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The Tyler Huntley era is over and Utah football again has a quarteback battle on its hands

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Quarterback Cameron Rising looks for a receiver, in Utah's spring Red-White game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Saturday, April 13, 2019.

Upon transferring to the University of Utah from Texas, quarterback Cam Rising was denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA. He may have had to sit out the entire 2019 season, with the exception of the Alamo Bowl, but at least he used that time wisely.

For each of the Utes’ seven home games in 2019, Rising was up in the booth with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. What Ludwig calls, why he calls and when he calls it served as an invaluable experience for Rising, who opened up a quarterback competition Monday afternoon with South Carolina graduate transfer Jake Bentley.

Is there a correlation between Rising’s time with Ludwig in the booth and Rising playing well on the first day of spring ball? That is up for debate, but Utes coach Kyle Whittingham singled Rising out on Monday.

“Cam had a very good day,” Whittingham said. “Just at first glance, he probably had the best day of the QBs. It’s just one day, but he looked pretty sharp. Jake is still thinking a little bit, he’s still digesting the offense. We won’t put a lot of stock into one day, but it was good to see Cam come out and do the things he did today."

“When it comes to competing for the starting spot, it’s really not my focus for the spring," Rising said. "My focus is to strive to be a better player every day. Get better, make sure I’m watching film and doing what I need to do.”

Gleaning anything substantial from this quarterback derby is going to be hard early in spring practice. The Utes will practice on Tuesday and Thursday, then take next week off for spring break. They will not be in full pads, and the quarterbacks will not see a real pass rush, until the fourth practice on March 17.

To that end, saying Rising has a leg up is premature. Bentley may still be digesting Ludwig’s offense, but that is to be expected. For now, pick which factor you want to take more stock in, Rising having more time under his belt with Ludwig than Bentley does, or Bentley having 33 career starts for an SEC program, which is 33 more than Rising has in his career.

“I think Coach Ludwig made it clear, and a lot of other coaches did as well, that nothing’s going to be handed to you,” Bentley said. “You’re going to have to come in here, compete and give it all you got to win the job.”

“The guys did a good job, they all spin it real well,” Ludwig said. “Day one should look pretty good, so they did a nice job. It’s good to have a ball out here, working with them, as opposed to what we were doing in February.”

Sione Lund, Donte Banton suspended indefinitely, Maxs Tupai not currently with team

Whittingham announced that junior linebacker Sione Lund and sophomore wide receiver Donte Banton have been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.

Banton played in 11 games last fall as a true freshman, including eight offense. Lund, a four-star recruit from Holladay who began his career at Stanford, played in 13 games last season, but sparingly on defense.

Whittingham also announced that senior defensive end Maxs Tupai is dealing with some personal issues and is not currently with the team.

Whittingham was clear that all three could be out for the entire spring, if not beyond.

Caine Savage arrives in time for spring ball

During his National Signing Day press conference last month, Whittingham expressed hope that three-star recruit Caine Savage would be able to enroll in time for spring practice.

On Monday, Savage appeared on the latest Utes spring roster and was indeed a participant in his first spring practice. Savage arrived in Salt Lake City about a week ago and, as Whittingham put it, just under the wire to be able to participate in spring ball.

“He had a few days to work out,” Whittingham said. “He’s still out of shape, but it’s great to have him here and another very good athlete in the secondary.”

Redshirt was never an option for Jaylon Johnson

It was reported last week before the NFL scouting combine that Utes All-American cornerback Jaylon Johnson played most of the 2019 season with a torn right labrum.

The injury reportedly occurred in September. If it occurred within the first four games of the season, Johnson could have taken a redshirt and saved the season of eligibility.

“Redshirting was never really on the table, that wasn’t discussed,” Whittingham said. “He wanted to play through it, and of course the medical staff gave the OK to do that. He just wanted to have as good a junior season as he possibly could, then deal with the injury situation later.”

After going through the full combine slate last week, Johnson is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday. He is expected to be ready to go in time for his rookie season.

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