Between Charlie Brewer’s four-year resume at Baylor, his prolific showing during spring practice, and Cam Rising’s surgically repaired throwing shoulder, the conventional thinking was Brewer would win the University of Utah’s starting quarterback job. It just took longer than most observers thought it would.
At least, that’s what Britain Covey thinks.
“I think that it was kind of one of those things where you have to knock out the champ, no one’s going to win by split decision,” Covey said late Monday afternoon following practice. “Charlie had such a good spring that it was really going to take something miraculous from Cam to come in and do that after surgery. I think we all expected that, but Cam came in and really threw a wrench in things. It took longer, but I think that’s what most people expected coming out of spring.”
Added Brewer: “It was a good battle, Cam’s a great quarterback. It was a really good competition and we pushed each other week, each day really, and we both got better.”
Brewer will start for the Utes in Thursday evening’s opener vs. Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium (Pac-12 Networks, 5:30 p.m.) following a much-ballyhooed quarterback competition. Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham spent the entirety of fall camp telling anyone who would listen that Brewer and Rising were neck-and-neck.
When Whittingham addressed the media on Monday morning, he did not shy away from discussing how close the battle really was.
“Well, he had the edge statistically, first of all, but that’s not the only thing you take into account,” Whittingham said inside the Eccles Football Center. “A guy that has a lot of leadership, and it was a close call. It was so close, it could have gone either way, but Charlie has experience, playing in over 40 Division I games and the success he had at Baylor throwing the football.
“I believe our team would have been fine with either decision. They would have ultimately rallied around whoever won the job. They’re both well-respected, hard workers. It was close, but the experience factor was probably the biggest reason behind it.”
Rising, a fourth-year sophomore, will serve as Brewer’s backup, doing so with a unique perspective on what that responsibility means.
A year ago, Rising beat out Jake Bentley for the starting job, but was injured and lost for the season in the opener to a shoulder injury. Bentley started the final five games of the season.
As everyone was reminded last fall, the backup is one snap away from being thrust into duty. Rising is now one snap away.
“He’s professional, he understood,” Whittingham said. “He’s disappointed because he’s a competitor, but no drop-off whatsoever in practice habits, preparation, attitude, it was all absolutely outstanding. If his number is called, he’ll be ready. We have no doubt about that.”
The most significant revelation from Whittingham on Monday was that second-year walk-on freshman Bryson Barnes will serve as Utah’s third-string quarterback on Thursday night against Weber State.
Whittingham said Texas transfer Ja’Quinden Jackson has been down with an injury and is unlikely to play Thursday. There has been no indication that four-star freshman quarterback Peter Costelli is injured, but Whittingham did state the obvious Monday, that he would ultimately like to redshirt him.
Per NCAA rules, players can see action in up to four games and still take a redshirt for the season.
“Peter’s done a great job since he got on campus last spring, and if we have the opportunity to redshirt him, that’s something we’ll be looking at because the quarterback room is pretty solid,” Whittingham said.
The offensive line will be banged up vs. Weber State
Whittingham reiterated on Monday that his offensive line is banged up, and the five best options will not be on the field together vs. Weber State.
Who exactly is injured is not public, but one thing to keep an eye will be who starts at left tackle. When Utah released its initial depth chart on Thursday, senior Bam Olaseni and second-year freshman Jaren Kump were separated by an “OR.”
Kump, for what it’s worth, started all five games last season at right tackle, and is viewed as the best tackle on the roster.
“It’s still in flux, and I think it’s three of them that, as of today, we’re not sure if they’ll be ready,” Whittingham said. “No different situation today than what we had towards the end of last week. It’s the most unstable, at least health-wise, position on the team right now. We’d like it to be situated and all set, but that’s not the case. Fortunately, we have a lot of guys that are game-ready, and whoever is available should be able to function just fine.”