Kyle Whittingham stays mum on Rising, Kuithe status as game week arrives
Kyle Whittingham declined to elaborate on the status of quarterback Cameron Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe when he met with reporters on Monday for his first game-week press conference of the 2023 season.
Neither Rising nor Kuithe were full participants throughout preseason camp as they look to return from significant injuries suffered last year. Utah has maintained optimism throughout the offseason that both would be available for the opener on Thursday, but with game week now here, the Utah head coach is staying mum.
Whittingham said things are still in flux at several positions and the staff remains unsure about the status of more than just Rising and Kuithe.
Pressed on Utah’s two offensive stars, Whittingham would not say whether they have been cleared.
Rising has piloted the Utes to back-to-back Pac-12 championships as the starting quarterback.
He tore his ACL in the team’s Rose Bowl loss to Penn State back in January. Questions about his status have dominated the offseason for the Utes, who also lost Brandon Rose to an injury earlier in fall camp.
Whittingham said earlier in camp there would be a cut-off point for them when it came to waiting on Rising to be cleared, and that things would get “a little bit tenuous” if they were a week out and still unsure.
That moment has arrived, and the uncertainty appears to extend beyond QB1. The status of the backup battle remains, according to Whittingham, up in the air as kickoff approaches as well.
Whittingham said redshirt freshman quarterback Nate Johnson will play in Thursday’s game — “I guarantee you that” — and has closed the gap for the No. 2 quarterback spot with Bryson Barnes. The depth chart Utah released last week had Rising listed as the starter and Barnes as his backup.
Johnson had a versatile role last season, a multi-tooled weapon Utah deployed in a number of ways later in the year. But it was Barnes who came in for Rising when he was knocked out of the Rose Bowl.
The Utes are looking to open the year with a victory and avenge last year’s 29-26 loss to the Gators in Gainesville. Kickoff on Thursday is set for 5 p.m. PT on ESPN.