The Utes’ starting quarterback Thursday against Florida now appears to be reduced to two players instead of three, but the job still feels unsettled with less than a week left until kickoff.
With less than a week left before the Utah football team opens its season at Rice-Eccles Stadium against Florida, Utes fans now have a clearer idea of what the team will look like when they enter the field.
The team released its first dual depth chart of the season.
Star quarterback Cam Rising has been positioned as a QB1 – perhaps unsurprising, since the program generally doesn’t drop players from the depth chart unless they sustain a season-ending injury. But with Rising still up in the air as he recovered from a torn ACL in January’s Rose Bowl loss to Penn State, the team’s QB2 competition was equally exciting.
After weeks of giving preference to Bryson Barnes, including saying at one point that if the season started that day, Barnes would be the starter — head coach Kyle Whittingham announced Monday that she was a “dead free” among starters. and sophomore Nate Johnson.
Whittingham praised Johnson for taking advantage of the extra reps given to him after fall training injury to standout Brandon Rose, saying he was making great progress as a result.
However, as of Friday, the experience seems to have prevailed, with Barnes earning approval as a QB2.
However, what that means for next Thursday’s game against the Gators is anyone’s guess.
Whittingham said he would wait as long as possible to name a starting player, even joking that the “deadline” for making his decision would be “probably 10 minutes before kick-off”. If (Rising) isn’t ready to go, we’ll follow Plan B.” And while he acknowledged there was some degree of keeping things close to the vest, he also insisted he wasn’t engaged in bluffing or playing games to leave Florida coaches and players guessing.
“We’re really unsettled right now, so there’s no cheating at this point,” Whittingham said.
The depth chart at least provides clarity everywhere else.
The starting offensive line will consist of (from left to right) freshman Spencer Fano, junior Keaton Bells, senior Johnny Maia, sophomore Michael Mukovesi, and junior Satua Lumea.
In the ’12’, senior players Brant Keith (who, like Rising, is also out while recovering from a torn ACL) and Thomas Jasmine will be tight ends.
Sophomore Ja’Quinden Jackson is the starting running back.
Broadly speaking, the Utes have listed four potential starters – with juniors Devaughn Vele and Money Parks in the outfield, and seniors Mycah Pittman and/or freshman Mikey Matthews in the slot.
On defense, the team’s 4-3 alignment will feature a line consisting of (from left to right) junior Conor O’Toole, junior Tafuna, freshman Keanu Tanovasa, and junior Van Willinger.
Deploying three linebackers, the team will feature rookie Karen Reed as the rover, junior Levanie Damone as Mack, and sophomore Lander Barton as the cleat.
At the secondary level, senior Jatravis Broughton and junior Zemaya Vaughn are the outside linebackers (while freshman Tao Johnson will be the nickel), junior Cole Bishop is the free safety and sophomore Sioni Vacki is the strong safety.
On special teams, junior Cole Baker is the starting quarterback and will also handle the kickoff, sophomore Jack Baumeister is the punter and placekicker, and junior JT Grape is the long snapper. Faki will be the starting kickoff returner, while Pittman will be the kickoff returner.