I touched on this a couple of newsletters ago, and I got into it again, briefly, earlier this week when I dived into the University of Utah quarterback situation, but I’m going to go a little further with it here because it’s a big topic that’s still on my mind.
Kyle Whittingham has said there will be a fall camp quarterback competition between Charlie Brewer and Cameron Rising, but I’m finding it hard to envision Rising beating out Brewer for the job.
Brewer throwing for 9,700 yards and 65 touchdowns in four seasons at Baylor is not irrelevant, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters here, at least to me, is that by the time fall camp comes, Brewer will have eight months worth of meetings, practices, scrimmages and reps. Eight months of building rapport with his offense and his coordinator, Andy Ludwig.
Meanwhile, as Brewer has inserted himself into Whittingham’s program, Rising has been rehabbing his surgically-repaired right shoulder after being lost for the 2020 season on the 14th offensive snap of the opener on Nov. 20.
Rising missed all of spring practice, and while he has been around and involved, not having the reps, not being in the huddle, not being on the field is huge. From that standpoint, Brewer, a proven Power Five commodity with a Big 12 championship game and a Sugar Bowl appearance on his resume, has a months-long head start to see who is under center Sept. 2 vs. Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Rising, as Whittingham has noted, is expected to be at full health in time for the start of camp.
Rising has already shown capable of winning an offseason competition, having done it last preseason vs. Jake Bentley, but this is a different deal. Brewer is not Bentley, and Rising is coming off a major injury, but he has certainly earned the right to try and win the job again, which leads me to one more point.
I’m a big “what if” guy, probably to my own detriment. If Rising had remained healthy last fall, is he the unquestioned starter entering 2021? If Bentley had performed better in place of Rising, would Whittingham have felt the need to go out and pull Brewer and Ja’Quinden Jackson from the NCAA Transfer Portal? If Matt Rhule hadn’t left Baylor after the 2019 season, would Brewer have entered the portal after the 2020 season?
We’ll never know. What we do know is, Brewer is here, and he has shown he means business.
What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise
• Big showing this week by Utah junior golfer Tristan Mandur, who became the third Ute to qualify for the NCAA Championships since 1990, shooting 6-under at the NCAA Regional Cle Elum, Wash. to finish in a tie for fourth. Mandur’s fourth-place finish is Utah’s highest individual finisher at an NCAA Regional tournament after Dustin Pimm (tied for fifth) and Kyler Dunkle (tied for sixth), also qualified for the NCAA Championships in 2006 and 2019, respectively. Utah finished in a tie for seventh as a team, while Mandur moves on to the NCAA Championships, May 28-June 2 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
• Utah getting a commitment Wednesday night from Washington safety transfer Brandon McKinney is significant. Between R.J. Hubert being hurt again and Nate Ricthie off on his LDS mission, the Utes needed to get something done in the transfer portal. With 44 games under his belt in four seasons in Seattle, McKinney qualifies as getting something done. The Orange, Calif., native immediately becomes a likely starter at one safety spot opposite Vonte Davis.
• The one remaining piece of big offseason roster business is at wide receiver, a spot where Kyle Whittingham has long said he plans to hit the transfer portal to deal with. As we’ve covered before, Whittingham believes his options are solid up to WR4, but the position room still lacks depth, not to mention proven entities beyond Britain Covey and, to a lesser extent, Jaylen Dixon.
• I covered this situation in a Twitter thread Wednesday night, so I won’t yammer here too much, but David Jenkins Jr. and Marco Anthony, both of whom committed to basketball coach Craig Smith this spring as two-time transfers, will both be eligible immediately after some questions as to whether or not that would, or could happen. That’s good news, because both project as major rotation guys for Smith.
• Speaking of two-time transfers, outgoing Milwaukee guard Te’Jon Lucas committing to BYU on Wednesday is the latest big portal addition for Mark Pope, who has done an excellent job the last two seasons of restocking his lineup with older, experienced, immediately-eligible pieces. Having portal success is one thing, coaching up the new pieces and integrating them into your system is another, and Pope has proven adept at both.
Q: “What would Utah have to do in the next few months for you to have any level of comfort whatsoever projecting them into the 2022 (NCAA Tournament) field?” — @AJCrowley42
A: On paper, with the 2021-22 season still seven months away, Utah is not even remotely close to entering the Bracketology conversation.
Let’s see what else happens with the roster, let’s see how the schedule shakes out, but I would really focus on the latter. If the nonconference slate provides some Quad 1 and 2 opportunities, and Utah can handle business sufficiently there and against the Pac-12, it puts itself in the mix.
I do not expect Utah to be taking on the whole world in the nonconference, but I do expect a name or two to appear once the dust settles.
Q: “If the College Football Playoff expands to eight teams (or more), do you think they should revamp the scheduling in order to make it more balanced across all Power Five leagues in order to make it more fair in comparing resumes for the Playoff?” — @MPaturzo5
A: In theory, yes, great idea, but that’s never happening. Even if I thought it would or could happen, what would that look like?
There are plenty of Power Fives that don’t play anyone of merit outside their respective leagues and no one is going to step in and put an end to that. Power Five vs. FCS and Power Five vs. Group of Five buy games are part of the college football ecosystem, with the “little guys” depending on the six- or seven-figure payout to help fund the football program, if not their respective athletic departments.
Furthermore, nonconference scheduling is creeping into the next decade, like Utah playing LSU in 2031 and 2032, plus Wisconsin in 2033. If the plan is to balance things out, already-signed nonconference contracts would have to be part of the equation.
Q: “As a Las Vegan, I’m curious about your thoughts on what role this city plays in the future of the conference. Regular-season games, tournaments, bowls, headquarters, future conference school (lol)?!” — @t_ricks96
A: Did you just break UNLV joining the Pac-12, er, Pac-13?
Seriously, though, I think Las Vegas is a huge part of the Pac-12′s future, and that was before George Kliavkoff came aboard.
The Pac-12 tournament has been in Las Vegas for the last nine seasons, with T-Mobile Arena hosting the last four. Allegiant Stadium will host the Pac-12 championship football game in 2021, 2022, and I bet it goes well enough where that agreement eventually gets extended. Since 2001, the Pac-12 has been tethered to the Las Vegas Bowl, which is moving to Allegiant Stadium in 2021. The game will have a brighter light shining on it with the Big Ten (odd years) and SEC (even years) now being involved.
This is just a guess, but staying with Allegiant Stadium, the 65,000-seat, $1.9 billion facility could begin hosting high-profile early-season college football, comparable to the Chick-fil-a kickoff, in the coming years, with those games involving a Pac-12 school.
Will Pac-12 headquarters eventually move to Vegas? Let’s start with the league getting rid of that albatross of a real estate situation in San Francisco first.
• It is a helpless feeling to be watching a big game, fall asleep, then wake up to find out something crazy happened at the end. In this particular case, I mean LeBron James burying the Warriors late Wednesday night.
• In this day and age, how many phone numbers does the average person have committed to memory? Off the top of my head, I know five, and they’re all connected to my wife and my parents.
• This is being written Thursday morning, so we don’t know who the Jazz will play in the first round, but everyone better hope it’s the Grizzlies.
• R.I.P. Charles Grodin. Which performance Grodin is best known for has been debated since his death on Tuesday, but my answer is Midnight Run with Robert DeNiro.