SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The quest to repeat is officially underway.

The Utah football team opened training camp on Wednesday, and with all the experience coming back, including 17 starters from last year’s Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl team, head Kyle Whittingham said this did not feel like the first day of practice.

“It was a good day,” said Whittingham, who began his 18th season at the helm. “We’ve got a veteran group, it’s what we expected. The offense, a lot of returning guys. It was very evident that they spent a lot of time on the field together this summer on their own. Because today was more like practice eight or nine feel as far as the lack of mental mistakes.”

“Great juice,” added running back Tavion Thomas. “Everybody was moving around. It felt good to be back out here. It was just a beautiful time out here.”

Last year at this time, Cam Rising was in a quarterback battle that he eventually lost to Charlie Brewer. But now, Rising is the unquestioned leader of the team, and he says his arm feels stronger than ever.

“It feels like it’s back,” said Rising, who had shoulder surgery after the 202 season. “Last year, I didn’t get comfortable throwing the deep ball. This year, it definitely feels a lot more comfortable downfield. Just getting those guys the ball, and letting them do the bulk of the work. They are some unbelievable playmakers. They just make my job easy, so it’s just fun going out there and running the offense.”

“His performance is outstanding,” Whittingham said. “His film study, just everything. There’s no weakness in Cam Rising right now. He’s doing everything right coming off an outstanding year, and we’re fortunate to have him on our team.”

Tavion Thomas has also gone from backup to bonafide star, rushing for 1,108 yards and a school-record 21 touchdowns. Ever since losing in the Rose Bowl, Thomas has waited for this day.

“I was just itching, and now it’s here,” Thomas said. “I’m just hyped and ready to rock. We’re ready to come together and put it all together and show what we’ve got this year. We want to show that we’re better than what we were last year. We know how we were last year, but we want to be even better.”

With so many starters coming back, there might not be too many position battles in training camp, but that doesn’t mean these guys don’t have to earn their playing time.

“You’ve got to come out and compete everyday,” Thomas said. “You’re job isn’t promised. You’ve got to come compete, you’ve got to come work hard and do the little things right so you can keep your job.”

The Utes kick off the 2022 season September 3rd at Florida.