SALT LAKE CITY — Utah football opened its spring camp Monday with several new faces on the defensive side of the ball.
And though the defense will have more athletes to replace after nearly the entire starting unit graduated or declared early for the NFL draft, it was the quarterback battle that stole the opening day’s spotlight.
Well, at least the thought of the quarterback battle since their work was conducted outside the public’s view. But Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said he was impressed with the work of Cameron Rising on the first day.
“Cam Rising had a very good day,” Whittingham said. “I think, just at first glance, he had probably the best day of the QBs. It’s just one day, but he looked pretty sharp today.
“I won’t put a lot of stock into it right now, but it was good to see Cam come out and do the things he did today.”
Rising, who was forced to sit out all of last season due to NCAA transfer rules, has the most experience under offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s offense after leading the scout team for a season, so it’s a bit expected he’d grasp the offense quickly in spring.
Jake Bentley, a four-year transfer from South Carolina, entered the program as the most experienced overall player, having started several games at the SEC program. But Whittingham said Bentley is “still thinking a little bit; he’s still digesting the offenses.”
Either one of the two are the most likely to get the starting nod by the time Utah kicks off against BYU in fall, but the program’s official two-deep spring roster lists backup Drew Lisk as a contender for the starting job as well, and Whittingham said Lisk “knows the offense inside and out.”
But with only one day of practice in the books, the starting position is far from determined and the three are just happy to be working with each other to get better and help the offense grow.
“Coach Ludwig made it clear, and a lot of other coaches did as well, that nothing's gonna be handed to you, and you're gonna have to come in here and compete and give it all you got and go earn the job,” Bentley said. “And I think that's what all three of us are trying to do, is just trying to earn that job and get better, and get each other better along the way.”
“Yeah, I don't really pay attention to none of that, but of course, I welcome competition,” Rising said. “That's all I want to do. I'm a big fan of Kobe Bryant, 'Mamba Mentality,' just always trying to achieve and be great every chance you get.”
Utah already lost running back Devontae Henry-Cole and quarterback Jason Shelley to the transfer portal, and Terrell Perriman was dismissed from the program after eight felony charges were raised against him last month for allegedly raping at least three women, according to court documents.
On Monday, Whittingham announced that Donte Banton and Sione Lund have been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, and that “whether they get reinstated or not will be determined at a later time.” He also added that Maxs Tupai will not be participating with the team in spring because he has got to get “some personal things squared away.”
“So those three guys you won't see, potentially, for the entirety of spring, but we'll see what happens.”