SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – As this season starts to fade for the University of Utah football team, what a shot in the arm it was yesterday to learn quarterback Cam Rising was coming back to the Utes for the 2024 season.

“Cam has got to be one of the best, if not the best, returning quarterbacks in the country,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday. “He’s won two championships for us. He’s the ultimate leader, a supreme leader. He’s an alpha dog, and we can’t tell you how excited we are.”

Rising, a first team All-Pac-12 quarterback in 2021, has missed the entire 2023 season recovering from knee surgery after tearing multiple ligaments in the Rose Bowl in January.

“That’s huge,” said tight end Landon King. “It’s really huge for the whole university. To have him is going to have trickle down effects, like Micah [Bernard] is coming back, Mycah Pittman is coming back. Just stuff like that. I can’t wait to catch balls from him.”

Even though Rising will be making plenty of N-I-L money by returning to Utah, his long-term goal is the NFL, and he has to prove to scouts he is 100 percent healthy again.

“It gives him an opportunity to prove that he belongs, and he’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the country. I told him what I thought. I would agree that coming back was in his best interests, and not just in ours.”

In two seasons as the Utes starter in 2021 and 2022, Rising led Utah to back-to-back Pac-12 Championships. He threw for 5,527 yards and 46 touchdowns over those two years, to go along with 964 rushing yards and 12 more touchdowns.

So with Rising back, what happens to guys like Bryson Barnes, Nate Johnson, Brandon Rose, and incoming freshman Isaac Wilson? That’s going to be a very crowded quarterback room next year.

“The quarterback room as a way to settle itself and thin itself out,” Whittingham said. “I would say no, I don’t think it will be too crowded. I think with natural attrition, it will sort itself out.”

It’s hard to believe, but Saturday’s game against Colorado will be Utah’s last Pac-12 contest. The past 13 years in this league has taken the Utes program to unprecedented heights.

“The Pac-12 was instrumental in building the program,” Whittingham said. “Having that Pac-21 moniker on your shirt and conference affiliation ramped up everything in this program. Facilities, recruiting, budget, salaries, everything. Making the move to a Power-5 was a game changer.”

Utah and Colorado will wrap up the regular season Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Utes will then await their bowl game destination.