One is an accomplished quarterback with an impressive resume etched at a Big 12 program.
The other is the incumbent starter who’s coming off shoulder surgery and eager for another chance to take snaps.
Yes, for the second consecutive year, there’s a much-anticipated quarterback competition happening at Utah.
Senior Charlie Brewer threw for more than 9,000 yards at Baylor and led the Bears to the Sugar Bowl before becoming a Ute last winter. During the spring, he impressed his coaches and teammates and capped practices with a perfect performance, completing 15 of 15 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
Sophomore Cam Rising earned the starting job a year ago only to suffer a major shoulder injury to his throwing arm in the first half of the season opener.
As the Utes opened fall camp Wednesday, Rising was just thrilled to be a part of it.
“It’s great. I’m happy to be back, happy to be out there with the team again,” he said. “It feels good for sure. I’m excited about it. The arm felt great, absolutely.”
For Brewer, this marks the first time he’s had to compete for a starting job since he was a freshman and sophomore at Baylor, but he’s been in Salt Lake City for months learning the playbook and building rapport with his teammates.
“I feel a lot more comfortable than I did in the spring,” he said. “Getting to go through spring ball and then through the summer until now, I feel really good.”
Settling on a starting quarterback is one of the main priorities for coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff, and Utah has solid options with Brewer and Rising.
A year ago, there was a QB competition between Rising and South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley. Whittingham did not publicly announce who would be the starter before the opener, when Rising trotted onto the field to line up behind center.
What are Whittingham’s plans in terms of naming a starter this time around?
“I haven’t thought that far ahead with the announcement,” he said. “We’re just trying to get the competition up and going and start the evaluations. Once we get close to naming a guy, then we’ll talk about how we’re going to handle that.”
Meanwhile, Whittingham says the plan is to pass the ball more this season.
“We think that we need to do a better job throwing the ball this year. That’s one of our objectives,” he said. “We’re not going to drop back and throw it 60 times, but we need to be more productive and be more efficient in the throw game.”
That’s music to a quarterback’s ears.
Brewer has a pragmatic approach to the quarterback competition.
“Great football teams have competition everywhere. That’s the make of a championship team, having competition everywhere,” he said. “You have to go out and compete and just worry about yourself and do as well as you can and keep improving each day. That’s all you can do, really.”
“Every day, you just go in to compete and making sure that you’re as good as you can for the team,” Rising said. “That’s pretty much how it is. We’re competing against each other for that No. 1 spot, but it’s all about the team at the end of the day.”
Because Rising has been in the program for quite a while since transferring from Texas, he has a strong command of offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s system.
“For the most part, I’ve got a good idea of it all,” he said.
Said Brewer of Ludwig: “He’s been really good to me since I’ve been here. Obviously, he’s a really good offensive coach.”
Whittingham was impressed with the way Rising played on the first day of fall camp.
“He’s 100%. He looked great today and looked like his old self. I detected no lack of arm strength,” Whittingham said. “He took every rep that he was supposed to take and he said he felt great.”
Among the things that will help Rising is having already experienced a quarterback battle.
“I’d say system mastery, having gone through it,” he said. “Having already gotten the spot and gotten so many reps, it’s definitely beneficial to have that on my belt now.”
Rising said Brewer has helped him over the past several months by sharing knowledge that he’s accumulated during his career.
“Playing for that long, starting for that long, I watched him play when I was at Texas,” Rising said. “He’s a great player. He does some very good things — taking little pieces that he does well and applying them to my game.”
Wide receiver Britain Covey said the quarterback competition is “a good problem to have” during fall camp.
“We’ve got two guys … Cam won the quarterback battle last year fair and square. It wasn’t a surprise to us. That’s what’s cool about the quarterback battle — it’s never a surprise to the players. Sometimes it’s a surprise to people outside,” he said. “The picture becomes pretty clear by the end of fall camp. They are each good at different things at this point. I’m interested to see what differentiates the two.”
Covey said Rising’s arm strength has returned to what it was before he was injured.
“He’s progressing great,” Covey said. “It’s hard to translate from routes on air to game speed. We’ll see how that goes. Routes on air, he looks exactly like he did in 2020, pre-injury. But Charlie does have the advantage of having spring and having molded with the guys that are there now. Cam didn’t get a season in 2020. He doesn’t have a huge disadvantage because he’s been here longer. We’ll see how that goes.”
No matter how the quarterback competition plays out, Utah is happy to have two quarterbacks it feels good about going into the season.
Rising knows firsthand the importance of having more than one strong QB.
“You never know what can take place over the course of a season, so you have to be ready at any time,” he said. “You definitely need to have two quarterbacks just in case, but we’re competing now and deciding that.”