SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Fresh off its first Pac-12 championship and first appearance in the Rose Bowl, the University of Utah football team isn’t going to sneak up on anybody this year. In fact, they may be a pre-season top-10 team.

But they’re ready for the big target on their backs.

“The energy was amazing today,” said wide receiver Solomon Enis after the first day of spring practice. “I’m really excited for this group. From last year winning the championship, I feel like we all bought in. Yeah, we won, but now everyone is even hungrier.”

“I mean, you definitely walk a little different,” quarterback Cam Rising said about the Utes newfound swagger. “It’s nice, but we’ve still got to go out there and attack it this year. Just because we won it last year doesn’t mean anything for this season. So we have to go out there and prove it again.”

Unlike last spring, the Utes know who their starting quarterback is. Cam Rising, who helped completely turn this team around last year after taking over the starting job in Week 4, is back.

“It’s a big advantage, especially one that was first team All-Pac-12,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said about having a proven quarterback on the team. “Cam has been voted as one of the captains, he’s a team leader. He’s our guy.”

“It feels good knowing who’s going to be throwing you the ball next year,” said tight end Brant Kuithe, who put the NFL on hold to come back for one more season. “So it’s great having him back, and we’re trying to go win the Pac again.”

“Especially what he did last year stepping up as a leader,” Enis added. “He stepped up in a big role. Then, just following up this year, I’m excited. I have so many good things to say about him.”

But Rising, who threw for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, is going to treat spring ball like the starting job is still up for grabs.

“I still think I have to compete for it,” he said. “I need to put my best foot forward and be as good as I can for the team. It’s the same mentality.”

With Tavion Thomas back at running back, and the likes of Kuithe, Enis, Dalton Kincaid and DeVaughn Vele to throw to, Rising and the Utes offense could be deadly this season.

“I love this team,” Rising said. “I love coming back out here being here with all of them, apart from the guys who are gone now. But it’s a great time, and it’s just good to be out here again with everybody.”

The Utes will have 15 practices, culminating in the annual Red-White Spring Game April 23rd.

Utah kicks off the 2022 season September 3rd at Florida.