When Utah concluded the 2020 college football season on Saturday, there was A LOT of speculation about the quarterback position.
The Utes opened the season with sophomore Cam Rising as the starter, but he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery. Senior grad transfer Jake Bentley then took over, but was up-and-down with more turnovers than touchdowns. He was eventually replaced by senior Drew Lisk, who had the game of his life in leading Utah from a 28-7 deficit at the half to a 45-28 victory over Washington State in the season finale.
“You saw the legend of Drew Lisk was born in that second half,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said postgame. “He’ll be able to tell that story for years, how he came in and rallied the troops.”
But with both Bentley and Lisk expected to move on — and Rising unavailable until the summer after rehabbing from injury — Utah's quarterback depth was expected to be extremely thin moving forward.
Only incoming freshman Peter Costelli (4-star) and freshman Cooper Justice are expected to be on the roster when Utah begins spring ball in 2021. Knowing this, Whittingham alluded that the Utes could be adding more depth and competition to the position in the coming days.
“But I’m going to tell you, there’s a really good likelihood that we will continue to try to address that position," Whittingham said. "That would be worst case scenario. I don’t think we’re going to get to worst case scenario, I think we’re going to be able to have a good situation by spring ball. But yeah, transfers is the other avenue, obviously. That would probably be more likely to go that route.”
Fast forward less than 48 hours since that victory over Washington State and Utah has gotten significantly better at the quarterback position.
First Utah added Texas 4-star QB Ja'Quinden Jackson, a freshman who elected to transfer, on late Saturday night. Then 24 hours later, the Utes added another graduate transfer in Charlie Brewer, a four-year starter from Baylor who was in search of a 'change of scenery' to close out his college career.
Now on paper, Utah has one of the better quarterback rooms in the Pac-12 entering next spring.
*Charlie Brewer — Grad Transfer, Baylor
*Ja'Quinden Jackson — Freshman, Texas
*Peter Costelli — Incoming Freshman, 4-star
*Cooper Justice — Freshman, Former 3-star
While many would like to believe that the quarterback job will Rising's once he returns to the team, that may not be the case. Speaking during his final weekly radio show, Whittingham said the hope is that Rising will be ready for fall camp, while both Jackson and Brewer will be on campus next month and participate in spring ball.
That means that by the time Rising returns for fall camp, he will have played one quarter of meaningful football since Dec. 2017. Costelli, Jackson and Justice have yet to play in a college game — which leaves Brewer as the long player this spring who has in-game experience.
Here's a breakdown of each QB expected to be ready for the spring.
Charlie Brewer: By far the quarterback with the most experience on the roster, Brewer is a legit dual-threat after throwing for 9,700 yards, 65 touchdowns and 28 interceptions in 44 games played. He also added 1,039 yards and 22 touchdowns as one of college football's most dynamic talents.
His junior year season is when he shined brightest, leading Baylor to an 11-3 record after throwing for 3,161 yards and 21 touchdowns to just interceptions. He also added 344 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Brewer is a dynamic talent who should have a full spring, summer and fall camp to try and earn the starter's role. With the rest of the quarterbacks having very little experience, the job should be looked at as Brewer's job to lose.
Ja'Quinden Jackson: Listed at 6-foot-2 and 232 pounds, the Dallas native was ranked as the No. 73 overall prospect and No. 3 dual threat passer in the country last year by the 247sports composite.
Utah is clearly recruiting him at quarterback, where he shines as a runner but is a project in the passing game. He threw for 1,711 yards and ran for 1,030 yards as a senior at Duncanville, tallying 37 total touchdowns.
Another dual-threat type, Jackson has at least been in a college program after spending the previous season at Texas. Now fully healthy after recovering from his torn ACL, Jackson will provide stiff competition as his upside is through the rough — it's just unknown if that'll be as a quarterback
Peter Costelli: One of the best quarterbacks to enter Utah straight out of high school, Costelli will be with the Utes for spring practice. That's massive for his development seeing as how both Jackson and Brewer will be as well.
His athleticism is off the charts as he ran anchor for his school's 4x100-meter time, which was completed in 42.29 seconds, the second fastest time in the state. He also has a personal best of 10.82 in the 100-meter, and all of this during his junior season.
Costelli is rated mostly as a dual-threat quarterback primarily because of his speed, but according to John Garcia of SI All-American, he could easily be a top-10 pocket passing quarterback as well and he sees Costelli as a quarterback who can run rather than a runner who can throw.
Cooper Justice: Not much is known of Justice apart from the fact that he more than looks the part at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds and has a cannon for an arm. The left-handed slinger is a former walk-on to the Utes after being ranked a three-star recruit by 247sports out of Lakeridge High School in Portland, Oregon.
He served as the team's fourth string quarterback to begin the season, but was elevated to third string following the injury to Rising. What's interesting is that he is the lone quarterback in spring ball who has spent a year in Utah's system. His knowledge will be huge moving forward, and it'll be interesting if he can capitalize on that.
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