SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Making more plays with his arm rather than his legs has become a primary goal for Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley as he enters a new season.
Huntley begins his second year as a starter when the Utes host Weber State on Thursday night. He made a name for himself as a sophomore with dual-threat abilities. In 10 starts, Huntley averaged 294.8 yards of total offense. He ranked third overall in the Pac-12 in that category.
His running ability made it hard for defenses to scheme against him. Huntley piled up 537 yards and six touchdowns, finishing second in rushing for the Utes.
This season, the 6-foot-1 junior wants to make an even greater impact — as a passer.
“I understand situations,” Huntley said. “I understand different defenses, so I feel like I’m smarter in the game.”
Keeping plays alive with his feet made Huntley fun to watch. It also came at a cost.
Huntley suffered a shoulder injury in a 30-24 win over Arizona and he ultimately missed three games because of injuries. Utah is trying to prevent a similar scenario from playing out this fall. Huntley’s coaches have worked with him to avoid taking risks that leave him open to injury. He’s getting the message.
“His decision-making is better — not that it was bad, but he’s just improved in all areas,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “There was no glaring weakness. The thing that was concerning was the amount of hits he took last year. He knows that and we have talked about that a lot and that’s one of the primary objectives of this year is to make sure he is not subjected to as many hits as he was last year.”
With Zack Moss emerging as an elite running back, Huntley is doing his part to study film, evolve his game, and be more patient. He acknowledges that it isn’t easy for a quarterback to give up the desire to make every play.
“You just got to be comfortable with everybody around you,” Huntley said. “You got to trust everything around you and that’s the most challenging thing about (being) a quarterback.”
Other things to watch when Utah hosts Weber State:
Thursday will be the first football game sophomore receiver Britain Covey has played since 2015. Covey was a freshman All-American for Utah before taking two years off to serve on an LDS mission in Chile. He led the Utes in receptions in his debut season, hauling in 43 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns.
Weber State will break in a new starting quarterback against Utah. Kaden Jenks claimed the top spot after winning a three-way battle in fall camp. The 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman edged out sophomore Jake Constantine, a Boise State transfer, and senior Rathen Ricedorff, who had previous stops at Arizona State and Boise State.
COACHING CONNECTIONS: Several key members of Weber State’s coaching staff served as assistants under Whittingham or played for him at Utah. Wildcats head coach Jay Hill was a cornerback for the Utes in 1998 and 1999 and then served as an assistant coach at the school from 2005 to 2013. Weber State offensive coordinator Dave Schramm also coached at Utah from 2005 to 2011. Wildcat assistants Kite Afeaki, Quinton Ganther, and Joe Dale are all former Ute players under Whittingham.
MAKING HISTORY: Utah enters the 2018 season as the only school in NCAA history to ever have a Ray Guy Award winner and a Lou Groza Award winner on the same team. Senior punter Mitch Wishnowsky won the Ray Guy Award in 2016. Senior kicker Matt Gay claimed the Lou Groza Award in 2017.