There’s no doubt about who Utah’s starting quarterback is going to be in 2024 — that was settled the second Cam Rising told the team he was returning — so the attention has been on the backup quarterback race during Utah’s spring camp.

Last spring, coach Kyle Whittingham noted that Brandon Rose separated himself from other contenders and Rose went into fall camp in pole position for the QB2 job. During a fall practice, however, Rose was injured and missed the better part of two months, eventually going down the path of not playing him all of last season and obtaining a medical redshirt.

Even though Rose was healthy in October, that missed time in fall camp and the early part of the season was too much of a setback.

“Missing all that time obviously set him back and had he not missed all that time, he’d be more in the mix,” Whittingham said last October.

This go-around, there’s been no separation yet between Rose, now in his third year in the program, and true freshman Isaac Wilson through three weeks of spring football.

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“It’s a dead heat, I would say as dead a heat as it could be right now,” Whittingham said. “But they’re both getting better. That’s the key. They’re both moving forward and we feel good about both of them. I’m pretty sure that this competition will carry into fall camp and so don’t expect to have anybody named after spring ball unless there’s a great disparity in these last five practices.”

For Rose, this year’s backup competition is potentially a make or break moment. He’s entering his third season in the program and has not seen the field. He’s yet to be the primary backup to Rising thus far in his career, beaten out in 2022 and 2023 by Bryson Barnes.

After the loss to Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl, Whittingham expounded on his decision not to play Rose in the game as Barnes struggled. Bowl games don’t count toward redshirts, and Whittingham said that Rose would be available to play, but he was never inserted into the contest.

“He just is not ready to do that yet,” Whittingham said in December. “He’s just not, from a grasp of the offense and decision making. He’s still in learning stages, in his learning stage, and he’s got a lot of things going for him. He’s got a big arm and he moves around pretty good, so it’s not indicative of where he could be at some point in time, but he’s just not ready to be thrust in there right now.”

This spring, Rose has taken a step forward, Whittingham said. He’s split reps with Wilson and had some nice outings during the media viewing sessions, like a touchdown throw to Money Parks, another nice throw on the run, and some great decisions during goal-line work.

“More confidence, more command in the offense. Better decision making, better job just running the huddle. Just being that what you want out of a QB, being a leader out there,” Whittingham said.

“They’re both moving forward and we feel good about both of them. I’m pretty sure that this competition will carry into fall camp and so don’t expect to have anybody named after spring ball unless there’s a great disparity in these last five practices.”

—  Utah coach Kyle Whittingham

Meanwhile, Wilson hit the ground running, with Whittingham noting in week two that the freshman quarterback just about has full command of the playbook and is on track to have complete command by the end of spring.

“Isaac is looking really good,” Whittingham said. “He’s making the transition to Power Five football very well so far. He doesn’t get overwhelmed by the speed of the game or the complexity of the offense. He’s assimilated the offense very well and he’s getting quality reps.”

Like Rose, Wilson has had his share of good moments, like a touchdown throw to Daidren Zipperer in the first week of practice, and some good touch on a pass to Dijon Stanley.

The two quarterbacks have made mistakes during the media viewing portions, which is to be expected, and there’s a dropoff when compared to Rising — again, no surprise. The big question is if the gap between Rising and either Wilson or Rose is small enough for one of the two to be trusted as the backup this fall, or if Utah will try to bring in a transfer portal quarterback to compete for the job in the fall.

Whittingham said earlier this year that he was looking to bring in a transfer quarterback, but that never materialized before spring camp. The next transfer portal window will open on April 16.

Utah freshman quarterback Isaac Wilson prepares to throw during spring camp at the Utes Football Spring Ball at Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center
Utah freshman quarterback Isaac Wilson prepares to throw during spring camp at the Utes Football Spring Ball at Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has liked what he's seen from the former Corner Canyon High star. | Eli Rehmer, Utah Athletics