Cameron Rising and Jake Bentley are the two presumptive finalists for Utah’s starting quarterback job, and though they have different styles, they have one thing in common: They are both transfers with no game experience for the Utes.
On Nov. 7 when the Utes take on Arizona, either Rising, a redshirt sophomore transfer from Texas with no collegiate game experience, or Bentley, a redshirt senior graduate transfer who started three years in the SEC with South Carolina before losing his 2019 season to a foot injury, will be behind center.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has already named a starting quarterback, though he won’t reveal who until his team takes the field against the Wildcats.
Rising, who was with Utah for the 2019 season but did not play due to NCAA transfer rules, is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound dual-threat. A four-star recruit from California, Rising has been in the program longer than Bentley and has tremendous upside. With his running ability, he adds more potential to the Utah offense.
Bentley, who transferred into the program after the 2019 season, is a proven three-year SEC starter for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Bentley left South Carolina as the Gamecocks’ fourth all-time leading passer, with 7,385 passing yards in just three seasons. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior is more of a traditional pro-style pocket passer who would provide veteran experience.
To get a sense of what each can bring to the table, here is a look at each quarterback’s three best games prior to arriving at Utah — Rising at Newbury Park High School and Bentley at South Carolina — along with how they got to Utah and what Whittingham and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig have to say about each of them.
Cameron Rising’s three best games
Aug. 25, 2017 — Newbury Park 55, Pacifica 34
Rising’s line: 18/23 (78.3%), 375 yards, 5 touchdowns, 159.0 passer rating
In his most impressive game of his senior season at Newbury Park, Rising threw for 375 yards and five touchdowns to lead his team to a blowout win. Rising displayed his ability to throw outside of the pocket on a 25-yard touchdown score, rolling to his right before throwing a lofty pass to the back of the end zone into the arms of his waiting receiver.
Rising stepped up into the pocket on his next score, leading his receiver on a streak route for a 50-yard touchdown. He also showed off the ability to throw on the run after being flushed outside the pocket, as he rolled to his left and threw for a 43-yard completion. On another touchdown, Rising again rolled out of the pocket to his right and threw a ball into the corner of the end zone where only his receiver could get it.
Sept. 11, 2015 — Newbury Park 58, Agoura 34
Rising’s line: 13/17 (76.5%), 388 yards, 6 touchdowns, 157.5 passer rating
As a sophomore quarterbacking the varsity team, Rising looked like he was a senior in this game, throwing for six touchdowns. Rising’s mobility and patience were on display in his first touchdown of the game as he kept his feet moving while rolling to the right, kept his eyes downfield and found his receiver in the corner after a coverage mistake by the defense.
Rising scrambled before passing for his second score, avoiding one would-be tackler and throwing it to the end zone for a touchdown. He was at his best on the run, as he was on the move in most of his passing touchdowns. He also showed off his speed, running to the outside and down the sideline 85 yards for a score. He did it again on an option play, selling the fake and escaping into open field, then cutting inside and making a defender miss for a touchdown.
Rising also showed his long ball on a 55-yard TD strike into double coverage, lofting the ball just over the two defenders for a score.
Sept. 25, 2015 — Newbury Park 49, Venice 34
Rising’s line: 28/38 (73.7%), 462 yards, 5 touchdowns, 153.7 passer rating
In his next game after the Agoura contest, Rising put on another great performance, throwing for 462 yards and five touchdowns. He stood in the pocket for his first touchdown pass and uncorked a deep ball for his second. Rising again showed the ability to run, scoring his third touchdown on the ground thanks to a cut to the middle.
Rising’s most impressive moment of the night highlights his playmaking abilities. Flushed out of the pocket, he rolled right, backed up, eluded a defender and then ran right. On the run, with a defender charging toward him, Rising slung it as he was obliterated and found his receiver at the 10-yard line.
Jake Bentley’s three best games
Nov. 17, 2018 — South Carolina 49, Chattanooga 9
Bentley’s line: 25/29 (86.2%), 339 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 229.9 passer rating
In perhaps his best game at South Carolina, Bentley earned a 229.9 passer rating by having the most accurate outing of his career. Bentley got the Gamecocks out to an early 14-0 lead with a pair of scoring passes to AJ Turner, the first a ball lofted to the corner of the end zone where only Turner, double-teamed, could get it. The second was an impressive escape from Bentley, who rolled to his right to avoid two defenders and extend the play before throwing across the field to find Turner for the score.
In the third quarter, Bentley found Shi Smith for what looked to be a routine 15-yard completion, but Smith escaped just about the entire Chattanooga defense after he looked to be down for a 53-yard touchdown.
Bentley capped his performance with a 61-yard dart to Deebo Samuel in the middle of the field and Samuel outraced the defense for the score.
Sep. 1, 2018 — South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15
Bentley’s line: 22/29 (75.9%), 250 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 193.8 passer rating
Bentley’s first touchdown of the night in a rout of Coastal Carolina was his best of the day. On second-and-goal, Bentley was flushed out of the pocket, somehow kept his balance and headed toward the line of scrimmage, breaking one tackle and then somehow getting the ball out as he was being tackled, throwing it to Kiel Pollard, who made a spin move for a touchdown that put the Gamecocks up 14.
Bentley’s second score of the game came on a quick release throw to Bryan Edwards for a 24-yard score. Bentley then followed that up with a touchdown to Rico Dowdle after backpedaling and dumping it off for the score.
Bentley’s final score of the day came on an 8-yard fade pass to Samuel.
Nov. 24, 2018 — Clemson 56, South Carolina 35
Bentley’s line: 32/50 (64%), 510 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception, 178.7 passer rating
Though it came in a loss, Bentley put up a fight against No. 2 Clemson with 510 passing yards and five touchdowns. His second touchdown pass, rolling to his left before firing a 67-yard touchdown pass, brought the Gamecocks within seven in the second quarter.
He also had a 75-yard passing touchdown to Samuel, lofting the ball over a Clemson defender and hitting Samuel right in stride for the score. Bentley did have an interception in the game, but finished with five passing scores — three to Samuel, one to Smith and one to Pollard — along with the most single-game passing yards in South Carolina history.
How they got to Utah
Rising — a four-star quarterback — committed to Texas out of high school after fielding offers from Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, Miami, Michigan and Oregon, among others. He redshirted his first year with the Longhorns in 2018, as Sam Ehlinger was the starter, before transferring to Utah in 2019. In 2019, Rising was on the scout team for the Utes and will be a sophomore in 2020.
Bentley — a four-star quarterback — committed to South Carolina after fielding offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, LSU and Miami, among others. Bentley was a three-year starter for the Gamecocks in the SEC, leading South Carolina to 6-4, 9-4 and 7-6 records in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. In the team’s most successful season, 2017, they went 9-4 and beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. But 2018 was Bentley’s best statistical year as he threw for 3,171 yards, 27 touchdowns (against 14 interceptions), had a completion percentage of 62% and a passer rating of 146.3.
In his senior year, Bentley suffered a foot injury in the team’s 2019 opener and underwent season-ending surgery. He transferred to Utah as a graduate transfer this offseason and was named a team captain by his teammates.
What Utah’s coaches have said about them
Last week, Whittingham announced that Utah has chosen a starting quarterback. Of course, he will not reveal who that quarterback is until Nov. 7, forcing Arizona to prepare for both Rising and Bentley.
Whittingham says that he and Ludwig looked for many things in the starter, but near the top of the list was accuracy. Whittingham also noted that this year will be different than years past, with a possible positive COVID-19 test knocking a quarterback out of that week’s game.
Utah has two solid options at both slots in the depth chart, with redshirt senior and program veteran Drew Lisk presumably being the third option.
The Utes have a clear starter, though. On Friday, Whittingham said that there was “enough separation” that it was apparent that one quarterback had outperformed the other two, though he noted that all three quarterbacks had performed well.
At the start of fall camp, Ludwig talked about both quarterbacks and what they brought to the team.
Rising was the scout team quarterback in 2019 and was in the press box with Ludwig during games, which was a valuable experience for him.
“Cam has been around us for a year and has been in the press box last season, so he’s seen some things from a unique perspective. I believe it does give him an edge, there’s a familiarity, not only with the system but with myself,” Ludwig said. “The thing that they both have in common is that neither one of them has taken a snap as a Utah football quarterback on game day.”
Though Bentley doesn’t have as much experience in the program as Rising, he has hit the ground running.
“He’s a guy that has made the absolute most of this unique time and has taken advantage of every opportunity that he’s had to not only learn the offense but learn his teammates and develop chemistry with those guys,” Ludwig said.
Ludwig noted that Bentley has progressed well since his injury at the start of the 2019 season.
“The other thing I would note with Jake is that he is moving so much better now than he was in March coming off that injury from his previous season. We’re really excited about the progress he’s made physically as well as mentally in terms of adapting to the Utah football offense,” Ludwig said.
Whittingham said all three quarterbacks have a good grasp of the system and offensive scheme.
“As far as their knowledge of the playbook and their grasp of the scheme, it has been outstanding. All three are exceptionally smart individuals. Cam, Jake and Drew are all cerebral and studiers of film,” Whittingham said.
Whittingham noted that Bentley is more of a pro-style pocket passer, while Rising is more of a dual-threat quarterback.
“There is a little bit of skill set difference among the three. I would say Drew and Jake are the most similar and Cam is the guy that has more ability to do things in the QB run game. Jake and Drew are more pocket guys, more pro-style quarterbacks where Cam is more of a dual-threat,” Whittingham said. “That would be the biggest difference right there. Cam is definitely the guy that has more ability for the QB run game. We’ll see what happens and we’re not going to force a pocket guy to be a runner or vice versa.”