Utah 'unsettled' at QB with Florida looming; QB2 job is 'dead heat'
Utah opens the 2023 football season in nine days.
The status of the Utes’ starting quarterback is still not sorted.
“Probably next week, and we’ll just see,” Whittingham said with a heavy sigh Monday when he met with reporters. “It’s a day-by-day thing right now and that’s as good as I can tell you.”
The reigning Pac-12 champs open their quest for a three-peat at home on Thursday, Aug. 31, against the Florida Gators. Starting quarterback Cameron Rising is recovering from offseason ACL surgery and, so far through camp, has been a limited practice participant.
Throughout the course of the offseason, Utah has expressed optimism at every turn that Rising will take the field with the offense for the first drive against the Gators, but Camp Kyle has provided little clarity as to whether that hope will become reality.
“He’s progressing,” Whittingham said when asked if Rising was still limited. “He’s progressing through practice.”
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and Whittingham have had to work overtime at the quarterback spot during camp. They’ve worked to get Rising ready to play, and they’ve worked to sort out who will take the field in the event Rising can’t play.
For a time, it looked like Brandon Rose might be the guy to win the No. 2 job, but an injury earlier in camp has put him on the shelf for an unknown amount of time. In the wake of that injury, Utah looked like it would turn to Bryson Barnes once again.
Barnes filled in for Rising when an injury knocked him out of the Rose Bowl two years ago, and then he did the same last season when Rising missed the Washington State game and later was knocked out of the Rose Bowl against Penn State.
That seems to have changed as well.
“I can tell you that for the 2 spot, Bryson Barnes and Nate (Johnson) are on equal footing right now,” Whittingham said. “Nate’s closed the gap and they’re exactly in a dead heat at this point.”
Johnson had a small package during his redshirt season last fall. He ran three times for 23 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona. He had a 16-yard passing touchdown and a 21-yard run against Stanford. Then he had his first career catch in the Pac-12 title game against USC.
The Utes sought to get the Clovis, California, native onto the field as much as possible while still saving the year.
Asked if the lack of a clear picture at quarterback gives the Utes an advantage over Florida, Whittingham shrugged and said he’s not sure if it’ll make a big deal one way or the other.
“We’re truly unsettled right now, so there’s really no deception at this point,” Whittingham said.