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For the first time in a few years, the Utes know exactly who will be leading the offense and are able to focus on something other than trying to determine QB1 before the first snap of the season. However, with that being said, there's still a quarterback race underway in Salt Lake City as several candidates battle for the QB2 spot behind Cameron Rising.

Nate Johnson 

One of the highest-rated quarterback recruits in some time for the University Utah, freshman Nate Johnson is a speedy and talented dual-threat QB who earned a four-star rating before entering the collegiate level. 

While Johnson certainly lives up to all the hype, and has an incredibly bright future at Utah, winning the QB2 battle after just a few weeks with the program seems to be an almost impossible task. To only have less than a month in the system surrounded by the full attention of the coaches and beat out more experienced guys like Bryson Barnes and Ja'Quinden Jackson just seems unlikely.

Now, does Johnson possesses the abilities to really give this a shot? Yes. Will he beat out the others? Unlikely, but Johnson is an incredibly talented quarterback and very well could be ready to compete for the one spot next season if Rising leaves.

Ja'Quinden Jackson

After a tough individual 2021 season with immense trials, Ja'Quinden Jackson's progress and glow-up was one of the most notable from spring camp. Primarily focused on his passing abilities, Jackson’s confidence was leaps and bounds ahead of where it was last year, which translated to crisp throws, better ball placement and chances he never would’ve taken before.

Demonstrated in the spring game, Jackson was a completely different player than what we saw last season. Finishing 11-17 for 138 yards and two touchdowns, Jackson's passes were confident, crisp and on target all game, proving himself to be a dangerous dual-threat.

So where does Jackson find himself in this race? As Kyle Whittingham mentioned this last week, nobody has separated themselves to this point but Jackson should still be neck and neck with Bryson Barnes. Overall, Jackson is the better athlete but is he the better QB? Does he have the same level of confidence that Barnes did in an emergency situation in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State? That remains the biggest question. 

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Bryson Barnes

After bursting onto the scene in Pasadena, Bryson Barnes had a phenomenal spring performance and was able to prove that the Rose Bowl wasn't just a spur of the moment thing, but that he can legitimately play at this level. While still in a dead-heat competition for QB2 with Ja'Quinden Jackson, Barnes illustrated that Utah's quarterback room is deep and he very well could be the successor of Cameron Rising whenever he departs.

While the Rose Bowl outcome was disappointing, there were a lot of positive takeaways from the game, which included Barnes late heroics after Rising went down with injury. Even though Barnes was just a freshman walk-on, he came in and orchestrated an impressive drive, going 57 yards on six plays in 2:28, which he capped off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Kincaid for the game-tying touchdown.

So where is Barnes now? After following up the Rose Bowl with an incredible performance in the spring game, leading in both passing and rushing yards, according to sources, he's looking 'damn good.'

"We've been doing a lot of extra work together outside of the lifts and stuff," Devaughn Vele said. "I don't know if people realize how much progress Bryson has made. I remember when he first came here you could tell he was definitely a walk on, but now Bryson has basically solidified himself as a very damn good quarterback. His understanding of the game and the way he's changed how he throws the ball, his confidence, and everything, it's awesome to see."

For now, the answer to me is Bryson Barnes. After what he did in the Rose Bowl, running the offense without skipping a beat, tying the game on a 15-yard touchdown and what he demonstrated during spring, Barnes clearly possesses the versatility, confidence, arm, accuracy, and games management to secure QB2. Is Jackson capable? Yes. But Barnes appears to be a safer option and has proven he can take over in the most extreme emergency situation.

While nothing has been confirmed, this weekends first scrimmage will provide a solid body of work and hopefully a frontrunner emerges as the two battle it out in game-like situations. But regardless of who is named QB2, either will be a formidable option as this may be the deepest QB room the program has ever had.

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