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Utah spring football roundup: Kyle Whittingham on the transfer portal

What is Cam Rising’s role this spring? And how is Jaren Kump getting work at center?

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Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham walks onto the field before playing USC Trojans for the Pac-12 Championship at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham walks onto the field before playing USC Trojans for the Pac-12 Championship at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

No doubt, the transfer portal has woven its way into the fabric of college football. 

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham understands this reality and as spring practices wind down, the portal is part of his future plans as he builds his team for next fall — with players leaving the program and joining the program.

“There’s going to be guys going into the portal, no doubt about it. And maybe coming. I’d be shocked if there’s not 4-6 coming and going,” he said. “That’s just how football is now. As I’ve said before, sometimes it’s a positive to have a guy move on and get to a school and a level of ball that maybe is more conducive to what his skill set is. It’s good for him, good for us.”

Does Whittingham like the current state of the transfer portal? 

“It’s an improvement on what it was,” he said. “It was just unlimited, you could do whatever you want. Now there are some parameters and it controls the situation a little bit. It’s better than it was before.”

RISING’S ROLE: Quarterback Cam Rising is sidelined from practices this spring as he recovers from knee surgery. 

Tight end Thomas Yassmin said Rising is still showing his leadership skills. 

“You could tell him to stay in the training room and he won’t stay in there. The guy’s a leader,” he said. “He’s really taken Brandon (Rose), Nate (Johnson) and Bryson (Barnes) under his wing. It shows. They’ve made tremendous progress. Cam’s been an unreal leader, helping them in any way he can. He’s the most selfless leader I’ve ever seen.”

“He’s been mentoring the quarterbacks,” Whittingham said about Rising. “He’s helping them out, coaching them up when they’re not in. He’s a guy that they certainly listen to. It’s been a big positive for us.”

KUMP AT CENTER: Offensive lineman Jaren Kump has been auditioning at center during the spring, along with others. The Utes lost last year’s starting center, Paul Maile, who transferred to BYU. 

Offensive line coach Jim Harding said Kump is a strong candidate to play center this season.

“He has an extremely high football IQ. He’s a big body. He’s strong. He moves well in tight spaces. I think he has the opportunity to provide some good push in our inside zone run game. I know he knows what he needs to do in terms of assignment,” Harding said. “Our center position is the quarterback of the offense line. They’re the one making the call. They’re flipping the protections. They’re in charge of identifying pre-snap what maybe what a defense is giving us. Those are all things that Jaren can do. With Johnny Maea — we’re hoping to get him back towards the end of spring ball — it gives us an opportunity to take a look at other guys in there. Jaren has bounced around during his career here. But maybe this is his landing spot. This is the time to check that out.”

PLAYING FOR SCALLEY: Safety Cole Bishop enjoys playing for a position coach, and defensive coordinator — Morgan Scalley — that played his same position at Utah, from 2001-04. 

Scalley was the 2004 Mountain West co-Defensive Player of the Year and named a second-team All-American by The Associated Press. 

“It’s awesome because you don’t want to play for somebody that’s telling you to do this or that but they’ve never done it. It makes a big difference,” Bishop said. “You can still go back and watch his film. It’s good to be able to play for him. He’s so smart and football-smart. He puts us in the best positions to make plays. It’s really nice.”

Has Bishop watched Scalley’s film from his playing days? 

“We’ve watched a little bit of it — 2004,” he said. “That’s the last year they’ve got (on tape). He was a great player, he and (Eric) Weddle. They were some good players.”