Utah Utes’ Top 10 Returning Players in 2024 Include Cam Rising, Brant Kuithe

    The Utah Utes transition to the Big 12 in 2024, and these top 10 returning players can put them in conference title contention immediately.

    The Utah Utes have been highly successful under head coach Kyle Whittingham, and those expectations will travel with them as they move to the Big 12 as college football realigns.

    With several players returning from injury, young stars primed for a breakout, and significant transfer portal additions, the outlook for the Utes in 2024 looks bright.

    Utah Utes’ Top 10 Returners in 2024

    Analyzing the returning players at every school is a difficult task in the transfer portal area. As such, we’ve included transfer-portal athletes on each team’s roster page to open spring camp in addition to the rostered players from last year.

    10) Logan Fano, DE

    Logan Fano was extremely impressive as a freshman and flashed enough in his five games to believe he can improve in 2024. The Utes defensive end suffered a season-ending injury in September but still managed to put up 14 total sacks, four for a loss, 3.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in only a handful of games.

    The Utes have several pass rushers to mix into their rotation. However, Fano’s eruption as a rookie before his injury proved he can hold up long-term if healthy. The four-star recruit — who was initially enrolled at BYU — can thrive as Utah moves to the Big 12.

    9) Tao Johnson, DB

    Tao Johnson has been on a journey since enrolling at Utah. As a freshman in 2022, Johnson featured in five games as a wide receiver and special teams contributor. Then, he was extremely impressive in his second season with the Utes, starting 12 games at nickel back. In 2023, Johnson had 33 total tackles, five pass breakups, seven third-down stops, and a fumble recovery.

    However, in 2024, Johnson will be making the transition to safety. He has already made a position switch once, so this one should be slightly easier on the third-year player. With acute playmaking instincts, Johnson should be able to slot straight into a starting role with Cole Bishop and Sione Vaki heading to the NFL.

    8) Karene Reid, LB

    Karene Reid returns to Salt Lake City for his senior season and anchors an extremely experienced linebacker core. The Utes return all three of their starters from 2023, including Levani Damuni and Lander Barton.

    Over his three seasons as a starter, Reid has racked up 184 tackles, 13.5 for a loss, six sacks, three interceptions, two touchdowns, nine pass breakups, and one fumble recovery. Reid is anticipated to quarterback the defense in 2024 after earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors last fall.

    7) Junior Tafuna, DT

    Junior Tafuna is a three-year starter with the Utes and is a three-time second-team All-Pac-12 honoree. His breakout year in 2021 saw him win Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, and his experience has been invaluable to the Utah defensive line.

    Over his career, Tafuna has registered 77 total tackles, 12 for a loss, seven sacks, an interception, four passes deflected, and two fumble recoveries. The Utes DT continues to step up in the big games with massive performances against UCLA and Oregon State. Tafuna’s experience and consistency are priceless to Utah.

    6) Micah Bernard, RB

    Micah Bernard was electric out of the backfield in 2021 and 2022. However, an undisclosed off-the-field injury ended his season just two games into the 2023 season. His absence proved how much the Utes needed the dynamic running back available, as they missed his playmaking presence last fall.

    MORE: 2024 Big 12 Power Rankings

    In 2021 and 2022, Bernhard accumulated 1056 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Additionally, he added 565 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. His ability to equally impact the rushing and passing game should see him bounce back to his best now he has recovered from his setback injury.

    5) Landen King, TE

    Landen King is adored by Utah fans but didn’t get the production he deserved in 2023. The standout tight end transferred to Salt Lake City from Auburn, a move he says was a “no-brainer” due to Utah’s heavy tight end usage.

    With only 166 yards and three touchdowns, King wasn’t as productive as expected. However, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The TE is still developing, and with multiple injuries on the Utah offense, he couldn’t be consistent.

    Moreover, King had a tremendous play blown up against Oregon State, which would have been his highlight of the year if it hadn’t been for an offside call.

    4) Zemaiah Vaughn, CB

    Zemaiah Vaughn is entering his fifth year with the Utes after playing all 13 games a season ago. 2023 was the best year of the cornerback’s career, and Vaughn was reliable for Whittingham and the Utah defense. His play earned him an All-Pac-12 honorable mention, and he returns in 2024.

    With 53 total tackles, five for a loss, 0.5 sacks, an interception, and six passes defended, Vaughn was everywhere for the Utah defense, and his experience and production will be a massive boost for the Utes in the new season.

    3) Dorian Singer, WR

    Dorian Singer is a mega transfer portal addition in Salt Lake City, bringing his impressive skill set to the wide receiver core. The two-time transfer enters the Utes as WR1 in 2024 after a difficult 2023 season. The layover at USC didn’t go as planned for Singer, who was unable to repeat the production he had at Arizona.

    The WR was targeted only 24 times in the Trojans’ offense in 2023, gathering 289 receiving yards and three touchdowns. However, Singer collected 66 receptions for 1,105 yards and six touchdowns in his final season with the Wildcats.

    2) Brant Kuithe, TE

    Before being injured, Brant Kuithe was an important member of the Utes offense and even started ahead of Dalton Kincaid before his injury in 2022. However, due to an ACL tear in September 2022, Kuithe missed substantial playing time and became eligible for a medical redshirt year in 2023.

    This means that Kuithe has been in college football since 2018, but if he can return to his best, he will be influential in the Utes’ success.

    The three-time All-Pac-12 tight end has played in 51 career games and has been used as a versatile weapon. He has tallied 2,044 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns in his career.

    1) Cam Rising, QB

    Cam Rising will finally return for the 2024 season after tearing multiple ligaments in the Rose Bowl to end a championship-winning 2022 season on a sour note. The injury cost him the entire 2023 season, and his return is much anticipated after he led the Utes to back-to-back Pac-12 titles in 2021 and 2022.

    KEEP READING: 2024 Big 12 QB Rankings

    Over his career, Rising has completed 456 of his 711 passes for 5,572 yards, 46 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. His return will mean big expectations for the Utes as they transition to the Big 12, looking to add a third conference crown in four years.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!

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