In the days leading up to the start of fall camp at the University of Utah on Aug. 4, Kyle Whittingham offered an indication as to when he wanted a two-way quarterback between Charlie Brewer and Cam Rising to be settled.
The longtime Utes head coach told The Salt Lake Tribune on July 27 that he preferred a decision be made “sooner rather than later,” but more specifically, “as soon as we see that separation.”
Utah conducted a live scrimmage on Saturday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium, a key marker if the Utes were indeed going to get this done sooner than later. As the dust settled on the day of work, it became clear that Whittingham and his staff have not seen enough separation and as a result, Brewer vs. Rising is going to be settled later, not sooner.
“It’s going to be a close competition, I’m telling you that right now. It’s neck-and-neck,” Whittingham said, moments after exiting the field. “There is no timeline. Sooner rather than later is still optimal, but it’s close right now. No decision will be made prior to next week’s scrimmage and hopefully, shortly thereafter, it will be made. Don’t hold me to that, because we’re going to take as much time as we need.”
Utah will scrimmage for the second and final time on Saturday. If one cautiously assumes Whittingham is ready to choose between Brewer and Rising in the aftermath, the newly-named starter will have 11 or 12 days of work with the first-team offense ahead of the Sept. 2 season opener vs. in-state FCS power Weber State.
“Gosh, I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision because they’re both playing so well,” redshirt junior wide receiver Britain Covey said after sitting out Saturday’s scrimmage, as did entrenched veteran starters Devin Lloyd and Mika Tafua. “I’ve said this many times before, but it’s wonderful that it’s not a competition where we’re searching for a quarterback. It’s one where you’ve got two great guys and they’re both performing at a high level.
“We’re going to have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the country, that’s all I know. I don’t know who it’s going to be, but I know we’re going to have two great options.”
Taking Whittingham at his word, the end result at the most important position on the field is at least a week away, but the fact that the first scrimmage did not produce a starting quarterback serves to blow a hole through the outside perception that Brewer was going to be the clear-cut option.
A year ago, Rising out-dueled Jake Bentley for the starting job, but lasted just 14 offensive snaps in the opener, lost for the season to an injury to his throwing shoulder.
Rising had surgery, rehabilitated, and missed spring practice, but Whittingham was adamant that the fourth-year sophomore would be ready for camp. Meanwhile, Brewer, a graduate transfer from Baylor, arrived in January from the NCAA Transfer Portal with a resume that preceded him. Across four seasons and 44 games, Brewer completed 63.5% of his passes, throwing for 9,700 yards and 65 touchdowns, while accounting for more than 10,000 total yards and 87 total touchdowns.
Whittingham’s praise of Brewer during spring practice was effusive, Brewer’s 15-for-15, 151-yard showing in the spring game feeling like something significant with Whittingham having already noted Rising would get his shot come August.
As promised, Rising has received a legitimate chance to win his job back. Based on no decision being made as of yet, and this thing dragging into at least the weekend, he has done something with that chance.
“They both run well, throw well,” said Nick Ford, a two-time All-Pac-12 offensive lineman who is penciled in as Utah’s full-time center for the first time this fall. “A couple of days ago, I was watching film and I was like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t even remember Cam did that.’ He was slinging the ball over the place. They’re a good time.”
Added Whittingham: “They’re both throwing the ball very accurately, they’re taking care of it, making good decisions, they’re getting the tempo of the offense where it needs to be, they’re both leading, they’re both making very few mistakes.”
Further down the depth chart, Whittingham noted that second-year true freshman Ja’Quinden Jackson and four-star recruit Class of 2021 recruit Peter Costello are still vying for the No. 3 spot.