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Utah’s quarterback competition is ‘coming to a head’

Solidifying the secondary is the top concern as season opener approaches.

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Quarterback Jake Bentley (8) throws a pass to wide receiver Solomin Enis (21) during Utah football’s scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. 

Courtesy Utah Athletics

Utah’s quarterback competition between Jake Bentley, Drew Lisk and Cam Rising is “coming to a head.” The Utes may learn who their starter will be for the Nov. 7 season opener against Arizona as early as Monday afternoon.

However, such information is expected to remain internal. No announcement for the public is planned. The field was reduced to two last week and successfully kept under wraps.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, though, did share some information. Namely, that the battle to become for the starting quarterback job is pretty much complete.

“We think that we are about ready to make that decision and get a one, two and three in place,” Whittingham said.

The Utes spent Monday’s practice in meetings and the weight room. They’re scheduled to return to the field on Tuesday — with a starting quarterback in place.

“We anticipate that being the case,” Whittingham said. “Now again we haven’t sat down, as a staff with everyone having watched the tape, and evaluated and had that discussion. But that’s coming up here in the next couple of hours.”


Quarterback Cam Rising (7) runs into the end zone during Utah football’s scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.  

Courtesy Utah Athletics

Answers are still being sought on defense. Whittingham said there’s a “work in progress” and “a lot of work to be done there.” Time, he acknowledged, is running short.

However, in the meantime, Whittingham is seeing progress with the team as a whole.

“So far we’ve been pleased with the players’ efforts — their focus, their concentration or work habits,” he said. “There’s nothing lacking there. It’s just a matter of — particularly on defense — getting everything up to speed.”

Topping the list is solidifying the secondary. It’s been narrowed down, but Whittingham said it’s his biggest concern right now. Identifying the top cornerbacks has been a bit challenging. Having four players rotate through the three spots is a possibility. The safety roles could also involve a rotation.

Whittingham emphasized that getting things right is going to be crucial.

“If you can’t hang, hold up in the secondary, things could get away from you real quick,” he said. “And we’re hoping the front can compensate for some of he inexperience in the secondary, but some days the front hasn’t looked as good as we’d like it to either.”

There’s a lot of work to be done on defense, Whittingham restated, and that’s the most concerning thing for the coaches right now.

With the season opener approaching, Whittingham admits it’s “a balancing act” to keep the guys fresh and ready for the season. Practices will continue to be physical, but live work will be limited. Whittingham said a lot can be accomplished without tackling to the ground.

“We’ve had a lot of live reps to this point. We chart all the live reps and we’ve had players approach 200 live reps for camp and a lot of guys in the 150 range, which equates to 212 games roughly,” Whittingham said. “So we feel like we’ve done about as much as we can getting them ready in that respect with the live work.”

Whittingham added that they’ll continue to utilize “thud tempo,” which he described as live at the line of scrimmage but nobody gets tackled.

“We’ve got to make sure you don’t overdo that either because you don’t want to go into the game beat up,” Whittingham said. “And so we don’t feel like, right now, we’re beat up as a football team. We feel pretty good about where we’re at and the guys have responded. But we’ve got to make sure they’re fresh on Nov. 7.”