One year ago, Utah’s Cam Rising was still recovering from shoulder surgery and embroiled in a quarterback battle with Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer during fall camp. 

Brewer won the job but Rising eventually replaced him and led the Utes to the Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl appearance.

Now, Rising is the Utes’ undisputed starter, having earned All-Pac-12 first team honors after completing 204 of 320 passes for 2,493 yards with five interceptions and 20 touchdowns and running 74 times for 499 yards and six TDs in 2021.

That aside, Rising is taking the same approach as he did during last year’s fall camp.

“It still feels like I have to go out there and prove myself each and every day. It doesn’t really matter if it’s my job. That just means I’ll be getting more (first-team) reps. That’s just the way it is,” he said. “I’ve still got to attack it and prove that I’m the best guy for the job each and every day.”

That’s why coach Kyle Whittingham has called Rising an “alpha dog” in the program. 

“He’s one of the hardest workers on the football team, if not the hardest. You can talk about it but you’ve got to be about it,” Whittingham said. “His performance is outstanding, his film study. Just everything. There’s no weakness in Cam Rising right now. He’s doing everything right coming off an outstanding year. We’re fortunate to have him on our team.”

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In some ways, Rising is a different quarterback this season. For starters, his arm is healthier. That means his ability to throw deep passes has improved considerably. 

“It feels like it’s back,” Rising said of his arm. “Last year it didn’t feel all the way comfortable throwing the deep ball. But this year, it definitely feels a lot better getting the ball downfield.”

Rising added that his main focus during the offseason was working on his deep game and being “more efficient and effective for us.”

During the first day of camp on Wednesday, the offense spent most of its time working on red zone drills. 

But offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig noticed Rising’s increased arm strength. 

“I do see more zip on the ball,” he said. “He’s always had a lot of confidence in those fade throws. We’ll get a chance to air it out (as camp progresses).”

Said tight end Dalton Kincaid: “He’s slinging it a little faster and harder. I always mess with him, saying he can’t out-throw me. But he’s getting close. I can definitely tell that the arm strength is there. He has a lot of confidence in it.”

As far as this season goes, Whittingham is hoping Rising and the offense can make a big jump by stretching the field. 

“If we’re going to take the next step offensively, in our evolution, it is being more big-play oriented on the outside. That’s the next phase, and, really, the final phase,” Whittingham said. “We’ve always had a strong run game and the action-pass game and the intermediate game is good. But we’ve got to hit on some of those deep balls and be more explosive on the outside. If we can do that, then this offense can be very good.”

“It feels like it’s back. Last year it didn’t feel all the way comfortable throwing the deep ball. But this year, it definitely feels a lot better getting the ball downfield.” — Utah QB Cam Rising on his arm

Left tackle Braeden Daniels said the entire offense is confident with Rising taking the snaps. 

“It feels good to have a guy that knows what he’s doing and a guy you can depend on and weapons that he can throw to,” Daniels said.

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As an offense, with so much experience returning, Ludwig said, “We all have a lot of confidence right now.”

Once again this season, Rising will be counting on his stable of playmakers. 

“Just getting those guys the ball. Letting them do the bulk of the work. They are some unbelievable playmakers,” he said. “It’s made my job easy. So it’s been fun going out there and just running the offense.”

With a healthy, strong arm and a bunch of veterans surrounding him, Rising is ready to help Utah field another explosive offense.

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