UTAH UTES

Depth Questions Remain For Utes As Season Opener Approaches With Florida

Aug 28, 2023, 1:16 PM | Updated: 1:18 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Game week has arrived for Utah football, but there are still depth questions abound for the Utes as their season opener with Florida inches closer.

Hopes are high for Utah once more as they return a big chunk of the players responsible for Pac-12 Titles in 2021 and 2022 while also making some roster improvements through recruiting and the transfer portal.

However, at least early on in the 2023 season, the Utes may have to be patient getting key players in quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe back among others. Here is everything Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham had to say about the Utes’ depth heading into the Florida Gator Game.

Whittingham On Where Utah’s Depth Stands Ahead Of Florida Opener

Whittingham held his first press conference of the season for the Utes ahead of Thursday’s opener against the Florida Gators at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

“New year, it’s here,” Whittingham started. “It seems like it comes faster every year. The Florida Gators are coming to our place- this is the first time we’ve had an SEC team come to Salt Lake City. Ground-breaking in that respect. It’s the second game of a home-and-home with the Gators. We all know what happened last year- we came up on the short end- they played well, we didn’t. We’re hoping we play better this year.”

By all accounts, when healthy, Utah should have the horses to get the job done against the Gators, but some fall camp injuries and lingering recoveries could make the task a little harder for Utah.

 

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“It’s a big challenge for our program and our team,” Whittingham said. “They are outstanding as far as their personnel. SEC talent across the board, just what you’d expect from a team like Florida. We’ve got to play our A-game without a doubt, but we are still unsure on some things. You got the depth chart. It’s a challenge putting a depth chart a week out because we have so many guys that are questionable. We did the best we could with that.”

Where Things Stand With Cam Rising, Brant Kuithe, Others

Whittingham and the Utes have a pretty stringent policy they don’t talk about injuries unless they are season-ending, so the details given about the possibility of seeing Rising and/or Kuithe on Thursday were not elaborate.

“We’re still in flux today- we play in three days,” Whittingham said. “We’ll just have to see how it shakes out. I don’t have anything to add or elaborate on from the depth chart. We’ll just have to wait and see on some guys and see who is available and who is not.”

KSL Sports has done some digging and the word out there seems to very much match what Whittingham said in his press conference- it’s wait and see. In conversations held, there seemed to be a bit more optimism about Rising’s status late last week with the repeated caveat of “wait and see.” Kuithe’s potential return to the field, however, feels like it could be a little more stretched out than Rising’s.

When Whittingham was pressed about where both players currently stand, he maintained he had given all the details left to give.

“I have no elaboration on the depth chart,” Whittingham said about his star players.

 

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Bryson Barnes & Nate Johnson

With the likelihood of a decision about Rising coming down to the wire, that puts a lot of pressure on backup quarterbacks Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson to be prepared in the event he doesn’t get cleared.

Barnes edge out Johnson recently for the backup job, but Whittingham revealed the competition was close and that regardless of whether Rising or Barnes starts on Thursday, fans will also see Johnson as well.

“Nate has really closed the gap,” Whittingham said. “You have to weigh everything- you have Barnes who won the Washington State game and performed very well in the Ohio State game when he went in. Nate has done well in the limited reps he’s got, but it hasn’t been extensive so there is a lot of- I don’t want to say guess work, but projecting. You’ll see Nate Johnson in this game no matter what happens.”

Utah Will Need To Figure Out How To Navigate Roster Uncertainty

While there are certainly differences between the starters and their backups for varying reasons, for Whittingham the hardest part is really the uncertainty of who the Utes will need to lean on rather than their skill-level. Different guys can do different things and you can scheme around that, but that’s difficult to do when you still aren’t sure who you’re going to have to use.

“If the starter isn’t available, the next guy needs to pick up the slack, but he obviously isn’t as talented or as good as the guy who was before him, or he would have been ahead of him,” Whittingham said. “It’s not like it’s a nonfactor, but you have the players you have at your disposal. You don’t make excuses- it’s just a matter of- it’s more the uncertainty than anything else. It would almost be easier to know for certain who is going to be available and who is not. There are literally a half dozen guys that boat right now unfortunately that we’re not sure what their status will be.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Depth Questions Remain For Utes As Season Opener Approaches With Florida