The University of Utah’s 2020 football season was still two days from being over back on Dec. 17, but Kyle Whittingham already knew that he would be addressing the quarterback position.
“I’m going to tell you that there’s a really good likelihood that we’ll continue to try and address that position,” Whittingham said then. “I think we’re going to be able to have a good situation by spring ball.”
Two days later on Dec. 17, hours after Utah closed its five-game, COVID-impacted season with a wild 45-28 come-from-behind win over Washington State, University of Texas transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson committed to the Utes. The day after that, Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer committed to Whittingham, which meant 24 hours after the 2020 season ended, Utah’s quarterback situation for 2021 began coming together.
With the writing on the wall, Jake Bentley, who played in all five games in 2020 while starting the last four, opted for the NCAA Transfer Portal. His departure helped to clarify the situation.
As Whittingham predicted, Utah had itself a good quarterback situation in time for spring practice, and still has itself a good situation beyond spring ball and with the Utes’ summer program slated to begin early next month.
A number of times during spring ball, Whittingham indicated that a fall camp quarterback competition is coming between Brewer and Cameron Rising. A fourth-year sophomore, Rising outdueled Bentley to win the job last fall, but was lost for the season on the 14th offensive snap of the season-opener vs. No. 20 USC due to a right shoulder injury. Rising was out for the entirety of spring practice, but Whittingham has been firm in his belief that Rising will be ready to go in time for fall camp.
The outside perception is that Brewer has emerged as the prohibitive favorite, mostly because he went 15 for 15 for 151 yards and two touchdowns during the April 17 spring game. Additionally, Rising is coming off major surgery, and even if he is deemed a full-go in time for fall camp, he will reenter the fray months behind in terms of reps compared to Brewer.
It should be noted that while Brewer threw for 9,700 yards and 65 touchdowns in four seasons at Baylor, Rising has all of six pass attempts to his name. On the flip side, Rising has more experience working with third-year offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, and has already come out on top of a camp competition once.
Jackson will figure into the QB competition early in camp, but assuming it ultimately boils down to Brewer and Rising, Whittingham hinted during spring ball that Jackson could still play a role.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, Jackson was a four-star prospect and the No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2020 out of Dallas-area power Duncanville High School. Jackson’s ability to tuck the ball and run could lend itself to specific Wildcat packages. Jackson took a redshirt last fall at Texas after suffering a partially torn ACL late in his senior season at Duncanville.
The fourth quarterback in the mix is Peter Costelli, a four-star freshman and the cornerstone of Whittingham’s latest recruiting class. Costelli had considerable hype since his commitment on April 11, 2020, but at this point, between Brewer, Rising and Jackson, it is likely to take something drastic for Costelli to see game reps beyond a blowout, late-game situation.
Assuming normal eligibility rules with college sports emerging from the pandemic, Costelli would be allowed to play in up to four games this fall and still take a redshirt.