When considering the future of the quarterback position at the University of Utah, a lot of the focus has been on Nate Johnson, the former four-star recruit who scored rushing touchdowns on his first two collegiate touches on Nov. 5 vs. Arizona.
Meanwhile, Brandon Rose was part of the background of last season’s repeat Pac-12 championship run, a true freshman running the scout team for the final 75% of the season after Johnson was promoted from scout team up to QB3 in late September.
Johnson and Rose are now in the spring practice spotlight, getting the majority of reps as Utah tries to figure out who the backup is with Cam Rising continuing his ACL rehab with an eye on the Aug. 30 opener vs. the University of Florida. Bryson Barnes will enter the fray during fall camp, so for now, it’s Johnson and Rose, and as that plays out, here’s one thing to keep in mind.
Rose, from Murrieta Valley High School in Temecula, Calif., spent last season getting reps every day vs. one of the Pac-12′s top defenses. Johnson, from Clovis (Calif.) High School, got minimal live reps as QB3, and certainly few, if any, with the first-team offense.
Furthermore, and maybe take this with a grain of salt, the media has watched a total of 40 minutes of practice across two practices since spring ball began on March 21. In those two sessions, but especially on Tuesday, Rose looked very sharp, very comfortable, very in control.
The available-to-the-media sample size is admittedly very small, but between that and what Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has said lately, I am here to tell you, at this still-early juncture, that the possibility of Rose winding up as QB2 is very real.
“There’s been incremental progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go and we’re starting to see a little bit of separation, but nothing that’s worthy of comment right now,” Whittingham said on Tuesday. “It’s four practices down, 11 to go, so hopefully, as we continue to get deeper into spring ball, we’ll see even more separation in a good way, guys separate themselves by emerging from the pack. That’s my No. 1 objective in the spring, is to get that solidified and if not solidify that, just a really good start on that going into the fall.”
As far as public consumption outside the Eccles Football Center goes, if recent history with QB competitions is any indication (Jake Bentley vs. Rising, Rising vs. Charlie Brewer, Barnes vs. Ja’Quinden Jackson for QB2), this is going to drag into the summer, and I’m willing to bet there is no real clarity until the initial two-deep is released on or around Aug. 28, the Monday before the opener.
Settle in. In all likelihood, we’re going to be here a while.
Other things on my mind
• Objectively, who is the favorite to win the Pac-12 this fall? If Rising is trending toward readiness, I’ll still hesitate to put Utah at No. 1 on my preseason ballot in July, just because I think Washington is very real. I would listen to arguments in favor of USC (play some more defense), Oregon (what does the offensive line look like), and Oregon State (who is the QB), but ultimately, I think the realistic options at No. 1 are Utah and Washington. Circle Nov. 11 in Seattle.
• I exchanged texts earlier this week with a well-embedded member of the prep basketball community on this side of the country and we started talking about what Craig Smith needs out of the transfer portal. Their answer? A big wing and a combo guard who can score. They’re right. The problem? Everyone, literally everyone, in the country also wants/needs those very same things.
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