Deciding between Jake Bentley and Cameron Rising as the successor to Tyler Huntley as starting quarterback at the University of Utah was already going to be tough, but at least Kyle Whittingham had time, not to mention a ton of reps, to figure it out.
The Ute coach and his offensive coordinator, Andy Ludwig, had 15 spring practices worth of reps, then another months’ worth of training-camp reps before having to make a decision.
Whittingham and Ludwig got through all of three spring practices earlier this month before Utah and the Pac-12 indefinitely suspended spring ball, and most everything else. Whittingham has already said he expects to lose the remainder of spring practice, but feels optimistic he will get those 12 remaining sessions back, either later this spring or at some point this summer.
Even if Utah gets its 12 spring practices back, the schedule is now off, so how are Whittingham and Ludwig supposed to choose a quarterback with a truncated timeline?
“That’s another thing that adds to the situation we’re in, as opposed to last year when we had so many returning starters and a starting quarterback in place,” Whittingham said this week on a conference call with beat writers. “That’s just another dynamic that’s thrown into this situation.
“Andy is a master teacher, a communicator, a guy that is as meticulous and detailed as anyone I’ve ever been around. That’s being manifested right now in his teaching tapes and the things he’s sending to the QBs.”
Whittingham has said many times that there is no teaching substitute for live reps, so everyone has to get used to this new reality for the foreseeable future. As far as Utah’s first three practices went, they painted what is obviously an incomplete picture of the quarterback situation.
Bentley, a graduate transfer from South Carolina where he started 33 games across four seasons, was thought to have a leg up on Rising, at least on paper, given his experience Whittingham was straightforward after the first spring practice, though, saying Bentley needed time to get comfortable and learn the playbook.
Whittingham said Rising had the better first day, which, in hindsight, was to be expected since Rising has a year working in Ludwig’s system after serving a year in residence following his transfer from the University of Texas.
In fairness, at least the first two practices needed to be taken with a grain of salt given they were contested in just helmets. The third practice featured shoulder pads, while the fourth was scheduled to be in full pads.
Full pads would have presumably included a legitimate pass rush and in turn, offered the first substantial opportunity to see what Bentley and Rising can do. That fourth practice never happened, so all we’re left with are questions about Bentley, Rising, and when this quarterback competition might resume.
“The group last year was much more developed and senior-laden and if you had to choose, you’d rather have last year’s group go without spring ball because this year, we’re going to have nine new starters [on defense],” said Whittingham, speaking generally about his young, inexperienced team. “There’s a lot of guys that are missing out on that development that needed every one of those 15 practices and every bit of the weight room time we had set aside for them.
“It’s definitely going to impact us.”