Utah QB Cam Rising feels ‘pretty damn good.’ But will he play vs. Florida?

The quarterback’s availability for Thursday’s season opener against Florida remains in doubt, as does that of tight end Brant Kuithe, who was scratched from Monday’s media session.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Cam Rising wraps up a practice on Monday Aug. 28, 2023, ahead of their season opener against Florida this week.

In the Utah football team’s final media availability ahead of Thursday’s season opener against Florida, injured quarterback Cam Rising was exuberant and energetic.

He was also — unsurprisingly — a bit cryptic.

Asked about his physical condition Monday evening at the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center, Rising (who is making his way back from a torn ACL suffered in the Rose Bowl) cheekily declared, “I feel pretty damn good right now.”

When queried on if the starting QB job against the Gators was still likely to be a game-time decision, with head coach Kyle Whittingham’s “10 minutes before kickoff” quip from last week revisited, Rising playfully tweaked the timeline to something even more extreme.

“Maybe seven minutes,” he said, eliciting laughs.

For what it’s worth, Whittingham did clarify earlier Wednesday that the quarterback decision was unlikely to match the drama of last year’s Washington State game, when Bryson Barnes was informed that the gig was his less than an hour before kickoff.

Still, the coach once again claimed that it was the lack of a concrete decision as yet, and not simple gamesmanship to keep Florida guessing, behind the “who will it be?” drama of the week.

Gators coach Billy Napier said during his media availability this past Friday that his team would not be caught off-guard whether the Utes wind up deploying Rising, Barnes, or redshirt freshman Nate Johnson, whom Whittingham promised would appear at least in sub-packages if he doesn’t wind up starting.

“We’re preparing for all of the above is what I would say. I do think they have very capable players,” said Napier. “But we got to see Cam live and in person. Certainly know Cam and his family, a ton of respect for him as a person. But as a competitor, leader, football player, you know, he’s a real quarterback. We’re doing all the homework we can here but there are really some unique players at quarterback they have on the roster that cause you to really evaluate all the scenarios that could happen. I know our defensive staff has been working on that.”

While Rising (who appeared as QB1 on Friday’s depth chart) made an appearance alongside fellow captains Cole Bishop and Karene Reid, as well as veteran wideout Devaughn Vele, one captain conspicuously absent from the media scrum was tight end Brant Kuithe.

Utah’s PR staff said previously during fall camp that Kuithe would not be made available for an appearance until he’d been cleared for action, so his appearance in a Sunday night email from the PR team, listed as one of the players who would be speaking, was notable.

Kuithe, however, was pulled from the availability. Like Rising, Kuithe is working his way back from a torn ACL, though his occurred several months before Rising’s did, in Week 4 of the ’22 season.

While tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham expressed optimism on the opening day of fall camp, July 31, that Kuithe would be practicing that day and fully good to go by the season opener, Monday’s development would seem to cast doubt on his readiness for Thursday’s game.