SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – No team in the country needs the bye week more than the Utes.
#18 Utah (4-1) heads into the bye week with more injuries than head coach Kyle Whittingham can ever remember, including quarterbacks Cam Rising and Bryson Barnes.
Rising’s doctor still has yet to clear him to play after off-season ACL surgery, and Whittingham doesn’t know when that will happen.
“You’ll have to ask his doctor,” Whittingham said when asked when Rising will be available.
Nate Johnson started the last three games, but was benched during Utah’s 21-7 loss to Oregon State last week. But when Bryson Barnes went down after a brutal hit to the chest, Johnson was forced back in the game.
So if Rising and Barnes are unavailable on October 14 against Cal, who will be Johnson’s backup?
“The backup is to be determined,” Whittingham said. “Nate would obviously be the guy, but the backup would be Brandon Rose or Luke Bottari. It will be one of those two guys.”
Rose went into training camp as the #2 quarterback behind Rising, but suffered an undisclosed injury and only recently returned to practice. The Utes planned on redshirting Rose, but he may have to play if Johnson goes down.
“He may have to [play] due to not having anyone available,” Whittingham said. We still can redshirt him, you get four games, so he has plenty of cushion there.”
Defensive lineman Logan Fano, who is second on the team with 3.5 sacks, is the latest player to go down. Fano tore his ACL while registering a sack against Oregon State.
After last week’s demoralizing loss in Corvallis, the Utes were down, but they’ve moved on.
“The team is in good spirits,” Whittingham said. “Obviously disappointed from the loss. There were tough meetings yesterday that we had. But we put that game to bed, and it’s time to move on. It’s all about Cal going forward.”
In addition to getting healthy during the bye week, the Utes have to improve the offense. Utah has scored just two offensive touchdowns over the last two games, and were held to 198 total yards against the Beavers.
“We need to get back in sync on offense,” Whittingham said. “The last two games, we haven’t been nearly productive enough, and we’ve got to get that fixed.
How does that happen?
“Coaching,” Whittingham said. “We’ve got to coach it better, and we’ve got to put our guys in position to succeed. We’ve got to have better execution. It’s across the board. There really isn’t any one thing. I wish it was just one thing.”
Utah will host Cal after the bye week October 14 at 1:00 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.