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Cam Rising: The Big 12 Conference's Most Impactful Player?

Cameron Rising

There's a lot of hot debate on who is the best quarterback in the Big 12 Conference. A conference that is stacked with offensive talent year in and year out. This year is no exception with quarterback being a position that is chalked full of names that find themselves potentially being among the best in the country at their position. Names like Noah Fifita, Jalon Daniels, Shadeur Sanders and others will be vying for the top signal caller in not only the conference but the nation as well.

One name not mentioned above though has caused much stir throughout Big 12 and college football circles and has been a subject of heated conversations regarding the conference's best quarterback. That name is Cameron (Cam) Rising, quarterback of the Utah Utes. While Rising is certainly not the only quarterback stirring up controversy among this group of Big 12 quarterbacks, he's certainly one that is generating a fair share of it.

About Rising

Rising is one of the oldest FBS quarterbacks in the country at 25 years old. Rising first entered college football in 2018 when he redshirted as a freshman with the Texas Longhorns. In 2019, he transferred to Utah after not getting any playing time with the Longhorns. He would redshirt once again in 2019, finally seeing some action in 2020 after taking the starting job from Jake Bentley when the Utes played the USC Trojans to open the season.

Rising would record stats in 2020, but injured his shoulder during this game, an occurrence that would, unfortunately, become a slight trend for the ill-fated quarterback. The injury would sideline him for the rest of the season and his health began to become a concern.

Rising would return in 2021, once again supplanting an incumbent starter in Charlie Brewer two games into the season. He would start his first full season, completing 204 passes for 2,493 yards, 20 passing touchdowns and 5 interceptions, as well as rushing for 499 yards and 6 touchdowns on 74 attempts. Rising would prove he had talent and eventually would take Utah to the Pac-12 Conference Championship, where they would beat the Oregon Ducks 38-10.

In 2022, Rising had his magnum opus season thus far, completing 249 passes for 3034 yards, 26 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, while also rushing for 465 yards and 6 touchdowns on 77 attempts. Utah would become back-to-back champions of the Pac-12, winning the title over USC 47-24.

Rising, however, would once again injure himself, tearing his ACL, MCL, MPFL and meniscus in the 2023 Rose Bowl. He would sit out the 2023 season as a medical redshirt, announcing his return to Utah for his second to last year of eligibility (given the new eligibility rules) on November 19, 2023.

Rising's Impact on Utah

With Rising's return, the Utah faithful are rejoicing in the fact that a quarterback that brought them back-to-back Pac-12 titles is coming back for their debut in the Big 12. However, how big is Rising's return for Utah, realistically speaking?

Without Rising, Utah's offensive production was all but paltry, with the Utes producing 348.4 yards per game of total offense and just 165.8 yards passing per game in 2023. They were ranked No. 98 in overall scoring offense at 23.2 points per game. With Rising, those numbers grow a bit larger. Rising threw for around 233 yards per game in 2022 and Utah's offense produced 466.9 yards per game in total. The Utes had the No. 11 ranked total scoring offense in 2022. Needless to say, Rising's impact looms large over Utah's success.

This uptick in offensive production will be monumental as Utah enters the Big 12, a conference littered with offensive powerhouses. Rising's return to Utah allows them to reinsert themselves as one of the top offenses in the country going into 2024, however, one question hovers like a black cloud over the Utes' head that will need to be answered: Can Rising stay healthy throughout the 2024 season?

At least 50 percent of their offensive production relies on the health of Rising, and coming off a career-altering knee injury like the one he suffered, that health question is a major "if" for the Utes. Utah does have an experienced quarterback backing up Rising in Cal Poly transfer Sam Huard, but Huard's numbers are unimpressive and the transfer has been widely seen as a major reach. Below-average stats of 2,205 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, as well as a 3-6 record as a starter at an FCS program certainly don't inspire confidence should Rising have to miss time.

Sam Huard
© Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY SPORTS

Other than Huard and a senior with just one game of experience in former junior college prospect Luke Bottari, the Ute quarterback room has just two underclassmen who have zero college experience. Rising's health is even bigger than last year given this and it could be a determining factor in Utah's season.

A Proven Winner When Healthy

When Rising is healthy, he is certainly up there with the best in the conference. He is a proven winner with dual-threat capabilities that when healthy, has a massive impact on Utah's offensive success. His experience also plays a huge part in what's to come this year, as Utah returns six offensive starters and will be one of the more experienced teams in the conference, but does still have holes to fill.

With coach Kyle Whittingham at the helm as well, Utah was able to muster an 8-5 record even with one of the worst offenses at the Power Four level. However, Whittingham, Rising and Utah aren't going for moral victories or settling for a winning record this year. If they want any shot at the Big 12 title, Rising will have to stay healthy, and again, with the injury he sustained, this may be much easier said than done. Knee injuries have come a long way since even the 2000s, but it will still hinder his mobility and he is still at major risk for reinjury, especially given the severity of it.

Given the great offenses that the Utes will face as well, it will be important that the Utes keep up with the Joneses in offensive production, something that is all but driven by Rising and his abilities as was shown last year. Defense may win championships, and Utah's defense was ranked in the top 15 in total defense last year, all but saving them from a losing record.

That being said, Utah's defense can't carry the weight it did last year for a second year in a row, especially against offenses that will be just as challenging if not more challenging than what they faced in the Pac-12. The offense must improve and will improve so long as Rising stays healthy.

While Rising may not have the most talent at his position out of everyone in the conference—though he certainly is up there—he is certainly one of the most, if not the most, impactful players in the conference. His health all but determines Utah's conference title hopes, and while they will survive should he get injured again or have to miss time, Utah isn't looking to simply survive, they're looking to make a statement in their first year in the Big 12.

Big expectations and big talk will be all for not should Rising once again be unavailable, something that Utah fans have already experienced.

1 Comment

Tough to say if Rising is the best in the Conference, but he definitely is the oldest!

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