Utah QB Battle Heating Up As Team Is Close To Narrowing List To Two
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah currently has three players battling for the starting quarterback position.
With the team putting on shoulder pads on Monday and Tuesday before going full pads beginning on Wednesday, the quarterback battle is going to heat up. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said last week that he wanted to narrow the QB battle to two guys about one week into camp. Then have the two battle for another week before naming the starter.
Meeting with the media on Monday morning, Whittingham said he wants to cut the competition to two quarterbacks after the scrimmage on Saturday.
“That would be the plan,” Whittingham said. “Yeah, I don’t think we are going to see enough separation in the first four days, five days, I could be wrong, but really our mindset is giving equal opportunity through the first scrimmage, then narrow down to two and as we’ve talked about several times, to this point and get to get into one within a short period of time after that and let that starter – whoever ends up being the starter – have the opportunity to get the vast majority of the reps and working with the one’s.”
Let’s take a look at each of the quarterbacks that are currently competing for the starting job in fall camp.
Bentley has been with Utah’s program the least amount of time compared to the other two quarterbacks. He is a graduate transfer from South Carolina. After starting for three years with the Gamecocks, Bentley has the most game experience among the three. Bentley is looking at the long off-season as an opportunity to get familiar with the offense.
“I think it’s been a mixed bag of emotions,” Bentley mentioned. “For me, I think the news originally came out (fall sports postponed) I was thinking fall or even next spring and thinking, ‘man I have to wait even longer to get back on the field,’ you know being last year having to wait and everything. So that was kind of disappointing but also was a positive too. It gave me more time to really dive deep in the offense and really get to learn that and get a firm grasp on whatever coach wants to do offensively. So, you know, it’s been a weird kind of emotional deal the past couple months. But I think that, as a team, we’ve made most of it, I’ve made the most of it and it’s been a really productive time for us as a team.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andy Ludwig is impressed with how Bentley is getting the offense down.
“He’s done a really nice job,” Ludwig said. “He’s a football junkie and I thought even in the short opportunity he had in March with the three practices in spring ball that he showed a quick take to what we’re doing offensively. But he’s a guy that has made the absolute most of this unique time in history, and the pandemic and taking advantage of every opportunity that he’s had to not only learn the offense but learn his teammates and develop chemistry with those guys. So the other thing I would note with Jake is that he is moving so much better now in October than he was in March coming off that injury from his previous season there at South Carolina. So we’re really excited about the progress he’s made physically as well as mentally in terms of adapting to the Utah football offense.”
While at South Carolina, Bentley threw for 7,527 yards, 55 touchdowns and 32 interceptions in 34 games played from 2016-19. He suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener in 2019.
Rising has been with the program for one season but had to sit out the 2019 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules. He is a transfer from Texas. Still to play his first down in college football, Rising has a high ceiling and could very well be the future for the Utes at quarterback.
“I mean, it definitely opened my eyes to seeing what it was like to be with the with the twos and even getting a few reps in some of the other things that we do with the ones, just give me valuable reps that that I took advantage of every time. Hopefully it’s starting to show in fall camp,” Rising said.
Ludwig thinks that Rising has an advantage having been in the press box with him during home games in 2019.
“Cam has been around us for a year and he’s been in a press box you know last season so we’ve seen some things from a unique perspective,” Ludwig mentioned. “I believe it does give him an edge just again, there’s a familiarity not only with the system, but with myself. But I think that again, now thatit seems like Bentley’s been here forever. The thing that they both have in common is that they neither one of them have ever taken a snap as a Utah football quarterback on game day. So that’s kind of the great equalizer right there. But I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys on the field today. Not that I haven’t seen him for the last two months. But things are changing now and it’s gonna be a little bit different when we take the field today as opposed to when we did in the middle of August.”
Many don’t talk about Drew Lisk and what he brings to the quarterback room. During bowl preparation last year, Lisk was contemplating leaving the program since he already graduated and spent four years with the program but still had one year of eligibility remaining. He was asked what made him return to the Utes.
“A lot went into it,” Lisk said. “At the end of the day just decided this program’s done nothing but great things for me. It was four great years before this. I just didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to sit here. So happy to be here. more than happy to be here and even happier now that we get to play this fall.”
With Tyler Huntley as the starter along with Lisk and Jason Shelley serving as the backups, Lisk was primarily the backup QB except in running situations. When the Utes needed to chew up the clock, that’s when Shelley would enter the game. In 2019, Lisk appeared in three games, completing seven of his nine pass attempts for 52 yards.
Regardless of what happens with the quarterback battle, Lisk will be supportive of whomever wins the job.
“I mean, we’re gonna have to right, we’re the players, they are the coaches, but you know, we’re gonna show up every day, regardless of when the decisions are made, what decisions are made, I think all three of us are confident,” Lisk stated. “I don’t think our confidence is going to waver from one day to another. So I fully expect all three of us to show up every day, ready to compete, and ready to go out and do what we do best. So I would expect nothing but the best from all three of us.”