Utah coaches talk Cam Rising rehab, QB2 competition as spring ball gets rolling
Utah is going through spring ball without its leader.
Cameron Rising tore his ACL in the Utes’ Rose Bowl game against Penn State last January, an injury that will keep him sidelined for most of this offseason and possibly the start of the 2023 season. That’s still TBD, but head coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters this week he’s making good progress.
“Yes, he is,” Whittingham said when asked if Rising was where he wanted him to be at this point in the rehab process. “There has been good progress so far with no setbacks. We are still pretty early in the process but so far, so good.”
The Utes wrapped up their first three practices of spring ball this week. The spring game is in three weeks; the 2023 season is 158 days away.
Rising, with two years of experience leading this team to back-to-back Pac-12 crowns, doesn’t exactly need every one of those days to get ready for the season. In the interim, the Utes could develop some very real depth at the quarterback spot.
First-team reps that would otherwise be tough to come by will be in abundance for Nate Johnson, Brandon Rose, Bryson Barnes, and early-enrollee freshman Mack Howard.
And Utah will be prioritizing the development of Johnson and Rose this spring.
“Nate and Rose will get the most,” Whittingham said. “We know what Bryson Barnes is. He’s a very good player for us. He’s done good things, but we know we have a big sample size on him. But we’ve got to really hone in on Rose and Nate, see what they can do for us.”
Rose didn’t play in a game last season. He joined the program as a 3-star pro-style thrower with more than 7,000 yards and 70 passing touchdowns in his preps career.
“His arm talent is off the chart,” offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said. “When he gets under duress, for a bigger-bodied guy, he has excellent escape ability and really deceptive speed.”
Rose got the scout team assignment, though, while Johnson filled in as the No. 3 behind Barnes. Johnson maintained his redshirt, and though he had a package specific to his skillset in the games he played, the experience isn’t exactly the same.
“You get a lot more throws (on scout team). Last season, Nate Johnson was the third quarterback for us. Third quarterback is the most difficult position on the football team because you’re expected to know everything, but you get almost zero reps. At least Brandon was able to play the game,” Ludwig said. “Nate was getting his reps in individual and routes versus air. Brandon Rose is going against the best defense in the Pac-12 every day. So that’s a great learning curve for him, great experience and I think it showed up yesterday for him.”