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Brewer, a graduate transfer from Baylor, has the hype, thanks to a resume that includes 9,700 passing yards and 65 touchdowns across 44 games for the Big 12 program.
Rising, a fourth-year sophomore, is not the incumbent, per se, but has already won the job once. Last season, Rising overcame another graduate transfer in South Carolina’s Jake Bentley to win the job and started the season-opener vs. USC, but was lost for the season on the 14th offensive snap to a shoulder injury.
So here we are: another training camp, another Utes quarterback competition on deck. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has never been one to fully show his cards when it comes to any position battle, but he made one thing about the timing of his choice clear when he spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune last week at Pac-12 media day.
“Sooner rather than later,” Whittingham said when asked what his decision timeframe was to choose a quarterback. “As soon as we see that separation. As soon as we see it.”
Whittingham trying to get his quarterback situation straightened out on the early side of camp is in contrast to last fall when Rising vs. Bentley went deep into camp. Based on Whittingham’s “sooner rather than later” phrasing doesn’t offer much in terms of when exactly a starter will be in place, but it might be a good idea to circle Aug. 14 as an important landmark.
On Aug. 14, which marks the 11th day of camp and the end of the first full week, Utah will conduct its first of two live camp scrimmages. The Utes will have practiced in full pads before this date, but the scrimmage will give Whittingham and his staff a first look at what they have in a live game situation.
Conventional thinking states Whittingham won’t make a firm, final decision on his quarterback until they scrimmage at least once, presumably with both Rising and Brewer each getting opportunities with the first-team offense.
“It will be interesting to see, but I think that decision will be made earlier than later,” redshirt junior wide receiver Britain Covey said at Pac-12 media day. “I’ve never really seen a two-quarterback system work out well. It’s always helpful when you know who your guy is going into the season early on.”
Whittingham has given nothing but sterling reviews about Brewer since the Austin, Texas, native arrived in Salt Lake City in January. His 15-for-15, 151-yard effort in the spring game only served to amplify the hype surrounding the possibilities of his starting. The outside perception is zeroed in on Brewer starting the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. Weber State in what is expected to be a sold-out Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Rising has earned the right to at least compete for the job. But while he has been deemed healthy and given full clearance to practice, Whittingham noted that Rising “may not have 100% of his arm strength back.”
That was on July 27, nine days away from camp starting.
Whittingham deftly followed that revelation by saying he and his staff expect Rising’s arm strength to get to 100% by the start of camp, but the fact it is not yet adds an interesting wrinkle to the QB situation. If it becomes apparent early in camp that Rising’s arm strength is not where it needs to be, and Brewer continues to perform as advertised, does Whittingham make his QB decision even earlier than the Aug. 14 scrimmage?
If the answer isn’t immediately clear, Whittingham won’t rush it.
“Hopefully, it’ll take care of itself, but making the right decision is more important than the timing of the decision,” he said.
Beyond Rising and Brewer, redshirt freshman Ja’Quinden Jackson and true freshman Peter Costelli, the cornerstone of Utah’s latest recruiting class, will fight for the No. 3 spot.
Given his size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and a resume that includes rushing for almost 3,300 yards in three seasons at Dallas-area power Duncanville High School, Jackson has immediate potential as an option in short-yardage situations and/or Wildcat formations.
Keep in mind that whenever Whittingham does choose a quarterback, he is under no obligation to make his decision known. As a point of reference, Rising won the job last season, but that decision was never made public during camp. Rising was not revealed as the starter until he was warming up with the first-team offense at Rice-Eccles on the night of the opener.
“There will be the typical athlete answer, I don’t exactly know who’s going to be the quarterback,” Covey said half-jokingly. “I do think it’s important you decide who your quarterback is earlier than later, just for that jelling and meshing to happen. They’re really good at different things, so I’m definitely curious to see how it turns out. There’s definitely a reason Charlie has over 9,000 career passing yards, and that was evident from day one stepping on campus.”