Sizing Up Utah’s Quarterback Room Following Two Incoming Transfers
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah’s quarterback room became deep and talented in less than 24 hours.
Utes fans were wondering what the position would look like in 2021 after Jake Bentley was benched late in the second quarter and Cam Rising suffered a season-ending injury early in the second quarter of their season opener against USC.
Utah signed just one quarterback in their 2021 signing class. With Bentley being benched and Drew Lisk possibly leaving, the depth at quarterback didn’t look promising.
That changed on Saturday night when 4-star dual threat quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson decided to transfer from Texas to Utah. Then on Sunday afternoon, Baylor QB Charlie Brewer chose Utah after entering the transfer portal last week.
When head coach Kyle Whittingham met with the media on Thursday morning to discuss his 2021 signing class, he mentioned the need to bolster the quarterback room. Specifically if Bentley doesn’t return as well as Lisk and with Cam Rising out for spring ball. Costelli would be the only QB on scholarship that would be available for spring ball.
“That would mean that if nothing changes between now and then,” Whittingham said. “But I’m going to tell you, there’s a really good likelihood that we will continue to try to address that position. That would be worst case scenario. I don’t think we’re going to get to worst case scenario, I think we’re going to be able to have a good situation by spring ball. But yeah, transfers is the other avenue, obviously. That would probably be more likely to go that route.”
Now that the QB position is full, here are some scenarios to look for heading into the 2021 season.
Going into the 2020 season, it really said something that redshirt sophomore Cam Rising beat out SEC veteran quarterback Jake Bentley for the starting job. Rising showed some signs of promise and potential in the very limited time he played against USC before going out with a season-ending injury. The Texas transfer had surgery on his shoulder. Typically, shoulder injuries can be tricky.
Since Rising didn’t burn a year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Utes could play it safe and allow Rising’s shoulder more time to heal. Utah’s quarterback battle in spring and fall camp will already be intriguing and competitive but it will get really interesting during fall camp if Rising is going to try and give it a go.
Justice is a walk-on quarterback that didn’t see playing time in 2020. He is also a baseball pitcher but seems to be more of a “third string QB” type of player that would be used in emergencies. Although, it is an advantage to be a really good pitcher and a quarterback. But, it’s unknown where Justice will put his energy to, football or baseball.
Costelli has been pegged in the past as Utah’s future at quarterback. The four-star signal caller from Mission Viejo, California, did not have a high school football season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That will hurt Costelli but the positive is that he will enroll in January and will start getting acquainted with Andy Ludwig’s offense and his teammates 7 months before camp.
On top of that, Costelli will be available for spring ball if the pandemic will allow a spring ball to be played. That experience is massive for any freshman joining a program because it allows the coaches to develop the player and it speeds up the process.
Coming out of Duncanville High School in Duncanville, Texas, Jackson was a four-star recruit. He was the No. 10 ranked prospect in the state of Texas and the third highest rated dual threat quarterback in the nation.
Watching his film from high school, Jackson is a very good runner. Can break tackles, out-run defenders and has good football IQ. He showed glimpse’s of his throwing but that is probably not among his strengths as he transitions to the college game. Jackson is the type of play that can have certain packages created for him if he doesn’t win the starting QB job and sticks with the position.
Brewer has all the experience you want in a quarterback. Starting four seasons for a Big 12 team and leading the program to an 11-3 season in 2019 which included a trip to the Sugar Bowl is huge. Brewer will be one of the favorites to start the 2021 season but if he doesn’t win the job, just having his leadership and experience around the young quarterbacks for a season will be extremely beneficial not just for the 2021 season but for years to come.
When Bentley announced that he was committing to Utah, many thought he would be the starter for the Utes. That eventually happened but it took the original starter getting injured for Bentley to become the starting signal caller. The South Carolina transfer had some bright moments in the five games that he played.
But, I don’t see Bentley in the cards for Utah in 2021. With the incoming talent at QB, there just isn’t a spot for him. Frankly, I think Bentley will see the writing on the wall after getting benched in the second quarter against Washington State and now having three quarterbacks coming in via the transfer portal or recruiting.
I would be shocked if Bentley returns to Utah for the 2021 season.
You couldn’t ask more from Drew Lisk that he hasn’t already given the program. He had to wait until his senior year at Jordan High School to shine as the starting quarterback. Then he went to Utah as a walk-on. After earning a scholarship, Lisk worked his way up to eventually being Tyler Huntley’s backup for most games in 2019. Then he was the No. 3 QB in 2020 when the season started before being promoted to backup when Rising went out for the year.
Lisk is the ultimate competitor who has been patient through high school and college. He also has a couple of college degrees according to coach Whittingham. Having Lisk return in 2021 would provide leadership and he would be a mentor in the QB room. I don’t see it in the cards and Whittingham didn’t think Lisk would come back either.
The perfect way to go out on top in your football career for Lisk by entering the game late in the second quarter of the final regular season game, trailing by 21 points and leading the team to a 45-28 comeback win.
The legend of Drew Lisk.