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‘We’ll do what’s best for the room’: What’s in store for Utah’s quarterbacks?

Could Cam Rising’s potential successor already be on the roster? Or will Utah seek a QB in the transfer portal?

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Utah Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) runs during the Rose Bowl in Pasadena

Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes runs during the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. The backup QB has performed well when needed for the Utes the last two years.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

When it comes to the quarterback position, Utah has been in great hands with Cam Rising the past two seasons.

With a Rose Bowl matchup against Penn State looming on Jan. 2, what does the future of that position look like for the Utes?

Rising still has eligibility remaining, but he participated in Senior Night, and has said his plans are to move on after this season.

In 26 career games, Rising has completed 448 of 690 passes for 5,477 yards with 45 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. 

Behind Rising is sophomore Bryson Barnes, who helped lead the Utes to a victory over Washington State in October when Rising wasn’t available. 

Others on the depth chart are freshman Nate Johnson, who scored a pair of touchdowns against Arizona, freshman Brandon Rose and freshman Luke Bottari.

Could Rising’s potential successor already be on the roster? Or will Utah seek a QB in the transfer portal? 

“We’ve got to put the best room together that we possibly can, whether that’s through the addition of young talent or proven commodities out of the portal,” Whittingham said. “We’re in that process right now. The portal doesn’t really crystallize until Dec. 5. There’s going to be a huge influx of portal entries. So we’ll do what’s best for the room.”

Whittingham added that he likes the quarterbacks he already has. 

“That being said, we have a lot of confidence in Bryson Barnes and the two freshmen. You’ve seen a dose of Nate Johnson, what he can do,” he said. “Brandon Rose, our other freshman quarterback, is doing a great job developing and running the scout team. I don’t have an answer for you other than we’ve got to restock the room. That’s pretty much a yearly event for the quarterback position.”

Utah Utes quarterback back Nate Johnson (wearing red) takes the ball into the end zone

Utah backup quarterback Nate Johnson heads for the end zone during game against Arizona at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. If Cam Rising moves on after this season, could the speedy freshman QB be his successor?

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

During the season, backup quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson was switched to running back. Jackson ran 13 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the Pac-12 championship game.

Whittingham said Jackson’s situation will be re-evaluated after the season. 

“It’s going to be interesting to see which way that goes,” he said. “A lot of it, obviously, will be what his preference is and what he thinks is in his best interest. We sure love him at running back.”

As for Johnson, a four-star recruit, Whittingham is excited about his potential. 

“It’s a big benefit to see that the stage is not too big for him, the lights are not too bright. He has a lot of poise and confidence. He executed his plays exactly how we envisioned,” Whittingham said. “You’ve got a taste of his speed. That guy is lightning-quick. He could probably be a running back if that was his desire. He doesn’t have any interest in that and that’s not our plan. He runs the football like a running back.”


Rose Bowl on the air

No. 8 Utah (10-3)

vs. No. 11 Penn State (10-2)

Jan. 2, 3 p.m. MST

Rose Bowl

Pasadena, California

TV: ESPN

Radio: ESPN 700