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It’s been Kyle Whittingham’s modus operandi since he’s been at Utah, and it’s how a lot of college football coaches across the nation operate. Keeping a tight lid on injury information is common in college football, which doesn’t have the same mandatory injury reporting rules as the NFL.

“Until it’s mandatory, why would you take it? It just doesn’t make any sense. You got to do everything you can do to get competitive advantages and giving an injury report that doesn’t have to be given, why would you tell your opponent that?” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham

The Big Ten recently mandated an injury report that must be submitted once a week, two hours prior to game time, the first time a Power Five conference has mandated such a report. I think this is a fair compromise. Coaches can keep injuries under wraps throughout the week, when teams are game-planning, but the fans and public know who will be in and who will be out before game time.

The NFL has a more stringent injury reporting schedule, mandating teams to report injuries daily after practice in the three days leading up to the game and provide a status for a Sunday game on Friday.

All along, Whittingham has said that he’ll happily provide an injury report as soon as it’s mandated, with all teams in the conference on a level playing field in terms of sharing injury information.

“I think that’s on the way,” Whittingham said of mandatory injury reporting in college football, adding that he thinks it’s one to three years away from happening. “And when and if that happens, we’ll be happy to oblige.”

But until that point, he’s going to use every competitive advantage available to him.

“Until it’s mandatory, why would you take it? It just doesn’t make any sense. You got to do everything you can do to get competitive advantages and giving an injury report that doesn’t have to be given, why would you tell your opponent that?” Whittingham said this week.

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Utah’s next opponent, Cal, has taken the opposite approach. The Bears have started three quarterback this season, including freshman quarterback Fernando Mendoza, who was 21 of 32 for 207 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, adding 41 yards rushing in his first collegiate start in Cal’s loss last week to Oregon State.

Cal coach Justin Wilcox announced that Mendoza will be the team’s starting quarterback against Utah. He also provided an injury update for star running back Jaydn Ott, who is probable for the Utah game, and linebacker Jackson Sirmon and offensive lineman Sioape Vatikani, who are both day-to-day.

Whittingham isn’t completely silent in regard to injuries. He will share if there’s a player out for the season and he’ll give updates here and there — he recently shared that running back Ja’Quinden Jackson has been dealing with an ongoing ankle injury, and that offensive lineman Johnny Maea is “very close” to returning. After the Oregon State game, he also said that it didn’t look good for Bryson Barnes, Logan Fano or Charlie Vincent, who all suffered injuries in that contest, sharing that Barnes went to the hospital after a hit in the loss to the Beavers.

What Whittingham won’t do during the week is declare if an injured player is playing or not in an upcoming game. So every week this season, it’s been a waiting game to see if it will be Cam Rising or someone else — Nate Johnson or Barnes — at quarterback.

Wilcox was asked about preparing for Utah without knowing if Rising is going to play or not.

“We don’t know who the starter’s going to be because they haven’t announced it. They’ve played with guys, we know that Cam Rising is probably on the verge of coming back,” Wilcox said.

“Obviously (Rising’s) got a lot of tape and is a heck of a player. We’ll do our best to prepare and understand that there could be moving parts once the game starts, but they’re going to run their offense, they’re very physical, they run the ball, they’ve got weapons at wideout. We’ll adjust as needed when the quarterback is identified.”

Whittingham’s strategy is solid. It makes the opposing team study for multiple quarterbacks. If you don’t need to report the injury, you might as well make the other team put in a little more work.

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“If you know who you’re going to face at quarterback or if their No. 1 receiver’s out or No. 1 (running) back, that’s a big advantage,” Whittingham said.

Although this year, with all of the injuries on offense and Utah not getting what it needs out of the quarterback position and the offense as a whole, the secrecy hasn’t seemed to make that much of a difference. When teams know Rising is out, they’ll just switch whatever game plan they had prepared for him for one that crowds the box and focuses on stopping the run.

“If you’ve got an offense that nobody respects the throw game, they’re going to put everyone in the box and it’s real hard to run the football in that box. So I think the best thing we can do to open up the run game, provide more creases, thin things out in the box a little bit, is to complete some balls down the field,” Whittingham said.

In case you missed it

Whittingham detailed why Utah didn’t bring in a transfer quarterback this offseason, even when having Rising back for the first month of the season seemed unrealistic after the veteran quarterback had January surgery to repair his torn ACL, meniscus, MPFL and MCL.

From the archives

‘Incredibly athletic’: True freshman Spencer Fano holding his own at one of the hardest positions
Utah running back Chris Curry out for the season
Utah’s season hits inflection point, starting with Cal game

Extra points

  • Lynne Roberts’ peers are fans of her work at Utah. What other Pac-12 coaches said of her success (Deseret News)
  • Here is where Utah women’s basketball is projected to finish in its final Pac-12 season (Deseret News)
  • Here is where Utah men’s basketball is projected to finish in the Pac-12 this season (Deseret News)

Up next

  • Oct. 13 | 11:20 a.m. MDT | Cross-country | Nuttycombe Invitational | @ Madison, Wisconsin
  • Oct. 13 | 7 p.m. MDT | Women’s soccer | at No. 5 UCLA | @ Los Angeles, California
  • Oct. 13 | 7 p.m. MDT | Volleyball | at Washington State | @ Pullman, Washington
  • Oct. 14 | 1 p.m. MDT | Football | vs. Cal | @ Salt Lake City
Utah quarterback Cam Rising high-fives players during warmups before game against Oregon State Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, in Corvallis, Ore. Will Rising be in the lineup Saturday when the Utes face Cal at Rice-Eccles Stadium? Only time — not coach Kyle Whittingham — will tell. | Amanda Loman, Associated Press
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