Red All Over: Utah’s quarterback situation might be much better in 2021, but just take a breath first

More quarterback help is coming to Utah, other thoughts on the Utes, reader questions and more in this week’s Red All Over newsletter

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The No. 1 roster priority for the University of Utah football team this offseason was quarterback.

It took Kyle Whittingham all of nine hours after the season ended Saturday to deal with it.

The Utes got a commitment from true freshman Texas transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson, then followed that Sunday afternoon with another commitment from Charlie Brewer, a four-year starter at Baylor with 9,700 passing yards and over 10,000 total yards on his resume.

Jake Bentley announced Tuesday evening he was entering the NCAA Transfer Portal, so the quarterback room appears set with Jackson, Brewer, four-star freshman Peter Costelli, redshirt sophomore Cameron Rising, who won the job out of camp this fall, and freshman walk-on Cooper Justice.

Given nothing but the numbers and experience, the natural inclination in late-December, before anyone has taken a practice rep or even arrived on campus, will be to anoint Brewer as the opening-day starter for 2021.

I’m telling you, no, I’m asking you to just take a breath and relax. Around this time a year ago, everyone saw the resume Bentley was bringing to the table and assumed he would slide in as the successor to Tyler Huntley. Plainly stated, that did not pan out like everyone thought it would.

Admittedly, Brewer’s resume is much bigger, much more impressive, but my point stands.

The good news is, on paper, Utah has an abundance of talent at the position. That talent is both young and old, which means the Utes may very well be set up for years at the most-important position on the field. For the sake of arguing, if Brewer winds up getting the job with his one year of eligibility, Jackson, Costelli and Rising all have multiple years left to fight it out.

Does some of that talent end up transferring down the road depending on how things shake out? Maybe, but I digress.

Utah’s quarterback room became infinitely better Saturday night and into Sunday afternoon. There is reason for optimism, even excitement, but let’s just see what happens.

What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise

Tough deal for Bentley, who did not win the job coming out of camp, then was thrust into starting duty when Rising went down for the season 14 offensive snaps into the opener. Bentley is a worker, a grinder, a film guy, a leader. He wanted to get better, did all he could to get better, and to be honest, he mostly did over the course of five games. That said, his play was not at a high-enough level where Whittingham could be satisfied and not think he needed more help at the position. Hitting the transfer portal over the weekend for help came as no surprise, nor did Bentley entering the portal on Tuesday.

• More on this down the road, but while I appreciate and agree with the decision to play the NCAA Tournament exclusively in Indianapolis, there is no way that event is going to start on time or stay on schedule. Too many teams, too many logistics, too much testing that needs to happen before anyone is allowed to play a game. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

I reported Tuesday afternoon that the Utah men’s basketball positive test that led to Tuesday’s game at Arizona State being postponed came back as a false positive. That’s not nearly the first time that has happened in college athletics and will not be the last. In my mind, that news is only a big deal because it postponed a game, and now that has to get made up at some point in order to play a full 20-game Pac-12 schedule. The Utes will now have 13 days between blowing out the University of Idaho on Dec. 18 and playing at UCLA on Dec. 31. That is really not ideal, but what is nowadays?

• The best college basketball team in the state of Utah at the moment is BYU, and there really isn’t any room for debate.

• Who is the favorite in the Pac-12 South next fall? Without knowing who comes back and who leaves from these teams just yet, Utah has a case as the favorite, but so do USC, Colorado, Arizona State, and maybe UCLA, too. This thinking will get sorted out as player decisions come into focus, but this is where we are now. A lot of teams should be optimistic based on their short 2020 seasons and what they have coming back, at least on paper.

• Raise your hand if you thought former Ute Tyler Huntley would see a regular-season NFL snap at quarterback before ex-USU Aggie and first-round draft pick Jordan Love.

BYU star quarterback Zach Wilson should have played his last college game for the Cougars in the Boca Raton Bowl. There is no need to come back, not when his stock is this high and he played that well during 2020. Every reputable mock draft I’ve seen has Wilson as, at worst, the fifth-best quarterback prospect in this draft, which puts him easily inside the first round. No, there is no need to return to Provo.

• On the topic of the NFL Draft, Utah has, in my opinion, two legitimate decisions coming, one a little more legitimate than the other. Redshirt junior linebacker and Butkus Award finalist Devin Lloyd and junior tight end Brant Kuithe. Feel free to debate amongst yourselves.

Your questions

Q: “Do you get the sense that this season is being treated as a throwaway by Larry, his assistants, and the athletic department because eligibility is frozen? Is that the main factor in his [lack of] motivation to add games, play a competitive schedule, etc.?” — @AJCrowley42

A: I can’t stress this enough, whether we’re talking football or basketball.

No Division I coach, assistant coach, or student-athlete is treating this weirdo season as a throwaway. People are too competitive, people make too much money, people want to find a way to play too badly. No, I have seen nothing to suggest that Larry Krystkowiak or Mark Harlan are treating this basketball season as a throwaway.

Indicating there is a lack of motivation to add games is a tad presumptuous. Has Utah been aggressive in trying to pad the nonconference schedule? No, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t tried to.

You know what I just decided? I’m tired of this topic, so unless Krystkowiak is going to add another game, unless a huge gap in the Pac-12 schedule presents itself, I think it’s safe to say Utah isn’t adding another game at this point. The nonconference schedule was what it was, and everyone is just going to have to deal with it.

Q: “Stance on Eggnog? Stance on Gingersnaps?” — @Eric18utah

A: Eggnog is disgusting. You could take 60% of the ingredients and be well on your way to a good milkshake, but then eggs come into the picture and I want to vomit. Alcoholic eggnog is a criminally-negligent waste of bourbon.

Gingersnaps are delicious, but it’s a very seasonal deal with nutmeg, cinnamon and molasses. I don’t want a gingersnap cookie in, say, July. Halloween through New Year’s, though, yes, absolutely.

Q: “The BYU/Utah football game, why is it still a thing? For Utah, it does more harm than good (potential key injuries, loss to a non-P5 vs simply beating a non-P5 team). Sure, there’s nostalgic fan interest and local media need it to happen, but other than that, there’s really no upside for Utah to keep playing it.” — @benwilkinson

A: Interesting premise.

I, a member of the local media, am not convinced I need a BYU-Utah football game. Maybe I’m still new and naive, but I’m pretty sure I don’t need that game to take place.

In many seasons, BYU has been Utah’s best, highest-rated nonconference opponent, which may very well be the case in 2021 when the rest of the Utes’ non-Pac-12 slate includes Weber State and San Diego State.

As Harlan has come in and worked to upgrade the football schedule, in some years, from a purely football standpoint, a game against BYU will become less meaningful, less impactful, and more of a detriment to the resume. For example, in 2026, Utah is at Houston, home to Arkansas, and home to BYU. To me, BYU is the least important game of that group.

In any given year, yes, I agree that this game doesn’t do much of anything anymore for Utah. If the Utes win, fine, they’re supposed to beat a non-Power Five. If you lose, well, that’s a real problem for your resume, losing to a non-Power Five like that, let alone an independent not named Notre Dame. It’s a lose-lose proposition.

Well, this was fun, but hey, guess what? Utah-BYU isn’t going anywhere. The teams are scheduled to play in six of the next eight seasons, and the two sides have to figure out where to put the 2020 game, which was called off because of COVID-19. Beyond that, Harlan and BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe appear to have a healthy working relationship, so there’s no reason the rivalry will undergo a long-term halt under their respective watches.

Q: “What is the best gift you’ve ever given & gotten?” — @UnholiestJedi

A: I’ll keep this to since I’ve gotten married, because childhood was mostly video games, sports jerseys and money.

Best gift I’ve given: My wife, an avid cook and baker, has been wanting a new pot. I listened and got her a seven-quart Staub dutch oven or, as it’s really called, a cocotte (pinkies up, everyone). She was thrilled, so that was cool.

Best gift I’ve gotten: She got me a beautiful Citizen watch for my 35th birthday a few years back. I think it’s too nice to wear every day, so I don’t.

Random musings

• The NBA’s 75th season started on Tuesday evening. Didn’t the 74th season just end two months ago? Either way, yay for more basketball.

• Too-decadent snack option that I wish I never discovered because it’s too awesome: Burrata, usually with some almond crackers and veggies.

• The Jets should get some more help along the offensive line, hire an adult as the next head coach, and stick with Sam Darnold, who has yet to be put in a position to be successful. He is 23-years-old, which is way too young a quarterback to give up on.

• I literally just started daydreaming about the outdoor patio at Fisher Brewing on a cloudless 70-degree day, and I think the workday might be over. It’s currently 11:22 a.m. on a Tuesday.

• No, I’m serious, and I know I’m in the minority. The Jets should hang on to Darnold.