September 26, 2023

Cameron Rising out to prove last year’s success was no fluke

Utah Utes Football

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising addresses reporters at Pac-12 Media Day Friday July 30, 2022. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

LOS ANGELES — The quarterback led Utah to its’ first-ever Pac-12 Title and Rose Bowl appearance last season, yet he still feels underrated.

Cameron Rising’s journey has been all about persevering through obstacles, dealing with heartache and responding to adversity. And his success didn’t happen overnight. The former four-star prospect originally was part of Texas’ 2018 class out of high school, but never took a meaningful snap at the program.

The following year Rising transferred to the Utes and won the starting job, but suffered a season-ending injury and was back on the sidelines. All that did was add more fuel to his fire, and after Rising returned to the gridiron he was on a mission. The red carpet wasn’t rolled out for the signal-caller though, and he had to outduel Charlie Brewer for helms of Utah’s offense.

Rising never looked back either, when he relieved Brewer and threw three touchdowns at San Diego State. The Californian went back on the road against USC and had his coming out party. Rising torched the Trojans’ defense for 306 yards through the air and scored four total touchdowns, which were both season-highs.

Not only did Rising score three touchdowns apiece in victories over Arizona State, Arizona and Colorado, but he also left a lasting impression in the Grandaddy. Rising found the endzone three times against the Buckeyes, including a 62-yard touchdown dash, which was the longest run of his career. There’s a reason why he capped off the year with first-team, All-Pac-12 honors.

The Utes’ amazing season overshadowed the fact that they lost two of their players to gun violence since Rising joined the team . And when the Utah players hoisted the Pac-12 hardware in Las Vegas, Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe was there celebrating with them in spirit.

Rising kept the positive energy going through spring ball. The six-foot-two, 218-pounder threw an eight-yard touchdown on the first drive of Utah’s spring game. Coach Kyle Whittingham is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the country and he admires what Rising brings to the table.

“Cam means so much to our football team, off the field he’s the leader of the leaders, the alpha dog of our team and really sets the standard,” Whittingham said. “You couldn’t ask for a better leader, he’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around.”

That’s saying a lot, considering Whittingham has coached the likes of Alex Smith. Utah fans are awaiting what the signal-caller will do for an encore.

However, Rising still has a chip on his shoulder approaching his junior season. After all, he won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time around, as the Utes have become the 800-pound gorilla of the Pac-12.

So much so, that the league’s media members released its’ preseason poll last Friday and had Utah numero uno. Now the Utes are going to be the hunted instead of being the hunters, but all of the attention doesn’t scare Rising.

“Like coach always says, it’s harder to stay at the top than it is to get there,” Rising said. “We just got to make sure that we’re attacking like every other team, and effective at winning games.”

The gunslinger has been working on his arm strength throughout the offseason. Rising wants to be more efficient and accurate on his deep balls. He’ll have a plethora of weapons around him again also. Rising will have the luxury of handing the ball off to stud rusher Tavion Thomas, who led the Pac-12 with a jaw-dropping, 21 touchdowns on the ground.

Rising also has the nation’s best tight end tandem in seniors Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. The dynamic duo combined for 86 receptions, 1,121 receiving yards and 14 touchdown catches in 2021. The Texas native is all dialed in for his 2022 campaign, and he’s making sure the reigning Pac-12 champs aren’t backing down to no one.

“I still feel like I have to go out there and prove myself each and everyday,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s my job, it just mean that I’ll probably be getting more No. 1 reps and that’s just the way it is.”

This is arguably Utah’s most-anticipated season of Whittingham’s tenure. Utah will have to start fast out of the gates, with a trip to the Swamp to face Florida in the opener. A game of that type of magnitude has Rising and the rest of  his teammates ready to show the country that the Utes are legit and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.