Utah’s Cam Rising, Brant Kuithe shut down for the season

Utes’ star quarterback and tight end are both ruled out from a return to action in 2023 owing to serious knee injuries.

(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.

Los Angeles • The “will they or won’t they” drama is finally over.

Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham capped an already wild night Saturday at the Memorial Coliseum with yet another bombshell, revealing after the Utes’ stunning 34-32 win against USC that quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe have been ruled out from returning this season.

Utah had hoped to get both players back from serious knee injuries, but with the season now more than half over, and neither player ready to go, the team’s medical staff made the call.

“Cam and Kuithe are shut down for the year, for the rest of the season. So that hopefulness each week is no longer. [It was] a medical decision to just shut them down,” Whittingham said postgame.

There had been increasing speculation that ending the 2023 season for both and subsequently pursuing medical redshirts could be an option.

Whittingham said earlier in the week that such conversations had not happened, but were a possibility. Then on Saturday morning, ESPN’s Pete Thamel noted that Bryson Barnes would be starting the USC game for the Utes, and that a medical redshirt for Rising, at least, was viewed as increasingly likely.

That’ll be up to the players, of course, to decide if they want to pursue that option with the NCAA.

“Don’t know what the future holds exactly for each of them. But when they’re ready to talk about that, they’ll be the ones to do that,” Whittingham said. “That decision is not made right now, that’s the next thing to happen. They’ve got a lot of options. As far as I’m aware … they should both get the extra year, but we don’t make that decision. That’s an NCAA decision, but that should preserve the year because they’re season-ending injuries.”

Kuithe suffered a torn ACL in Week 4 of the 2022 season for the Utes. Rising, meanwhile, was injured in the team’s Rose Bowl loss to Penn State in early January. Both players’ lack of availability this season became a source of increasing concern and speculation for a fanbase anxious about its offensive reinforcements’ continued absences.

Whittingham said during fall camp that Rising could potentially be a game-time call for the season opener against Florida. It appears he never got close to actually playing.

What was presumed to be “just” a torn ACL was actually much worse, with Rising revealing during a midseason radio interview that in addition to the ACL, he also tore his MCL, MPFL, and meniscus, thus leading to a more difficult rehab.

(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.

When asked Saturday to clarify the decision-making process that resulted in both players now being ruled out for the entirety of this season, Whittingham reiterated that it was all up to the doctors.

“Yep, a medical decision. Just, ‘Hey, we’re six games in, they’re not ready to play,’” he said. “We’ve been hoping for ’em each week, but the medical staff was the ones who made that call. And we’re not going to question that at all. That’s just not how we operate. So it was a medical decision for the rest of the year — it’s probably the safest thing to do for them, gives them the best chance to get back to 100%. So I’m 100% on board with that.”

That wasn’t the extent of the bad news on the injury front, though.

Whittingham confirmed reports that tight end Thomas Yassmin would be undergoing surgery, and that his college career was over.

Beyond that, the Utes suffered another huge blow Saturday with a star defender going out.

“We lost Lander Barton for the rest of the season tonight. Big part of our defense, terrific player — he’s out,” said Whittingham. “… Levani Damuni will be the starting linebacker next to Karene Reid, and now it’s his opportunity to step up and show what he can do.”

Barton was observed in a walking boot at the end of Saturday’s game.