Nate Johnson Takes Over As Backup Quarterback For Utah Football

Sep 12, 2023, 11:43 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – It should come as no surprise redshirt freshman Nate Johnson has been elevated to QB2 for Utah football after pulling some late-game heroics to secure the win for the Utes against Baylor.

The Utes have been stuck in a bit of a limbo in regard to the backup position behind starter Cam Rising while he finishes up recovering from a torn ACL. However, it appears Johnson’s recent performance against the Bears has given Utah the clarity they need.

Moving forward, Johnson will be the backup and presumably the starter (at least for this week) till Rising is back and ready to take the reins.

Kyle Whittingham Gives His Thoughts On Nate Johnson’s Progression To QB2

Utah needed something- anything to happen on offense this past weekend in Waco against Baylor. Unfortunately, after a pretty good performance against Florida the week before with then-backup quarterback Bryson Barnes, things just weren’t clicking the same and so Utah made a change.

“With about 11 minutes left in the game we made the decision to put Nate Johnson in and gave him the opportunity to show what he can do,” Whittingham said. “He took the entire drive and did a good job- I think it was a 15, 16, 17 play drive. Somewhere in there and consumed about nine minutes and got us on the board- in the endzone finally. We hadn’t gotten into the endzone until that point.”

The decision to roll with Johnson as the backup for week three, according to Whittingham came from observing both player’s full body of work over the past two weeks and through camps.


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“It was based on the whole body of work we’ve seen,” Whittingham said. “Nate deserves the chance to be the starter if Cam is not available so that’s where we are at. That’s after a lot of evaluation and giving everybody the opportunity- we determined he deserves the opportunity to show what he can do. Nate was very poised on that last drive. He made some outstanding decisions.”

This decision comes even with the fact that, at least as fans and media, not much is known about Johnson’s ability to pass the ball consistently. Word throughout fall camp was that Johnson was still a bit of a liability in that arena which gave the initial nod to Barnes, but that he’s also made-up considerable ground.

“He’s still a work in progress in that regard and there will still be some growing pains in that regard, but he really has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of last year,” Whittingham said.

Nate Johnson Recalls The Moment He Got The Nod

After practice Monday, Johnson was asked by the media about what happened in the moments leading up to him taking the final two drives over for the Utes. Johnson revealed it was Rising and Barnes who told him to go lead the team and get it done.

“Just going over the game plan, you guys saw things weren’t going well,” Johnson said. “In the fourth quarter with a significant amount of time on the clock coach made the quarterback change. Cam and Bryson told me to go out there, be a leader and take the guys home. Lead the team, be poised, be calm and to go out there and get the win.”


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Moving forward, a lot more is going to be expected of Johnson, but he believes he has the intangibles to lead the team when and if his number gets called again.

“Leadership, grit- just leading those guys to victory,” Johson said. “Especially being a quarterback. Everybody is looking up to you. Everyone sees you as the leader. Cam Rising has been here quite a while, and everyone looks up to him as ‘Captain Cam’- just being that quarterback who we all take pride in leadership.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Nate Johnson Takes Over As Backup Quarterback For Utah Football