Could medical redshirts be a possibility for Utah’s Cam Rising, Brant Kuithe?

With the Utes’ star quarterback and tight end yet to play, there is a pathway for them to return in 2024 if they want. But head coach Kyle Whittingham said the option has not yet been discussed.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah tight end Brant Kuithe second from right, shares a laugh with quarterback Cam Rising at Utah Pro Day Thursday at the Eccles Field House, March 23, 2023.

With the Utah football team’s 2023 regular season half over, and star players Cam Rising and Brant Kuithe yet to take the field on account of injuries, some Utes fans have begun to wonder if the quarterback and tight end will wind up playing at all this year.

For that matter, head coach Kyle Whittingham is apparently now wondering the same thing.

“Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s just a situation [where] we’re just waiting week after week for a thumbs up. Here we are at the midpoint, so, I don’t want to say the clock is ticking, but …” Whittingham said, trailing off. “We would love to have either or both those guys back as soon as possible. But again, it’s just a waiting game, and waiting for the go-ahead, waiting for the green light.”

With their status still up in the air, some have begun to wonder: Is it a possibility that they could get a medical redshirt and return for the 2024 season?

Turns out, it is theoretically possible, even though it would technically be a seventh season of college football for each.

Rising in particular would be helped by a relatively recent rule change.

“It used to be in years past if you voluntarily redshirted and then had an injury, you didn’t get a year back, but now, you can get a medical year back no matter why you redshirted in the past,” Whittingham explained. “I shouldn’t say ‘no matter why’ — they call it a ‘coach’s decision,’ which every redshirt is a coach’s decision. And so it is a possibility.”

Rising redshirted the 2018 season while at Texas, then sat out 2019 after transferring to Utah, so under the old system, he would have been ineligible for a medical redshirt. But those rules are gone.

The QB played just one game in 2020 before suffering a season-ending injury. He played 13 games apiece in 2021 and ‘22, but suffered a severe knee injury in the season-ending Rose Bowl this past January, tearing his ACL, MCL, meniscus, and MPFL.

Kuithe, meanwhile, has never had a redshirt season, though he has been granted extra years of eligibility based on number of games played.

He played in all 14 games in 2018, and did the same in 2019. Based on the 2020 season being limited to just five games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was granted another year of eligibility. He then played all 14 games in 2021, but because he played fewer than five games in 2022 (he suffered a torn ACL in the fourth game of the season), yet another year of eligibility was granted.

Whittingham said that if Rising and Kuithe were to continue sitting out and become eligible to apply for a medical redshirt season, it would be a virtual certainty that it would be granted.

“Well, if they don’t play at all, they will get the year,” he said. “It’s a slam dunk — it’s pretty much a slam dunk nowadays in the NCAA if you have a medical that kept you out for the whole season, or before the fifth game. I shouldn’t say slam dunk, but 99%.”

It would also be a matter of whether Rising or Kuithe wanted to return for another year. Rising would be 25 next season and Kuithe turns 24 in December.

So then, has the possibility been discussed within the confines of the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center?

“Not yet. It hasn’t really been talked about at length or in detail, but certainly that is something that is one way this thing could break,” Whittingham said. “So we’ll see what happens.”