Utah will have a trio of offensive stars returning in 2023, putting the Utes once again in the race for a third straight Pac-12 championship. Highlighting the returnees is quarterback Cameron Rising, who announced Monday that he will come back for a sixth year. Joining Rising are tight end Brant Kuithe and wide receiver Devaughn Vele, who help make up one of the Pac-12's most exciting passing offenses.
Rising, a 6-foot-2, 218-pounder from Ventura, California, has 5,572 career passing yards with 46 touchdown passes. His 3,034 yards passing and 26 touchdowns helped him earn semifinalist spots for the Davey O'Brien and the Maxwell awards, as well as an honorable mention in the All-Pac-12 team.
Rising played his best when it mattered most, throwing for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the 47-24 win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game as part of an MVP performance. However, he suffered a lower-body injury that knocked him out of the Utah's loss to Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
Vele was the team's second-leading receiver this season with 695 yards and five touchdowns, and Kuithe should be one of the top tight ends in the country once again after his 2022 season was cut short due to injury.
With Rising, Vele and Kuithe coming back in 2023, here's what to expect at Utah -- and the Pac-12 as a whole -- in 2023.
Utah is still a major player in the Pac-12
The back-to-back conference champions have earned national recognition, and the trio's return will likely land the Utes in the preseason top 25. Utah should also be one of the preseason favorites to win the Pac-12 championship -- the operative phrase being "one of."
Coach Kyle Whittingham has a small village of players returning, but tight end Dalton Kincaid, cornerback Clark Phillips III and running back Tavion Thomas aren't among them. Plus, running back Micah Bernard entered the transfer portal last week.
USC will get a ton of buzz due to the offensive firepower that coach Lincoln Riley has coming back. Plus, Washington's finished the season strong and enters the offseason with plenty of hype. Oregon's overall team is too bright to ignore. With that said, championship experience matters quite a bit, and Utah has enough to fill the Great Salt Lake.
The Pac-12 is loaded with quarterbacks
If you're looking for the most interesting conference in the country, you better fixate your eyes out west.
USC star and 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams is back, along with Washington's Michael Penix Jr., Oregon's Bo Nix, Arizona's Jayden de Laura and Washington State's Cameron Ward. Joining them are Oregon State's DJ Uiagalelei and Colorado's Shedeur Sanders. That doesn't even include players who could transfer in during the final days of this portal window or the second window that opens after spring practice.
Does that mean that it'll land a team in the College Football Playoff for the first time since Washington made the four-team field after the 2016 season? The quarterback prowess will draw more eyes than usual, which always helps. However, with that much talent under center, it could lead to the conference cannibalizing itself.