The TribUte newsletter: What Kyle Whittingham thinks about Cam Rising was on display at Washington State

Plus: The running backs situation, Dalton Kincaid, and when is a fair time to judge the Runnin’ Utes

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) celebrates a game-winning two-point conversion as the University of Utah hosts USC, NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.

Much has been made, and rightfully so, of the fact that Cam Rising was a late scratch last Thursday night at Washington State.

The apparent knee injury and how it may help define the rest of the University of Utah’s season, the exceptionally-late timing of the decision for Rising to sit, his status for Saturday night’s matchup with Arizona at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

All of it has come under a microscope across the last week, but here’s one thing that admittedly has not received enough play as we have talked about this situation ad nauseum.

When Rising said he couldn’t play on Thursday, that was enough for Kyle Whittingham. No questioning, no second-guessing, no argument. Of course, this decision was made in consultation with team physicians, but it was ultimately up to Rising, and by all accounts, Whittingham respected the decision.

This whole thing speaks to the level of trust Whittingham has in his veteran starting quarterback. When the Utes’ head coach conducted his normal Monday press conference earlier this week, he reiterated one key talking point he went to four days earlier in Pullman.

“If he says he can’t play, he can’t play because he’s one of the most competitive players that’s ever come through here,” said Whittingham, now in his 18th season as head coach and 29th season on the coaching staff. “Just spending three years, three-plus years now with him on a daily basis. Knowing him, who he is, his character, his personality, his competitiveness, his makeup, the whole thing. There is not a guy on the team that wants to win worse than him and would just disdain sitting out.”

Rising’s disdain for sitting out leads us back to now, and what his status might be for what is essentially another must-win game if Utah is to advance back to the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 2 in Las Vegas.

On Monday, Whittingham said “Cam is much further ahead today than he was a week ago today,” which lends itself to optimism that the fifth-year junior will go against the Wildcats.

There is no media access at practice, so to say what went on behind closed doors is impossible, but once the media was allowed inside to conduct post-practice interviews, it was clear Rising had participated on Monday and Tuesday, both times with a protective brace on that injured left knee.

That said, if Rising feels he cannot play, he will say so, and that will be good enough for Whittingham.

Other things on my mind

• There is little doubt Micah Bernard will at least try to give it a go Saturday night, as he did at Washington State, where he dressed out, warmed up, and was then limited to three carries due to injury. Let’s say Tavion Thomas remains out, and Bernard is limited. Can Jaylon Glover and Ja’Quinden Jackson be as productive as they were in Pullman? I thought this Whittingham sound bite on Monday when talking about Jackson was worth mentioning.

“Without him, we’d be in real dire straits, if we didn’t have him functioning as he is.”

• No sugarcoating it. If Dalton Kincaid is out Saturday, it’s a big problem. It becomes less of a problem if a wide receiver not named Devaughn Vele has a big night, but with each passing week, that feels like it’s asking a lot.

• It’s going to be hard to gauge what this Runnin’ Utes team is until at least Thanksgiving week when they play Georgia Tech, then either Marquette or Mississippi State on a neutral floor in Florida. Even those two games might not paint a good-enough picture as none of them are projected to finish above ninth in their respective conferences. The Yellow Jackets, two years removed from a top-4 finish in the ACC, were voted last in the 15-team league this winter.