If Utah was playing today, Bryson Barnes would be the starting quarterback

With Cam Rising still limited and Brandon Rose now injured, coach Kyle Whittingham said the walk-on junior has been getting most of the reps with the Utes’ starting offense.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) warms up on the field before PAC-12 football action between the Utah Utes and the Stanford Cardinal at Rice-Eccles Stadium, on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.

While last week’s injury to Brandon Rose theoretically could have further muddied the quarterback picture of the Utah football team, it actually had the opposite effect.

At least in the short term.

“If we had to play today, it’d be Bryson Barnes” starting at QB, head coach Kyle Whittingham said after Tuesday’s practice.

The battle to fill in for Cam Rising, who is still recovering from ACL surgery, seemingly took a hit when Rose did last week. It was revealed on his Instagram page last Friday evening that Rose had suffered an undisclosed injury that required hospitalization.

It’s a blow for him, certainly, as he finished spring practices as the Utes’ No. 2. Still, he entered fall camp in a battle with Barnes, a junior walk-on, and freshman Nate Johnson for the job.

Whittingham declined to give any updates on Rose’s health Tuesday, noting generally that the Utes are “a bit beat up right now as a team,” which is to be expected given that they’re more than halfway through fall camp.

The coach did note that Barnes is taking the majority of the reps with the starters and Johnson is taking the majority of the reps with the backups right now, while also getting some work in sub-packages that accentuate his skill set.

He also added, “When [Rising] is at practice — which is not every day, but most every day — he gets a fair share of the ones in certain drills as well.”

Rising, who tore his ACL at the Rose Bowl, still has not yet been fully cleared for practice. Whittingham said Tuesday that there is no change to the QB’s official status, and described his participation as “limited.”

Whittingham said that, to this point, all the quarterbacks aside from Rising had been made “live” in practices and this past Thursday’s scrimmage (which is to say, allowed to be hit by defenders) so that he and the other coaches can get a better sense of their ability to escape trouble and extend plays.

With Rising still limited and Rose now presumed out, however, “Going forward, they probably won’t because [of the possibility of] injury,” he said.

While there is some clarity for now on the team’s quarterback situation, there remains plenty of work to be done ahead of the Utes’ Aug. 31 season opener vs. Florida.

Whittingham said his biggest takeaway from last week’s scrimmage is that Utah needs to be far more crisp on one side of the ball.

“We’re not where we need to be offensively — the execution wasn’t as good as it needed to be,” he said. “It was the first extensive live work, so there’s no panic mode yet. But we’ve got to see improvement two days from now when we have our second live scrimmage on Thursday.”