Utah’s coaching staff is optimistic that starting quarterback Cam Rising, who suffered a major knee injury at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, will be ready to go for the 2023 season-opener on Aug. 31 against Florida. 

But if he’s not, who will be lined up behind center? 

It appears it would be redshirt freshman Brandon Rose. The coaches have said in recent weeks that Rose has separated himself from the rest of the QBs during spring practices, and at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Saturday’s spring game — now known as the 22 Forever Game — Rose took the most snaps out of the quarterbacks and turned in an impressive performance.

Rose, who quarterbacked the scout team in 2022, completed 19 of 24 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown in leading the White team to a 38-28 victory over the Red squad. 

Utah officials postponed the postgame media availability due to the death of a non-player, non-personnel member connected to the program. 

On White’s opening possession, Rose led a 70-yard touchdown drive, which included a 22-yard completion to running back Ja’Quinden Jackson and was capped by a 26-yard TD pass to Money Parks. 

Four other quarterbacks also had series Saturday. Bryson Barnes, who started for the Red team, completed 2 of 3 passes for 30 yards and rushed for a 32-yard touchdown. 

Nate Johnson backed up Barnes, and he completed 4 of 7 passes for 43 yards with one touchdown and one interception and he ran twice for 28 yards. 

On Johnson’s first play from scrimmage, he promptly ripped off an 18-yard run. Later, he was intercepted by freshman safety Johnathan Hall in the second quarter.

Freshman QB Mack Howard completed 1 of 3 passes for 60 yards — a fourth-quarter, 60-yard touchdown to redshirt freshman wide receiver Kaimana Hanohano. 

And freshman quarterback Luke Bottari threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Deven Johnson and finished 4 of 6 for 76 yards. 

All of the quarterbacks were live in the scrimmage, meaning they were allowed to be tackled. 

In the second quarter, redshirt freshman safety Brock Nowatzke forced a fumble by freshman running back Daniel Wood, and linebacker Jason Siaosi scooped up the loose ball and ran 35 yards before Rose lowered his shoulder and tackled him. 

Not necessarily something you want your potential starting QB doing in a scrimmage.

Meanwhile, Jackson, a former Ute quarterback who switched to running back last season, had a big day in limited action, rushing three times for 17 yards and a touchdown while catching two passes for 52 yards. 

Related
Who will be Cam Rising’s backup?
Utah football getting boost from new Crimson Collective to ‘supercharge’ NIL, recruiting efforts

Of course, numerous key players on both sides of the ball were held out, or limited, as a precaution. 

Others who stood out Saturday included freshman wide receiver Mikey Matthews, who caught seven passes for 59 yards; running back Faysal Aden ran six times for 35 yards and a touchdown; Wood had nine carries for 34 yards and one TD; and redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Reed caught one pass for an 11-yard touchdown. 

On the defensive side, Ole Miss transfer cornerback Miles Battle had a 44-yard pick-six, while linebacker Justin Medlock recorded a game-high 11 tackles.

Nowatzke finished with eight tackles, a pass breakup and a forced fumble. 

Just before the end of the first half, Colorado transfer placekicker Cole Becker drilled a 46-yard field goal, which was one of the highlights of the day. 

Of course, it’s not always wise to put a lot of stock in the results of the spring game. 

For example, two years ago in his debut in a Utah uniform, Baylor transfer quarterback Charlie Brewer completed 15 of 15 passes for 151 yards, two touchdowns and a QB rating of 228.6 in one half of play. 

Brewer ended up starting in the first three games of the 2021 season, including back-to-back losses, before leaving the program and Rising, who didn’t even participate during the spring due to an injury, ended up leading the Utes to their first Pac-12 championship. 

Certainly, Utah is hoping Rising is fully ready to go when the Gators come to town on Aug. 31, but during the spring, Rose has shown that he is capable.

EXTRA POINTS: Wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted was the head coach of the White team, while defensive tackles coach Luther Elliss served as the head coach of the Red team.