Nov 18, 2023; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (middle) on the field during warms ups with quarterback Bryson Barnes (16), quarterback Nate Johnson (13) and quarterback Luke Bottari (15) at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Stuck behind 7th-year QB Cam Rising, Utah QBs hit portal

Utah quarterbacks Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson are entering the transfer portal with the planned return of Cameron Rising for his seventh college season in 2024.

Barnes has two years of eligibility remaining and started his college career as a walk-on. Barnes started nine games in 2023 with Rising recovering from multiple torn knee ligaments.

Barnes posted a 6-3 record in 2023 with 1,517 passing yards, 12 touchdown passes with nine interceptions. He added three rushing touchdowns.

A coveted recruit who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at Elite 11 QB Camp as a high school junior, Johnson picked Utah over Michigan in 2021.

He has three years of eligibility left and had 499 passing yards and 235 rushing yards in 2023.

Head coach Kyle Whittinham was informed of Johnson’s decision in November after Rising decided he would play at Utah for another season. Rising turns 25 in May 2024.

“We appreciate what he did for our program while he was here and he’s a fine young man and wish him nothing but the best,” Whittingham said of Johnson.

Utah is scheduled to face Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 23.

A two-time Pac-12 champion, Rising suffered a torn ACL in his knee against Penn State in the Rose Bowl in January 2023. At one point, while expected to potentially make a debut in 2023, Rising later revealed that he also tore an MCL and damaged two other ligaments, necessitating a longer recovery.

Rising had 46 total TD passes and threw for more than 5,500 yards in leading Utah to identical 10-4 records in 2021 and 2022.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cam Rising reacts against the Southern California Trojans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

QB Cam Rising returning to Utah in 2024

Utah quarterback Cam Rising, who missed the 2023 season for the Utes due to a knee injury, announced on social media that he will return for the 2024 season.

A two-time Pac-12 champion as the Utes’ signal-caller, Rising suffered a torn ACL in his knee against Penn State in the Rose Bowl in January.

At one point expected to potentially make a debut in 2023, Rising later revealed that he also tore an MCL and damaged two other ligaments, necessitating a longer recovery.

Rising threw for a combined 46 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards in leading Utah to identical 10-4 records in 2021 and 2022.

The Utes (7-4) have struggled on offense without Rising this fall, ranking 12th in the Pac-12 in passing offense and 10th in scoring.

–Field Level Media

Sep 29, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Nate Johnson (13) scrambles under pressure from Oregon State Beavers defensive back Kitan Oladapo (28) during the second half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Amid QB woes, No. 16 Utah hosts Cal

The availability of Utah quarterback Cameron Rising remains the burning question as the No. 16 Utes prepare to host Cal in a Pac-12 Conference game Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Rising was the MVP of the Pac-12 title game last season but then suffered a significant knee injury against Penn State during the Rose Bowl and needed surgery to repair a torn ACL, meniscus and MCL.

He has seemed to be on the cusp of returning since early in the season, but the senior has yet to play.

“It was a big surgery, and it’s not an easy comeback,” Rising said last week. “I’ve been working my tail off.”

Rising has been doing drills with the Utes in recent weeks, and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has deemed him questionable before games, but each time the quarterback has remained in street clothes.

Whittingham plans to make a decision on Rising earlier than normal leading up to the visit from Cal, but he said he doesn’t intend to reveal his decision.

“If someone can give me one reason why it would help us win more to announce it, then I’ll tell you,” Whittingham said. “I can’t think of one thing.”

If Rising is unable to play, freshman Nate Johnson likely will get another opportunity. He struggled two weeks ago in Utah’s most recent game, a 21-7 loss to Oregon State, completing just 8 of 23 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball nine times for just 3 yards.

Johnson was replaced by Bryson Barnes after starting the game 3-for-12 for 35 yards, but Barnes absorbed a big hit in the fourth quarter and was briefly hospitalized with an undisclosed injury after finishing 5-for-8 for 40 yards.

Another freshman, Brandon Rose, was expected to battle for the backup spot this season, but he suffered an undisclosed injury during a scrimmage before the season and remains unavailable.

Utah (4-1, 1-1) won its first four games of the season before falling to Oregon State. The 21 points surrendered were the most allowed by the Utes this season and the fewest scored by Oregon State.

Cal (3-3, 1-2) has alternated wins and losses this season. The Golden Bears also are coming off a loss to Oregon State, but they made things interesting in the 52-40 defeat in Berkeley, Calif., last week.

Cal trailed by just three points at the start of the fourth quarter before surrendering 17 consecutive points.

“We’ll find out where the defenders are come next week, because boy — and this is not taking anything away from Oregon State because I really do think those guys do a great job coaching — but, man, ooh, that was bad defense right there by us,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said.

Cal has used three starting quarterbacks this season but is expected to come back with freshman Fernando Mendoza, who completed 21 of 32 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception, in his first college start last weekend.

“He was not perfect but brought energy to the game. You could tell the tempo on offense was different,” Wilcox said. “He threw the ball pretty well, he made some plays with his feet. Overall, I’m very pleased with what Fernando did for his first start in that environment against that defense.”

–Field Level Media

Aug 31, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7), out with an injury warms his quarterback up at halftime against the Florida Gators at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

No. 12 Utah hopes Cameron Rising returns for trip to Baylor

No. 12 Utah hopes to have some of its injured players back in action — perhaps even quarterback Cameron Rising — as it travels to Waco, Texas, to play battered and ego-bruised Baylor on Saturday.

This will be the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between the two programs.

The Utes (1-0) waylaid Florida 24-11 at home last Thursday, using the combination of backup quarterbacks Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson to do just enough on offense to beat the Gators.

Barnes passed for 159 yards, including a 70-yard TD to Money Parks on the Utes’ first play from scrimmage, and ran for another score. Johnson pitched in 51 total yards (45 of them rushing) and a touchdown.

Rising has been cleared for full contact after rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in last year’s Rose Bowl game. His status for Baylor will be determined by game time. He was one of eight players from the Utes’ projected two-deep roster to miss the Florida game with an injury.

“It was a good win for our program on Thursday night,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday. “We certainly played a lot better on defense than we did in the previous year (against Florida), and that was really the storyline of the game.”

Utah’s defense held Florida to just 1-for-13 on third-down conversions and 13 yards on the ground. The Utes also amassed five sacks, seven tackles for loss and an interception in the dominating defensive performance.

“We will move on to another Power Five program in Baylor this week,” Whittingham said. “We are very confident that they are going to be a much-improved team between Week 1 and Week 2. … So, we are going to have to play exceptionally well and have a great week of preparation just like we have to every single week.”

The Bears (0-1) are licking their wounds after a stunning 42-31 loss to Texas State at home last Saturday. Baylor racked up 524 yards of total offense despite losing starting quarterback Blake Shapen to a knee injury midway through the fourth quarter.

By the time he was forced to the sideline, Shapen had thrown for 303 yards and two TDs and ran for another score. He was replaced by Mississippi State transfer Sawyer Robertson, who threw for 113 yards on the Bears’ final two drives before both ended in turnovers.

Baylor coach Dave Aranda said Monday that Shapen would miss 2-3 weeks with an MCL sprain. He also ruled out starting safety Devin Lemear due to an elbow injury.

“We’re working through those injuries, and we’ll be with those guys as they rehab and get back into playing shape and all of it,” Aranda added. “(I’m) excited about the guys we’ve got and looking forward to their efforts this week.”

Aranda said he expected improvement across the board from his team and added that it would be especially needed from the offensive line.

“It’s going to be demanded that we improve,” Aranda said. “I feel like from that hard lesson that we had Saturday, moving forward throughout the week, that we’ll see some good improvement.”

Saturday’s game is the second of four at home to start the season for the Bears. Baylor has eight home contests on its schedule in 2023.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; A general view of the football helmet worn by the Utah Utes against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Four-star QB Isaac Wilson, brother of Zach, commits to Utah

Isaac Wilson, a four-star quarterback prospect in the Class of 2024 and the brother of New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, committed to Utah on Wednesday night.

The younger Wilson is the No. 22-ranked quarterback in his class, according to the 247Sports composite. He also held offers from Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Miami and Oregon.

The Draper, Utah native chose the Utes over rival BYU, where Zach Wilson grew his stock as an NFL prospect. Zach Wilson was the second overall pick in the 2021 draft by the Jets, but he enters his third season No. 2 on the depth chart behind newly acquired Aaron Rodgers.

Isaac Wilson is listed at 6-foot, 190 pounds. He is entering his senior year at Corner Canyon High School.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Harrison Wallace III (6) makes a catch against Utah Utes safety R.J. Hubert (11) in the second half of the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 11 Penn State pulls away from No. 8 Utah to win Rose Bowl

Sean Clifford passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns, Nicholas Singleton rushed for 120 yards and two scores and No. 11 Penn State dominated the second half while defeating No. 8 Utah 35-21 in the Rose Bowl on Monday at Pasadena, Calif.

The Nittany Lions (11-2) became the first team in Rose Bowl history to have multiple touchdown plays from scrimmage of more than 80 yards in the same game. Singleton rushed 87 yards for a TD in the third quarter, and Clifford teamed up with KeAndre Lambert-Smith on an 88-yard scoring pass in the fourth.

Kaytron Allen added a rushing touchdown and Mitchell Tinsley caught a scoring reception for Penn State, which scored the first 21 points of a rainy second half.

Quarterback Cameron Rising departed for the Utes (10-4) due to a left knee injury in the third quarter and didn’t return. He completed 8 of 21 passes for 95 yards, one touchdown and one interception and rushed for 47 yards on 10 attempts.

It marked the second straight Rose Bowl in which Rising was knocked out of the contest with an injury. He sustained a head injury in the fourth quarter of the Utes’ 48-45 loss to Ohio State in last year’s game.

Bryson Barnes replaced Rising and completed 10 of 19 passes for 112 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed for a touchdown, and Thomas Yassmin and Jaylen Dixon had scoring receptions.

Penn State was backed up in its own end in a tie game when Singleton broke free on a third-and-2 play for his 87-yard run, the third-longest in Rose Bowl history. Singleton was in the clear by his own 30-yard line en route to giving his team a 21-14 lead with 9:25 left in the third quarter.

Rising was injured on Utah’s next drive after scrambling 9 yards for a first down with 8:31 left.

The Nittany Lions went for the other big strike on the first play of the final stanza to take a 14-point lead. Lambert-Smith managed to get wide open in the Utah secondary and Clifford hit him for the 88-yard score that was the longest pass play in Rose Bowl history.

Penn State increased the lead to 35-14 when Allen scored from the 1 with 10:36 left in the game. Barnes and Dixon teamed up on a late 5-yard touchdown pass for the Utes.

Earlier, Singleton scored the game’s first points on a 5-yard run with seven seconds left in the first quarter.

Utah tied the game when Rising hit Yassmin on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 7:55 left in the first half. Clifford tossed a 10-yard scoring pass to Tinsley to give Penn State a 14-7 lead with 4:47 remaining until the break before Jackson scored on a 19-yard run to tie it at 14 with 2:38 left.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Utah Utes tight end Brant Kuithe (80) celebrates after he scores a touchdown against the Florida Gators during the first quarter at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Utah loses TE Brant Kuithe (knee) for rest of season

No. 12 Utah has lost tight end Brant Kuithe for the rest of the season, coach Kyle Whittingham confirmed Monday.

The senior exited with an apparent knee injury in the first half of Saturday’s 34-13 win at Arizona State.

Kuithe has 19 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns in four games this season.

He was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2021 with 50 receptions for 611 yards and six scores.

The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Texas native has 148 catches for 1,882 yards and 16 TDs in 51 career games at Utah.

The Utes (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) host Oregon State (3-1, 0-1) on Saturday afternoon in Salt Lake City.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Solomon Enis (21) scores a touchdown against San Diego State Aztecs cornerback Dallas Branch (12) in the second quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Utah breezes past San Diego State, 35-7

Cameron Rising threw four touchdowns as No. 14 Utah cruised to a 35-7 win over visiting San Diego State on Saturday night in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rising completed 18 of 30 passes for 224 yards while Tavion Thomas added 59 yards and a touchdown on the ground for Utah (2-1).

In what was a brutal night offensively for the Aztecs (1-2), quarterbacks Braxton Burmeister, Kyle Crum and Will Haskell combined for just 60 yards and one touchdown through the air on 7-for-21 passing.

Jaylon Armstead chipped in 31 yards on five carries, and Joshua Nicholson hauled in two catches for 23 yards and the Aztecs’ lone touchdown.

San Diego State struggled to muster enough momentum to break into enemy territory, as its first nine drives came up short of the 50. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Aztecs had a real scoring opportunity, driving 49 yards in eight plays to the Utes 26.

However, SDSU couldn’t convert a fourth-and-5, suffocating its chance at points.

But the Aztecs wouldn’t be shut out for much longer, as Krum threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Nicholson with 3:56 left to play to make it 35-7.

Two drives after Rising’s pass to Micah Bernard on fourth-and-3 was incomplete, Utah was finally able to break the scoreless tie with 8:59 left in the second quarter.

Rising redeemed himself, throwing for 75 of the 77 yards on the Utes’ seven-play drive that was capped off by Brant Kuithe’s 30-yard touchdown reception.

That score opened up the floodgates, as Rising went on to throw two more touchdowns before half’s end. He connected with Solomon Enis for a 13-yard score before finding Devaughn Vele from 15 yards out to send Utah into the break with a 21-0 lead.

San Diego State managed just 43 yards of total offense through the first 30 minutes of action.

The Utes found the end zone twice in the third. Thomas had an 18-yard rushing score and Rising connected with Vele once again to make it 35-0.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) is congratulated  by wide receiver Justin Shorter (4) and wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (1) as he scored a touchdown during the second quarter at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Richardson leads Florida to upset over No. 7 Utah

Anthony Richardson made a sensational season-opening statement, propelling host Florida to a 29-26 upset win over No. 7 Utah and delivering Billy Napier a win in his debut as Gators coach Saturday night in Gainesville, Fla.

In his second career start, Richardson showed his poise with a mistake-free performance. His game-winning 1-yard scoring carry with 1:25 left was his third touchdown run of the night. Richardson completed 17 of 24 passes for 168 yards and carried 11 times for 104 yards.

In the final minute, Cameron Rising had Utah on the verge of a win as he drove the Utes to the Gators 6. But Amari Burney made a diving interception in the end zone to seal the win.

Rising completed 22 of 32 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown, while teammate Tavion Thomas carried 23 times for 115 yards and a touchdown for the Utes.

Montrell Johnson Jr., a transfer from Louisiana who followed Napier to Florida, carried 12 times for 77 yards and a touchdown as he made amends for a fumble on the Gators’ first possession that set up a Utah touchdown.

Richardson’s final touchdown carry capped a 75-yard drive, which was highlighted by a 21-yard run by Trevor Etienne, who fumbled at the end of the carry but recovered the loose ball to keep the Gators’ hopes alive.

The march came after Utah had taken a 26-22 lead on a 4-yard touchdown carry by Thomas with 6:26 to go.

Utah took the early lead as Rising threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brant Kuithe for a 7-0 lead.

Florida retaliated with a 14-play, 63-yard drive, which Richardson capped with a 2-yard touchdown carry moments after converting on 4th-and-2 with a 14-yard pass in the flat to Johnson.

After Utah made field goals on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, Richardson scrambled out of the pocket and broke into the clear on a 45-yard touchdown run to give the Gators a 14-13 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, Rising directed an 89-yard drive, capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Micah Bernard, which put the Utes up 19-14. In the march, Rising improvised for a 26-yard scramble and completed a 37-yard strike to Kuithe.

Florida retaliated with a touchdown drive led by Johnson, who carried for two first downs before scoring on a 14-yard run with 12:48 to go.

–Field Level Media

Apr 23, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes junior quarterback Cameron Rising (7) looks to throw the ball in the first quarter of the Utah Spring Football Game at Rice   Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Utah looks to prove itself at Florida

Intriguing questions abound as No. 7 Utah travels to Florida for a prime-time matchup on Saturday night.

Can the Utes’ loaded defense derail the hype train for Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson? Will underdog Florida deliver head coach Billy Napier a win in his Gators debut?

Can defending Pac-12 champion Utah withstand the literal and figurative heat in Florida’s raucous, sold out Swamp?

As for Richardson, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound sophomore is projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He also has one career start. With his elite arm talent and 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, some have compared Richardson to Cam Newton. But Napier is trying to temper the expectations.

“I know we all want to put a crown on his head,” Napier said. “I think the guy’s completed 33 passes in his career, right? The great quarterbacks at the University of Florida, they completed 33 in one game. We’ve got work to do there.”

Napier, a former Clemson and Alabama assistant who went 40-12 the last four years at Louisiana, has created much buzz in Gainesville after replacing four-year coach Dan Mullen, who went 6-7 last fall.

From his previous stop, Napier brought his top running back, Montrell Johnson (891 total yards, 12 touchdowns), adding to a deep backfield, and his top blocker, O’Cyrus Torrence, to join three returning starters on a formidable offensive line.

Edge rusher Brenton Cox, who had 14.5 tackles for a loss last season, leads a defense that will be guided by another Louisiana import, co-coordinator Patrick Toney. The unit needs a major revamp. Its low point last year was surrendering 52 points in a shootout win over FCS Samford.

A season in transition usually calls for a cupcake opener. The Gators get anything but in the Utes, however, who went 10-4 last year and with 17 starters back are the pick to repeat as the conference champions.

Leading the offense are Pac-12 first-teamers in quarterback Cameron Rising (20 touchdowns, five interceptions) and running back Tavion Thomas (1,108 rushing yards, 21 touchdowns).

Also back is a veteran offensive line and five of Utah’s top six receivers, including tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid who combined for 1,121 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The defense is formidable with a pair of huge, run-stuffing linemen, a secondary full of NFL prospects and a linebacker, Mohamoud Diabate, who had 89 tackles last year at Florida.

While the atmosphere at the Swamp will bear little resemblance to that in arid Ogden, at least one of the Utes knows what to expect.

“Nothing compares to it,” Diabate said. “It’ll be a great environment, a great opportunity.”

It’s also a chance for Utah to show it can win on the road, which was a sticking point from last year when its losses came at BYU, at San Diego State, at Oregon State and in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.

“When you have a chance to go down to SEC country, play a storied program like Florida, it’s important for the Pac-12 to make noise on the national scene,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We have to make the most of it.”

–Field Level Media