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Is the Cam Rising era nearing an end for the Utes?

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SALT LAKE CITY β€” Moments before Utah's players exited the postgame press conference after they defeated Stanford 42-7 in the team's final game at Rice-Eccles Stadium this season with an undefeated record, junior quarterback Cam Rising offered a glimpse into his future with the program.

Hours earlier, Rising participated in the senior night festivities and was honored by the university for his time with the program. So when asked if it was Rising's last game in Salt Lake City, his response was: "I believe so, yes."

That's what we call definitively unclear, though it's difficult to see him coming back.

Coming into the season, after leading Utah to its first Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl appearance in 2021, the expectation was that Rising would leave after the year was over to pursue an opportunity in the NFL.

And while that likely remains his path, there's still a small chance he returns for another season. But don't count on it.

"That's the plan as of now, but we're not focused on that right now," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said of his starting quarterback's decision to likely move on from the program. "We're focused on this next game, but those guys that you saw get honored and recognized today, that's most likely their plan.

"There could be some changes, nothing's set in stone with the guys that still have eligibility."

There's a chance he returns, but after five seasons devoted to college football, including a redshirt season at Texas, the Rising era nears an end.

This season, Rising has thrown for 2,225 yards, 19 touchdowns and had only four interceptions in nine games played this season, which ranks him No. 5 in total QBR, according to ESPN. That ranks just below Heisman hopefuls C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), Bo Nix (Oregon) and Drake Maye (North Carolina).

Expand that to the top 10 and Rising is just above Caleb Williams (USC), Stetson Bennett (Georgia), Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA), Jordan Travis (Florida State) and Bryce Young (Alabama). That's some great company to be sandwiched between for Utah's quarterback, and one that ranks him as one of the best in the country.

How that translates to the NFL is speculative, at best, but Rising's stock likely isn't going to get much better coming back for another season. Multiple NFL scouts have been on hand for Utah's games this season, so Rising has enough tape to give teams a good look at what he could offer should he make the leap at the next level.

Given Rising's output this season, he's on pace to throw for 2,967 yards, 25 touchdowns and five interceptions β€” assuming he plays in Utah's bowl game and that Utah is not in the Pac-12 championship game. That would easily be one of the most productive quarterbacks to come through Utah, second only to Tyler Huntley's 2019 season during the Pac-12 era, though Rising would have more touchdowns.

With Rising under center, Utah's offense has never been better under a Kyle Whittingham-led team. Utah averages 39.3 points and 462.4 total yards (252.3 passing yards) per game this season. That's an improvement on last season's 36.1 points and 431.4 total yards (214.3 passing yards) per game, which also featured a more consistent run game.

The next closest season for Utah with that type of offensive output was in 2019 when Huntley's offense averaged 32.3 points and 429.0 total yards per game. The 2004 season, which was Urban Meyer's last season as head coach and had Alex Smith at quarterback, Utah average 45.3 points and 499.8 total yards per game.

Rising isn't quite up to Smith's level in terms of pure statistical output, but he's close enough to rival a No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft. The Ventura, California, native isn't going to be a No. 1 overall pick and almost certainly not a first-round draft pick, but he's done what he can to put Utah in a better spot while highlighting his talent at the same time.

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Josh is the Sports Director for and beat writer of University of Utah athletics β€” primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.


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