PK: Looking At Future Of Utah Football Past Rose Bowl Game

Dec 31, 2022, 2:40 PM
Cam Rising - Utah Utes - Rose Bowl Game...
Cam Rising #7 of the Utah Utes rushes for a touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second quarter in the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

PASADENA, Calif. – Perhaps nobody has given a better recommendation of Utah football than linebacker Mohamoud Diabate did during his interview session in the media tent outside the Rose Bowl on a rainy Saturday.

After playing in 37 games with 17 starts at Florida the last three years, Diabate was looking for a program that could enhance his skills to an NFL-ready caliber. A college football junkie, he knew full well of Utah’s reputation and had no problem venturing west.

“I came to Utah because I knew I was going to be a better player and how to become a better player – not just be a good player but how to become an even better player,” Diabate said. “They’re not teaching you how to be a talented guy, they’re teaching you how to take your talents and be maximized. That’s something I wanted to be taught.”

Diabate admits he probably would not have picked Utah coming out of high school. But maturity through life experiences provided a different outlook that allowed him to focus on his priorities.

Once Utah coaches reached out through the transfer portal, Diabate quickly realized coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff would help him realize his potential

“I knew coach Whittingham had a stable and solid environment,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to be here.”

Competition In Spring May Be Hot

Either Utah will have a hotly contested quarterback competition for the starting position during spring practice in three months or it will be a snooze fest.

It all depends on Cam Rising’s intentions. The star quarterback has one season of eligibility left but may opt to enter the NFL draft.

“Find out soon,” is all Rising would say during media availability leading up to Monday’s Rose Bowl game against Penn State.

Rising has backed off from his earlier stance, which was likely he was moving on to the NFL after this season. Either way, the mystery must be solved by Jan. 16, the deadline the NFL sets for underclassmen to declare for the draft.

Bryson Barnes started at quarterback in the one game Rising missed with an injury against Washington State in October. First-year freshman Nate Johnson played in four regular-season games and will be available for the Rose Bowl. Fellow freshman Brandon Rose, who did not see any action, this season, is the final piece of the three-man race at the position if Rising leaves.

“It would be a wide-open competition,” said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. “Those reps you saw with Nate in the middle of the season or late in the season played to his strength, but they were just kind of novelty. They weren’t really quarterback reps, but he’s a tremendous athlete. He’s a football fanatic. It’ll be a great competition in the spring should that situation come up.

Barnes won the competition with JaQuinden Jackson for the backup behind Rising during training camp last August. Jackson was eventually moved to running back during the season and took to the position.

“He will be a running back,” Ludwig said. “He will be a big-time running back.”

Aussie Rules

Not knowing much about football, Utah tight end Thomas Yassmin remembers watching the Rose Bowl seven or eight years ago growing up in Australia.

Yassmin, who had a casual interest in the sport but nothing like his older brothers, played rugby in high school and didn’t take up football until joining Utah’s team in 2018. With injuries to Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid, Yassmin will start for the Utes in the Rose Bowl.

After redshirting his first season, Yassmin barely saw the field for the next three seasons. Through 12 games this season he has 12 receptions for 300 yards and five touchdowns, averaging an impressive 25 yards per catch.

“I knew it was going to be a long road,” he said. “I felt like, OK, maybe a couple of years. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t think it would take as long as it did. But I think it just makes it that much sweeter, sort of how long it has been taking to finally get the opportunity and show what I can do. I think it’s also given me that mental sort of reinforcement that I can do what I can do.”

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PK: Looking At Future Of Utah Football Past Rose Bowl Game