Utah football releases its depth chart. Who are QB1 and QB2?
Aug. 26, 2023 With less than a week to go 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 it takes the field. The team has released its first two-deep depth chart of the season.
Star quarterback Cam Rising was positioned as QB1 — perhaps not a surprise, as the program generally does not omit players from the depth chart unless they have suffered a season-ending injury. But with Rising’s status still up in the air as he recovers from a torn ACL in January’s Rose Bowl loss to Penn State, the team’s QB2 competition has been of equal intrigue. After weeks of giving the edge to Bryson Barnes, including saying at one point that if the season started that day, Barnes would be the starter — head coach Kyle Whittingham declared on Monday that it was a “dead heat” between the junior walk-on and sophomore Nate Johnson.
Whittingham praised Johnson for taking advantage of the extra reps afforded to him following a fall practice injury to spring standout Brandon Rose, saying he was making significant progress as a result. As of Friday, though, experience had apparently prevailed, with Barnes getting the nod as the QB2. What that means for this coming Thursday against the Gators remains anyone’s guess, however.
Whittingham indicated he would wait as long as possible to name a starter, even joking that the “cutoff date” for his decision might well be “probably 10 minutes before kickoff. If [Rising] isn’t ready to go, then we’ll go with Plan B. ” While acknowledging that there was some degree of keeping things close to the vest, he also insisted he was not engaging in chicanery or gamesmanship to leave Florida’s coaches and players guessing.
“We’re truly unsettled right now, so there’s really no deception at this point,” Whittingham said. The depth chart at least provided clarity everywhere else. The starting offensive line will consist of (from left to right) freshman Spencer Fano, junior Keaton Bills, senior Johnny Maea, sophomore Michael Mokofisi, and junior Sataoa Laumea.
In “12″ personnel, seniors Brant Kuithe (who, like Rising, has also been out of action while recovering from a torn ACL) and Thomas Yassmin will be the tight ends. Sophomore Ja’Quinden Jackson is the starting running back. At wide receiver, the Utes listed four potential starters — with juniors Devaughn Vele and Money Parks on the outside, and senior 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 Connor O’Toole, junior Junior Tafuna, redshirt freshman Keanu Tanuvasa, and junior Van Fillinger. When deploying three linebackers, the team will feature junior Karene Reid at rover, junior Levani Damuni as the mac, and sophomore Lander Barton at the stud position. In the secondary, senior JaTravis Broughton and junior Zemaiah Vaughn are the outside cornerbacks (while redshirt freshman Tao Johnson will be the nickel), and junior Cole Bishop is the free safety and sophomore Sione Vaki is the strong safety.
On special teams, junior Cole Becker is the placekicker and will also handle kickoffs, sophomore Jack Bouwmeester is the punter and placeholder, junior JT Greep is the long snapper. Vaki will be the primary kickoff returner, while Pittman will be the punt returner. .