SALT LAKE CITY — Unlike last season, Cam Rising isn’t facing a battle to become Utah’s starting quarterback heading into a new year.
Rising cemented his spot atop the depth chart when he led the Utes to their first Pac-12 championship and first Rose Bowl berth a season ago. Now, he’s eager to show off all his skills.
“There’s no weakness in Cam Rising right now,” coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s doing everything right coming off an outstanding year.”
One area where Rising has made strides is his arm strength. Rising did not test his surgically repaired shoulder with deep balls much last season. He had five 200-yard games and one 300-yard game as a passer. This season could be a much different story.
He has been fearless about taking shots down the field in camp and pushing his receivers to make plays on the outside.
“(My arm) feels like it’s back,” Rising said. “Last year, didn’t feel all the way getting comfortable throwing the deep ball. But this year, it definitely feels more comfortable getting the ball downfield and pushing it.”
Rising’s teammates are believers. His accuracy on deeper routes has left them impressed.
“He’s slinging it a little faster and a little harder,” tight end Dalton Kincaid said. “I can definitely tell the arm strength’s there and there’s a lot of confidence in it.”
Becoming a threat with the deep ball will simply add a new wrinkle to Rising’s skillset, which routinely flummoxes defenses.
He kept opposing teams off balance with his running ability last season, totaling 499 yards while averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Rising even chipped in on special teams as an emergency punter. He averaged 32.7 yards on three punts last season.
Still, Rising said he entered Utah’s fall camp with the same determination to prove himself that he’s shown since joining the program as a transfer from Texas.
“I still got to attack it and prove I’m the best guy for the job each and every day,” Rising said.
Rising won the confidence of his teammates and coaches long before he replaced Charlie Brewer halfway through a Week 3 loss to San Diego State last season. The junior quickly showed what inspired that confidence in the first place.
He threw for 2,493 yards and 20 touchdowns while tossing only five interceptions to help fuel Utah’s successful championship run. Rising completed 63.8% of his pass attempts.
Among Pac-12 quarterbacks, he ranked third in passing yards per game (214.1), third in passing efficiency (145.74), and second in passing yards per completion (12.76) in conference games. At season’s end, Rising earned All-Pac-12 first-team honors.
Whittingham attributes Rising’s emergence to his work ethic. The coach described him as one of the hardest workers on the team and said it has impacted every facet of his game.
“I just keep trying to improve,” Rising said.
Cam Rising evolving entering first full season as starter originally appeared on NBCSports.com