Red All Over: If Charlie Brewer vs. Cam Rising is too close to call, what should Utah do?

A decision on Utah’s starting quarterback could come as early as Saturday, but could drag into next week

(University of Utah Athletics) Quarterback Charlie Brewer participates in Utah football spring practice, Monday, March 15, 2021.

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There is no media access at Utah football practice, so I cannot give you firsthand information as to what is happening in the quarterback competition between Charlie Brewer vs. Cam Rising.

I can tell you what Brewer and Rising have said, and I can tell you what Kyle Whittingham has said. To that latter point, Whittingham said Saturday after the Utes scrimmaged for the first time, that Rising vs. Brewer is “neck-and-neck.”

With that out there, I got a mailbag question and I thought I should answer here instead.

If Brewer vs. Rising remains neck-and-neck, is too close to call when it’s really time to make a call, what should Utah do?

That is a good, important question from an astute reader and to be honest, it took me very little time to come up with an answer.

If Brewer vs. Rising is too close to call, Utah should go with Brewer, because Brewer has experience. Brewer has played in 44 games as a collegian, 39 of which have come against Power Five competition. He’s played in a Big 12 championship game, attempted 41 passes and thrown for over 200 yards in a Sugar Bowl.

Forget Brewer’s stats, which are prolific. He’s been around the block, Rising has not. Rising has the knowledge of Andy Ludwig’s system, has the arm, has the moxie, but his college career to this point consists of 14 offensive snaps and six pass attempts. Is Rising capable? Maybe, but we have very little evidence to go on.

If this quarterback competition remains on equal footing exiting Saturday’s second and final scrimmage, and the offensive coaching staff is looking for a determining factor, Brewer has played, played a lot, and played in high-leverage situations for a long time. Rising simply has not.

And no, the eligibility situation should not play into this decision even a little bit. Brewer has one year of eligibility left, Rising has three, it doesn’t matter. In picking your quarterback for 2021, no one making this decision is worried about 2022 or beyond. You’re picking the best guy for right now, whether that’s a redshirt sophomore, a graduate transfer, or someone in between.

If we are at a point in three or four days where Rising has overtaken Brewer for the job, forget everything I wrote here.

Wherever this thing ends up, however we get there, you’ll hear about it as soon as I do.

What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise

• Every radio hit I’ve done for the last three weeks has been a different version of the same thing. Do I think Utah is going to be good? Yes. Who is going to be the quarterback? Brewer, I think. Can Utah win the Pac-12 South? Yes. What has to happen? Walking into the LA Coliseum and winning for once would be a start. I really need the season to get here, folks.

• Indications have been true freshman safety Cole Bishop has performed well during camp, but unless he is really going to force the coaching staff’s hand, that second safety spot will end up going to Brandon McKinney. There is no replacement for experience, and McKinney has a ton of it.

• Again, no access, but everything dribbling out about four-star freshman linebacker Ethan Calvert has been positive. The third-highest-rated recruit in program history, Calvert is working up the linebacker depth chart, but he’s waiting behind a pair of All-Pac-12 linebackers in Devin Lloyd (an All-American linebacker at that)and Nephi Sewell.

• Again, no access, so the big hub-bub on Utes Twitter Wednesday was a video emerging from Theo Howard’s Instagram. In the 11-second clip, Utah goes play-action with Brewer under center. The offensive line gives Brewer sufficient time and he delivers an absolute dime down the middle of the field to a streaking Howard, 44 yards for a touchdown. That got the fan base feeling some things for a variety of reasons.

When does basketball season start, though?

Your questions

Q: “What options does Utah football have if they can’t practice in Salt Lake City due to bad air quality?” -- @iampangean

A: We’ll start off with an easy one.

As far as I can tell, Utah football will never have to outright cancel practice due to bad air quality thanks to the Eccles Field House housing a 74,000 square-foot indoor practice facility, which is adjacent to the regular outdoor practice fields.

On Aug. 6, when Salt Lake City’s air quality index (AQI) went over 300 thanks to the California wildfires, the Utes simply moved things indoors. On that same day, citing NCAA and Pac-12 air quality guidelines, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan noted on an ESPN700 appearance that if there were a game to be played at Rice-Eccles, that AQI figure would not allow it.

That’s where the intrigue is, what would happen if there were a game to be played outdoors, not what would happen with practice, which has the indoors option.

Q: “What is your opinion of MBB scheduling? A lot of Ute fans didn’t think Utah has “scheduled smart” in recent seasons. What about Craig Smith’s first attempt?” -- @VegasUte

A: *Sigh, adjusts glasses, cracks knuckles*

Before judging how well Craig Smith and his scheduler, Utes assistant coach Eric Peterson, did on their first schedule, it is necessary to offer context.

Nov. 13 against Sacramento State is happening because the previous coaching staff agreed to it, and the new staff is doing the right thing and will keep the game.

Dec. 18 at Missouri is the back end of a home-and-home agreement under the old staff. It is happening this season because the previous staff put that game off multiple times. Smith wants to play it and get done, but in fairness, that’s a good early-season test, not an albatross.

Dec. 21 vs. Fresno State is happening because there was a lawsuit, and I wrote about it, and it’s a goof, and yeah, that game has to get played.

Sacramento State, Missouri and Fresno State are not this staff’s doing. Furthermore, the previous staff amazingly did not have an MTE lined up for 2021-22, so by the time Smith showed up, there were not a ton of options. That said, I think they landed solidly with the Sunshine Slam, which has Boston College in the opener, followed by either Rhode Island or Tulsa.

To answer this question, given the constraints they had to deal with, I think Smith and Peterson have done a fine job of cobbling this schedule together, which fits this roster. It was smart not to go out of your way and try to play Duke, Kansas, etc. This is not the roster, nor the season for that.

Utah unofficially has two open non-conference slots left to fill. For what it’s worth, between what has been announced and been reported, the average 2020-21 NET ranking of Utah’s non-conference schedule as it stands is 151. Is that great? No. Does it bury Utah’s at-large hopes? Probably not. Is it the new staff’s fault? No.

Q: “How will the Pac-12 forfeiture process work? Any leeway if the outbreak is among the vaccinated? Are there any situations where the vaccinated are required to be tested? Are the vaccinated required to quarantine if exposed?” -- @801utes

A: The Pac-12 forfeiture policy is quite clear. It states, “If an institution is unable to play a contest through its own fault, it shall forfeit such contest to its opponent. Any forfeited contest shall be regarded as a conference loss for the team making the forfeit and a conference win for its opponent.”

No more no-contests like last season. If you have a COVID-19 outbreak and can’t field the minimum number of players, it’s a loss.

My advice for the rest is to hit the latest guidance from the Pac-12 medical advisory committee, which was released Aug. 1. Honestly, you can just skim through, and it is also quite clear on the bottom line.

If a student-athlete is vaccinated, his/her life inside athletics facilities is much easier compared to those that are not vaccinated. The same goes for teams that have hit a vaccination rate of 85% or better, which the Utah football team has.

Q: “How much is too much to pay for a pair of socks, and perhaps more importantly, how little is too little?” -- @StaircaseWhitt

A: Your feet are important. Take care of your feet. Do not skimp on taking care of your feet. That means comfortable, functional shoes, socks, pedicures, massages, whatever. Take care of your feet.

I have no problem paying $18-20 for a pair of good socks to go with a suit/slacks, upwards of $30 for ski socks, $10-12 for a good pair of athletic socks, etc.

I’ll say this, if I had a real job where I had to get dressed every day, I would be a big sock guy. Colors, designs, lengths, all of it. I would be obnoxious about it with loud colors, no doubt.

I hope I never have to get a real job.