SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – One of the biggest goals in Utes spring football practice is to find a clear backup quarterback behind injured starter Cam Rising.
Rising is recovering from ACL surgery and will not participate in spring ball, and head coach Kyle Whittingham is hoping to eventually see some significant separation between Bryson Barnes, Nate Johnson and Branden Rose as they compete for the backup quarterback job.
“[There’s been] Incremental progress,” Whittingham said as the Utes began their second week of spring practice. “We still have a long ways to go, and we’re starting to see a little bit of separation. The stuff that’s more intangible, the leadership, the “it” factor, the field general mentality we look for in a quarterback. The guy that can take command in the huddle and really has that presence.”
Whittingham knows what he has in Barnes, who because of injuries to Rising, has played in the last two Rose Bowls. Barnes started one game against Washington State, and the Utes pulled out a 21-17 victory over Washington State.
We saw glimpses of Johnson’s blazing speed as a freshman when he rushed for two touchdowns against Arizona, and the only pass he threw was a touchdown against Stanford. Rose, a redshirt freshman from California, is somewhat of an unknown, but the reps in spring ball have been invaluable.
“You just have to make the most of them regardless of how many you get,” said Barnes. “You have to make the most of them. At the end of the day, you’ve got to put yourself on tape, show that you’re refining those details, and getting better each and every practice.”
“Getting those extra reps really helps the team and shows that you’re getting comfortable back there,” Johnson said. “You’ve just got to keep training. Getting those extra reps with the ones and twos is getting a lot better.”
While Rising is hoping to be back for fall camp, he’s still helping the younger guys as much as he can in spring.
“In the meeting room, outside of the meeting room on the field, he’s talks us through different reps and what to read here and there,” said Johnson. “Building a great relationship with Cam since my freshman year, has been really awesome. Having him around is really helpful.”
“It’s always been that relationship with me and Cam,” added Barnes. “We’re always talking together, going over things and different things we see, maybe some possible new plays. I mean, we talk ball all the time.”