Who Will Play Quarterback In Utah’s Bowl Game?

Nov 27, 2023, 12:40 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – It is well documented by now that Utah has had horrible luck with their health in 2023. This is especially true in the quarterback room, spurring the question: who will be Utah’s quarterback in their bowl game?

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham gave an optimistic answer during the Utes’ post-game press conference on Saturday.

Before we go there however, let’s recap why this question became important.

You’re Probably Wondering How Utah Football Got Here?

This tale begins on January 2, 2023, during Utah’s second Rose Bowl appearance against Penn State.

Starting quarterback Cam Rising took off running against the Nittany Lions only to crumple to the ground. Rising tore his ACL (among other things) and required extensive surgery to repair it.

Rather than try his hand at the NFL, Rising announced his return to the Utes for one last season in 2023 shortly thereafter with confidence he would be recovered.

By all accounts, Rising did in fact do very well with his recovery, just not to the point he was cleared to play.

At about the halfway point of Utah’s season, Rising announced he was shutting it down for the year to solely focus on recovery taking one of the Utes’ quarterbacks fully out of the mix. Rising then announced a week ago his intention to give it one more go in 2024.

What Happened With Utah’s Other Quarterbacks?

While all eyes were mostly on Rising and when/if he came back, there were other storylines happening the backup quarter backs.

Utah’s intention through the spring was to really examine their young quarterbacks in Brandon Rose and Nate Johnson to get them up to speed in Rising’s absence. Fate had other plans.

Johnson missed a good chunk of spring with a hamstring injury that put him behind Rose and fellow backup quarterback Bryson Barnes. In the fall, it was Rose’s turn to be put behind the eight ball with an injury after reports were surfacing that he had separated himself as the No. 2 guy behind Rising.

As it became clear Rising wouldn’t be ready for the home opener against Florida and Rose wouldn’t be available either, the Utah coaching staff had to get creative. They rolled out both Barnes and Johnson (Barnes was the primary guy and Johnson the change up) in an attempt to emulate what Rising does. It worked well.

The following week it didn’t work as well. Barnes had a tough game eventually getting benched while Johnson led two final scoring drives to give Utah the win. That effort earned Johnson the starting quarterback job outright for three games until he ran into the buzzsaw that was Oregon State.


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The Utes made the decision during the BYE week to go with Barnes the rest of the way which mostly worked well getting them to a 7-4 record, although they were out of the Pac-12 Title hunt.


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Unfortunately, in a rough game against Arizona, Barnes got beat up to the point he couldn’t play in Utah’s last game this past weekend against Colorado. Making matter worse for the Utes, Johnson left the team with intentions of entering the NCAA Transfer Portal.

That left Luke Bottari to carry the load. If he got hurt, former quarterback turned running back Ja’Quinden Jackson would have been turned to with the possibility of brining Rose back into the mix too despite his desire to apply for a medical hardship.

So Who Will Be Available At Quarterback For Utah’s Bowl Game?

Whittingham was pretty confident regardless of what bowl game the Utes are sent to that Barnes would be ready. If not, Utah fans will likely see Bottari take the helm.

“Hopefully we get Bryson back,” Whittingham said. “It’s nothing that we don’t believe is long-term. It remains to be seen, but he is making progress and with the timing of a bowl- of course a later bowl game gives him more time to prep. I think regardless- even if it is one of the earlier ones he would be ready to go. That’s what we are hoping for.”

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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Who Will Play Quarterback In Utah’s Bowl Game?