Nate Johnson Discusses ‘Next Man Up’ Mentality As Utah Football’s Backup QB

Sep 13, 2023, 1:07 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Football’s backup quarterback was fourth on the depth chart at one point for the Utes ahead of the 2023 football season. That fact never deterred Nate Johnson.

A hamstring injury in spring put Johnson behind the eight ball in Utah’s quarterback hierarchy as he watched fellow backups Bryson Barnes and Brandon Rose pass him by for the spot behind starter Cam Rising.

Johnson said his mindset was always to continue plucking away at it through summer and fall to make up the ground and it appears to have paid off. Rose got hurt in fall camp elevating Johnson to third string. Poor play from Barnes against Baylor elevated Johnson to second-string status, proving Utah’s “next man up” mentality is crucial not only to the success of individual players, but the team as a whole too.

Nate Johnson’s Preparation To Be ‘Next Man Up’

Getting to the point of being QB2 was a long, strange trip for Johnson who had to overcome a spring injury that set him behind the others, along with a slow start to fall camp.

“It’s a long journey,” Johnson said. “Spring ball even from the season after last year- they based it off of me and Bradon Rose off of those reps in spring as who was going to battle for QB2 or QB1 if Cam isn’t ready by season’s start. With that hamstring injury- it actually set me back pretty far. I was out a couple weeks I think a day or two before the spring game. I was at about 85% ready. That setback made me work even harder in the offseason knowing I had to figure out a way to get those reps back.”


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Johnson moved up the chain due to an injury to Brandon Rose and then was put on notice that his and Bryson Barnes’ efforts needed to be ramped up even further.

“I had a really slow fall camp,” Johnson continued. “From day one to about day eight or nine they started to figure out who was going to be the one, who was going to be the two- Bryson was going to be the one, B-Rose was going to be the two and I was kind of playing three. In the first scrimmage Brandon Rose goes down with an injury, and again, next man up. From there, I’m not going to lie, coach Whittingham did call out the QBs after that first scrimmage saying we didn’t do well. That took a toll on me and Bryson. We took that kind of serious.”


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Nate Johnson Has Been ‘Stealing’ Reps To Become More Proficient At His Craft

Johnson says part of his prep-work has come from a method called “stealing” reps where he basically runs through plays on the side as others take the snaps and observing what guys like Cam Rising and Bryson Barnes are doing.

“The coaches say it every day in practice,” Johnson said. “When you are not in, I watch my position- get the wristband call, read it out loud or sometimes read it to myself and walk through my progression. I really stand back to where I’m good enough to see what coverage they are in. I’ll read the play, stand back there and walk through who is on what route knowing what coverage it is. Pre-snap you kind of want to know where you’re going with the ball.”


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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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Nate Johnson Discusses ‘Next Man Up’ Mentality As Utah Football’s Backup QB