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Colter Peterson, KSL

Playing backup: Who gets the nod should Tyler Huntley be out against California?

By Josh Furlong, KSL.com | Posted - Oct 21st, 2019 @ 2:01pm



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah came away with a victory in a vital South Division matchup against Arizona State, but it cost the program a few injuries during the game, including starting quarterback Tyler Huntley.

On Monday, head coach Kyle Whittingham told media at his weekly press conference that none of the injuries sustained in the game were season-ending.

“As far as the injuries in the game, none were season-ending and so that's the only statement we'll have about that, that none of them were season-ending, which is good news for us,” he said.

Huntley sustained an apparent leg injury in the first half of Utah’s game against Arizona State and was out for several plays before returning on the same drive to lead Utah to a touchdown. The senior quarterback “was bound and determined to go out and finish” but had a noticeable limp in his return.

He was later taken out of the game in the third quarter after reaggravating the same injury. Whittingham said after the game the coaching staff decided to pull him from the game to save his health. He added that Huntley was “cleared” by the medical staff after the first injury.

Huntley's exact injury has not been disclosed by the university, and it’s unsure his timetable to return. Whittingham does not expound upon injuries unless they’re season ending.

Should Huntley not be able to go Saturday against California, the Utes will trot out either redshirt sophomore Jason Shelley or junior Drew Lisk. Shelley has the most experience with the program after being named the starter last season for five games when Huntley sustained a season-ending shoulder injury against the Sun Devils.

Shelley, though, has split time with Lisk in the limited reps given to quarterbacks outside of Huntley this season. Lisk replaced Huntley the first time Saturday, but Shelley finished the game. Whittingham said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig felt Lisk “had the better practice week, so he got the nod when Tyler went down.”

Whittingham added that Shelley entered the game when they needed more running experience out of their quarterback and to burn some clock late in the game. “Jason is the better quarterback-run guy, so that's why we made the switch in the next time that Tyler exited,” he said.

Lisk has long been named the No. 2 guy on the depth chart despite Shelley having the proven experience. But Whittingham said Lisk is an “absolute student of the game” and has a “complete understanding of the offense.” Even on a widely missed pass to his receiver on Saturday, Whittingham said it was on a broken route and that the football was exactly where it needed to be.

“He's accurate throwing the football,” Whittingham added. “Drew's accurate; a really good decision-maker.”

As Utah prepares for its matchup against Cal, Whittingham said there will be a competition for the backup spot, as there has been every week of the season. The official depth chart released by the university now lists both quarterbacks as the backup to Huntley, with an “OR” designation between the two.

If Huntley is not be cleared for Saturday’s game, the named starter will likely come down to whether they want a more mobile quarter (Shelley) or one that’s more comfortable in the pocket (Lisk). Lisk has thrown for 52 yards on 7-of-9 passing this season, while Shelley has only thrown for 6 yards on 1-of-4 passing. Shelley finished the 2018 season throwing for 1,162 yards and five touchdowns, but only completed 58.3% of his passes.

Other injuries of note where offensive lineman Darrin Paulo, and receivers Bryan Thompson and Solomon Enis. Both Thompson and Enis returned to the game Saturday, though.

Josh Furlong

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