Almost halfway through spring practices, how does Utah coach Kyle Whittingham assess the quarterback race?
Behind Charlie Brewer is Peter Costelli, Ja’Quinden Jackson, Cooper Justice and Bryson Barnes. Cam Rising, who earned the starting job last season before being injured, will join the QB race in August.
Entering Utah’s spring practices, senior quarterback Charlie Brewersat atop the depth chart at that position.
Two weeks into spring, nothing’s changed, coach Kyle Whittingham said Friday.
“First of all, Charlie Brewer is quite a bit ahead of everybody else. We have four freshmen. That’s to be expected,” Whittingham said when asked to assess the QB position. “Charlie’s a senior with a lot of experience under his belt. The other four guys have no Division I experience, so that’s no surprise to us that that’s how things are unfolding to this point. We have obviously Cam Rising waiting in the wings when fall camp begins. That will put a whole new spin on the quarterback competition. Right now, Charlie Brewer is clearly performing better than anybody else.”
Rising, who earned the starting job last season before being injured, will jump into the QB race in August.
During spring drills, wide receiver Britain Covey has been impressed with Brewer, who was a three-year starter at Baylor before transferring to Utah.
“You can definitely tell that Charlie’s played a lot of football. He’s got that confidence. Charlie’s great,” Covey said. “I’m excited for fans to get to know him. He’s not a shy personality but he’s more reserved. Then you get to know him and he’s hilarious. I love Charlie.”
“First of all, Charlie Brewer is quite a bit ahead of everybody else. We have four freshmen. That’s to be expected.” — Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham
There are two things that have stood out to Covey about playing with Brewer.
“One, his movement in pocket. I haven’t seen a quarterback able to move like that in a while. He steps up in the pocket, he slides left and slides right, keeps his eyes downfield. You can tell he has a lot of experience,” Covey said. “It’s like he has an extra set of eyes in the pocket, knowing where to move. It’s amazing.
“Second, his release. He has an extremely fast and quick release, which helps him get the ball into tight windows. He’s not very tall. I know as a quarterback in high school I had a hard time seeing over my line. They were like 6-foot. These guys are 6-5 on the offensive line. Having a quick release to see in these windows and gaps is really important.”
Whittingham said his staff will re-rank the quarterbacks once spring ball is over and Rising will be added to the mix, but the process of selecting a starter will be expedited, of course, in the fall.
“You can’t spend much time in the fall with any more than two quarterbacks getting the reps,” Whittingham said. “There will be a short period of time with three guys involved … it will be a two-man race.”
Whittingham also evaluated the performances of Costelli and Jackson in the spring.
“Very athletic players. Big upside, high ceilings for both of those guys. Pete is just out of high school. He’s very early in his development,” he said. “(Jackson) has a little more experience, with a year at Texas and was able to take some reps. Both of those guys are tremendous athletes.”
Costelli ran track at Mission Viejo High School, Whittingham noted. Costelli ran a 10.87 in the 100-meter finals at the CIF-SS Division 2 meet and placed third.
“Ja’Quinden looks like a linebacker and runs like a deer. He has a lot of ability as well. We’re very excited about their futures and optimistic about what they bring to the program,” Whittingham said. “We’re not counting them out of the race yet, either. Charlie Brewer is clearly No. 1 right now. That doesn’t mean some ground couldn’t be made up by those two guys in the next few weeks.”
What did Rising think when quarterbacks like Brewer, Costelli and Jackson joined the program?
“Personally, I love it. Competition drives me. It’s the reason I play football; it’s the reason I love football,” he said. “You’re always continuing to try to get better. Having a great quarterback room is only going to drive me to be better. It will drive these guys to be better. That’s how I’m taking it.”
Costelli enrolled early in January and arrived on campus to get a jump-start on learning the offense.
“Getting down the offense is the biggest priority to me,” he said. “The older guys are helping a lot. They’re always willing to answer questions. They’re really helpful.”
How has enrolling early helped him?
“I think it benefits me a lot, especially getting to know the offense,” Costelli said. “It’s an unfortunate situation without playing my senior year of high school but the benefits are definitely paying off now with getting to know the offense.”
Defensive back Malone Mataele offered his evaluation of the quarterbacks, having played against them every day during spring practices.
“They’re definitely some exciting players to watch. All those guys have a chip on their shoulder. They come every day ready to work,” Mataele said. “Having a guy to go against like that, in multiple groups throughout the day, is very beneficial for us DBs to be able to get those looks and that experience playing against quarterbacks that are pretty seasoned. Ultimately, it’s fun to compete against guys like that.”