utah,” Kelly said. “They’re all really good players.”

The Bruins’ head coach was incredibly complimentary of the Utah program when he met with reporters for his Monday morning availability. The venue is challenging. The offensive coordinator does well. The coach has his respect. The quarterback situation is challenging regardless of who is back there.

In a sense, Kelly is right. Utah is the two-time defending Pac-12 champion. And UCLA has to face it in Rice-Eccles Stadium, where no visiting team has gone into and come out with a win since December of 2020.

But it’s fair to say that Utah is still a mystery in 2023.

Cameron Rising still hasn’t played this year. Brant Kuithe remains out. Utah has a laundry list of injuries to key players and head coach Kyle Whittingham didn’t want to get into it on Monday at his own presser because it would just be rehashing the same things he has said for three weeks.

“Hopefully this week we’ll get some of them back,” Whittingham said. “As we sit here right now, I can’t say for certain on any of them.”

Whittingham is clearly frustrated with the situation.

“It’s been challenging,” he said at one point. “We’ve been able to piece it together these first three weeks and find combinations that work and make adjustments, modifications here and there. But it would sure be nice to get some of these guys back.”

After Saturday’s 31-7 win over Weber State, Whittingham said he can’t remember another time when he’s dealt with this kind of injury misfortune on a team. He counts close to 20 players who he believes can help Utah win football games who are currently battling some kind of injury.

The Utes are 3-0 and ranked 11th nationally despite all that.

“I think if we’re sitting here completely at full strength, we’re a very good football team,” Whittingham said. “But you can’t… That’s pointless really to think about that because that’s not the case. So, you just do the best you can with the circumstances you have.”

Rising is obviously the headliner. Utah has started Bryson Barnes twice and Nate Johnson once. There is a belief that this could be the week for Rising to make his return, but Johnson will get start No. 2 if necessary.

Last season, Rising ranked ninth nationally in Total QBR and expected points added. Utah was 23rd nationally in yards per play.

This season, without Rising to steer the ship, Utah is way down in 93rd, averaging 5.4 yards a play.

The pass game was a real struggle the first two weeks — save for one 70-yard completion on the first snap of the year. If Rising continues to be limited, Utah might have to give up on its waiting game and try to become more of what it is rather than what it hopes to be.

They’re not there yet, but Whittingham was asked about exactly that on Monday.

“Well you saw what we did with Nate, quite a few more QB runs. More so than we’d do typically with Cam,” he responded. “That’s one of Nate’s strengths. He did throw the ball pretty well. … Knock on wood, we haven’t turned it over. It would be more of what you saw Saturday, more in that realm of QB run, play-action pass, things like that. He’ll continue to evolve as a quarterback and the more he evolves, the more we can expand and put things on his plate.”

UCLA expects the “full version” of Rising if that’s who takes the first snap for the Utes, but Kelly said preparing for either is preparing for the same thing.

“It’s not like Cam is Tom Brady and Nate is Lamar Jackson,” Kelly said. “They run a similar offense and it’s really preparing for Andy Ludwig and what he does, and Andy does a great job with that offense.

“There’s probably a little bit more quarterback-driven run when Nate’s in there, but that doesn’t mean Cam can’t. Cam’s beaten a lot of teams with his legs, too. Their offense is their offense. You’ve got to prepare for it all.”

Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. PT on FOX.