NCAA Football: Washington at California

Utah has added a commitment from former 5-star quarterback Sam Huard, according to 247Sports. Huard started his career at Washington, but spent a year at Cal Poly before entering the transfer portal again. 

Huard's 5-star pedigree has largely tarnished after three seasons of college football, but his addition is a potential game-changer for Utah. The Utes struggled with poor quarterback depth in 2023 after Cam Rising's injury unexpectedly kept him out for the entire season. Former walk-on Bryson Barnes (Utah State) and backup Nate Johnson (Vanderbilt) both transferred, leaving only relatively unproven options. 

At Utah, Huard will back up Rising, who is returning to Salt Lake City after a torn ACL. Huard has two years remaining to play two, which leaves him a potential season to start in 2025 after Rising's graduation. 

"To be in a great spot and to compete every day with great people around me, being in the room and learning from one of the best quarterbacks in college football, while being able to have two years in a great system was a big part of it," Huard told 247Sports' Brandon Huffman

The Bellevue, Washington, native comes in as a talented passer with starting experience at the Division I level. If Rising is slow to return, Huard can compete with Luke Bottari, Brandon Rose and Isaac Wilson for backup snaps. Needless to say, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig does not want to find himself without reliable options at quarterback again.

Huard was the No. 3 quarterback and No. 23 overall player in the Class of 2021 Top247 rankings, ranking among the best players to ever commit to the Huskies. Huard played one game as a freshman in 2021 -- it did not go well as he threw four interceptions in a 40-13 Apple Cup loss to Washington State -- and backed up Michael Penix in 2022 with new coach Karen DeBoer at the helm. After Penix Jr. opted to return for another season in Seattle, Huard transferred in search of playing time. 

Cal Poly was a surprising choice for Huard, but he reunited with his high school coach Sheldon Cross, who served as offensive coordinator. In his lone season with the Mustangs, Huard started nine games and finished second in the Big Sky with 249.7 yards pass per game and 18 touchdowns. 

Huard comes from a notable Pacific Northwest football family. His father, Damon Huard, was a starting quarterback at Washington and played in the NFL from 1996-2009. His uncle, Brock Huard, also lasted five years in the NFL after Washington. Another uncle, Luke Huard, played at North Carolina

Utah enters the 2024 season as a potential preseason favorite in its new league, the Big 12. Perhaps even more significant, the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff means that the league's champion will lock up a spot in the field. Adding Huard is a symptom of the importance of building key positional depth in the expanded CFP. Suddenly, the difference between 9 and 10 wins could be national contention. 

Despite dealing with a massive wave of injuries during the 2023 season, Utah clawed its way to 8-4 in the final year of the Pac-12. The Utes have been aggressive to add offensive depth, including three wide receivers and two tight ends. If a backup is thrust into the lineup, coach Kyle Whittingham is optimistic they will have enough to work with for the Utes.