Barnes ‘really taking charge,’ demonstrating ‘it factor’ as Utah QB 

Bryson Barnes has been thrust into his current role as Utah’s starting quarterback, and he’s thriving. 

Barnes took over for injured Cameron Rising, who’s dealt with a knee injury that’s kept him sidelined since last season’s Rose Bowl. Head coach Kyle Whittingham decided to shut down Rising for the remainder of the season, and that has allowed Barnes a chance to play his own way. 

“I just think the way just he’s operating now, he never was not confident but he seems very sure of himself and very confident in what he’s doing,” Whittingham said. “Really taking charge, just running the team like a quarterback should run it. That ‘it factor’ of being a leader on the field is really starting to manifest for him. And obviously, getting the full allotment of the No. 1 reps now that we know the situation helped him last week as well. So a combination of those things.” 


Barnes first started the season against Florida and went 12-of-18 for 159 passing yards and a touchdown. It was enough of a performance to set the tone going forward. 

He followed with a subliminal performance at Baylor, throwing an interception and completing just 31.6% of his passes. 

But after not playing against Weber State and getting back in the groove of things against Cal — he threw for 128 yards in the win against the Golden Bears — Barnes is taking the reins of starting quarterback well. 

“Big step forward. He seems to get better each week,” Whittingham said. “He completed over 60% of his balls (last week). He did have the one pick-six and I know he would’ve wanted it back but did a very nice job of running the offense and taking care of the ball except for the one play. And he just seems to continue to grow and develop which is a good thing that obviously is a big positive for us.” 

Barnes threw for a career-high 235 yards and three touchdowns last week against USC. It helped the Utes pick up a quality win on the road, and among Barnes’ few blemishes included a pick-six. 

Utah has dealt with a number of injuries to its current roster. Tight end Brant Kuithe had surgery to repair a torn right ACL and meniscus a year after catching three touchdowns and into his captaincy this season. 

Whittingham said players like Rising and Kuithe can and will remain with the team and travel, and he wishes them well as they recover from injury. 

“We certainly wish they could have been with us. I mean, they’re really good players,” Whittingham said. “They’re two guys that really add to what we’re doing and two of the best players in the Pac 12. But the uncertainty, I don’t want to say it was distraction, but things are settled now and more of a settled feeling and knowing exactly going forward that they’re not going to be available helps us operate and plan in a little different way.” 


The Utes will be the center of the college football world this week in their ranked matchup with No. 8 Oregon. 

Whittingham said he’ll “have a heavier load in some things” when it comes to game planning. He has his starting quarterback in Barnes behind him, and now the Utes will look to continue their winning ways against a high-powered Ducks offense that leads the Pac-12 in scoring offense. 

“We try to keep the players in as normal of a routine and not break that,” Whittingham said. “There’s going to be a guy or two that’s going to have a little bit extra on his plate but it’s great for the team as far as knowing that, ‘Hey, we’re the center of the college football universe this week,’ I guess. And it’s a very it’s a positive thing for them and a reward of sorts, I guess you could say. For the community, it’s awesome. The university, I mean, bring exposure to our brand and just the university community in general. So I think it’s a win all across the board.”