In Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s first game-week news conference of the 2022 season, he addressed the season opener at Florida and the depth chart, which was released Monday morning.

“The season’s here. We’re looking forward to the trip down to Gainesville. It will be a great opportunity for our football team,” Whittingham said. “Florida is a really talented team with a lot of really good players — fast and athletic. It will take our best effort to try to get the win.”

One of the interesting things that stood out about the first depth chart was that quarterback Bryson Barnes will be Cam Rising’s backup when the Utes take on the Gators. 

Barnes replaced Rising in the fourth quarter of last year’s Rose Bowl when Rising went down with an injury. Barnes led Utah on a touchdown drive that tied the game.

So why did Barnes get the nod over Ja’Quinden Jackson

“He has better command of the offense. Fewer mistakes. We believe in JJ. He still has a lot of football ahead of him and he certainly is a tremendous athlete,” Whittingham said. “He’s a true dual threat. But right now, Bryson Barnes, we feel, is the best solution if something were to happen to Cam just based on the total body of work through spring and fall camp.”

At running back, the depth chart lists four running backs on the first team — Tavion Thomas, Micah Bernard, Chris Curry and Jaylon Glover. 

“Everyone will have their role,” Whittingham said. “Each back brings something different to the table.”

Here’s Utah Utes’ 2022 two-deep chart
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Utah’s punt returner will be Devaughn Vele and the kick returner will be Bernard

Whittingham said Vele and Bernard “have big shoes to fill” as they take over for Britain Covey.

“Britain Covey was as good as there was in the country,” Whittingham said. 

“Devaughn does a great job catching the ball and that’s really job No. 1. If you can’t catch the ball, you’re not in consideration for returning punts. … He’s also got explosiveness to him and he’s fast. He’s a good open-field runner. Micah Bernard is a tremendous athlete with great speed.”

There are reports of tropical storms off the coast of Florida for this weekend. There are thunderstorms in the forecast. 

In last year’s season opener at home against Weber State, the game was halted midway through the first quarter due to lightning as teams were ordered to seek shelter inside their respective locker rooms. Play resumed about 90 minutes later. 

Two years ago, Utah opened the season in Provo. Midway through the fourth quarter, a torrential downpour fell from the sky and the game was suspended due to a lightning delay with 9:01 remaining. After the 54-minute delay, the game resumed at 12:05 a.m. in front of about 15,000 fans.

Whittingham said the program has “a protocol” to handle such weather contingencies. 

“You control what you can control,” he added. “Obviously, you can’t control the weather. We’ll be ready in case that happens.”

Utes on the air

No. 7 Utah (0-0)

at Florida (0-0)

Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium 

Gainesville, Florida


Radio: ESPN 700