Kyle Whittingham Not Announcing Utah’s Starting QB Until Game Week
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The biggest and most highly anticipated question in Utah’s fall camp won’t be answered for at least two weeks.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham told the media throughout the first week and a half of fall camp that they will need to decide on a starting quarterback quickly so that they can get most of the reps with the one’s.
Going into camp, Utah had three guys competing for the job, including Jake Bentley, Cameron Rising and Drew Lisk. After their first scrimmage on Saturday, Whittingham wanted the list narrowed to two competitors.
On Monday, Whittingham was asked who the two guys remaining in the battle were following the scrimmage.
“No, we’re not going to make any definitive announcement on that,” Whittingham said. “Even with the starter until game week, and so how far into game week is, we’ll talk about that. Maybe the Monday of game week, maybe Wednesday or Thursday, we’ll just keep that to ourselves. Because really no reason to tip your hand. None at all. It doesn’t make any sense doesn’t provide us any advantage and so that’s how I’ll handle it.”
Fans and the media will have to continue to speculate on who the starter will be when the Utes begin the 2020 season on Saturday, November 7 at Rice-Eccles Stadium against Arizona.
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.”
Before training camp started, 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.
Before camp, Ludwig thought that Rising had 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.
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