It’s easy to say the kid looks the part.
All you have to do is watch Jack Tuttle in the half-hour after Kyle Whittingham ends a spring camp session to see why the buzz is warranted. The four-star true-freshman quarterback lobs snap after snap to redshirt freshman wide receiver Dylan Slavens into the north-side end zone. When he’s done, he drops to the grass outside the Eccles Football Complex and gets some postpractice yoga in.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback works on his cobra pose in full pads, his prototype frame bending backward as he presses his hands into the turf, arching his back and carrying on conversation with teammates nearby.
This comes after he was on the receiving end of some friendly heckling from junior cornerback Julian Blackmon, who yelled he’d pick off those postpractice tosses if it were a game-day scenario.
Tuttle came to Utah as an early enrollee loaded with a freight train of hype. Recruiting experts framed his commit from Mission Hills, Calif., as a bellwether move, a dynamic shift for the program seen as always being a quarterback away from establishing itself as a Pac-12 contender. That the team has gravitated toward the new quarterback should not surprise, coaches say.
After teasing him, Blackmon walked back toward Tuttle and explained what he noticed.
The move to Salt Lake, Tuttle said, has been a cinch.
“I was committed for such a long time, so I got to know a lot of the guys real well,” he said. “It’s just basically like coming to another home for me. I’ve really enjoyed it thus far and I’m just trying to work hard with my guys and we’re having fun.”
The reality is, Tuttle should be enjoying his last few months of life home in San Marcos, a northern suburb of San Diego. Offensive coordinator Troy Taylor uses a better analogy.
“Really [he] should be eating grilled cheese at high school right now during lunch,” Taylor said.
“Mature beyond his age by years,” Whittingham said. “You think he’s a 28-year-old veteran.”
Instead, he’s here, at Utah’s spring practice, showing off his powerful arm, the intangibles coaches say are necessary to lead a team and being a magnetic figure in his first month on campus. He was voted as one of 16 members of spring leadership committee by his teammates — the only true freshman on the list.
“That’s a sign right there of what his teammates think of him so far,” Whittingham said, “so he’s just been as advertised.”
Tuttle is diplomatic, too. All quarterbacks must be in the face of microphones and cameras.
When asked to describe Taylor’s offense, Tuttle says if dialed in correctly, it could be basically impossible to stop, but makes sure to fit in that Utah’s 1,000-yard rusher from last season, running back Zack Moss, is “a beast.”
When asked if he came here to win the starting quarterback job from junior Tyler Huntley, Tuttle says he came here early “to do anything I could for this team.”
When asked how the onslaught of attention affects him, Tuttle says, “I’m just a guy on the team.”
When asked if he has a favorite go-to wide receiver in spring ball, Tuttle says, “I like to say all of them.”
He’s got that stuff down pat. Last week Tuttle asked Utah coaches if he could tag along to the airport to welcome home Utah wide receiver Britain Covey from his two-year LDS Church mission. They said yes, so there he was at the airport flashing the “U” with Covey and Co.
Tuttle also wants to make the Dean’s List in Year 1, wants to get straight A’s, but his priority this spring is memorizing the playbook, knowing it by heart and acclimating to life as a college student along the way.
“Been adjusting really well,” he said.
Taylor said his freshman quarterback must use the rest of spring ball to find a comfort zone. Tuttle isn’t flinching at the speed of the practices. His passes aren’t as late as some young quarterbacks in his position would throw. Instead they’ve been on target and timely, Taylor said.
“He’s a very mature kid,” Taylor said. “He’s a really, really unique kid. He knows he’s all about coming in here, getting better, helping the team. He doesn’t get too far ahead of himself. He knows he’s got competition.”
It starts with No. 1, who walked off Utah’s practice field with a few footballs in tow, taking his own turn at ribbing Utah’s impressive young quarterback.
“Freshman!” Huntley hollered while Tuttle took questions from the media for the first time. Just as a friendly reminder. He’s had a lot of those lately.
UTAH QUARTERBACK JACK TUTTLE
Height • 6-foot-3
Weight • 200
Class • Freshman
Hometown • San Marcos, Calif.
The hype • Former four-star recruit out of Missions Hills High School committed to Utah in December 2016 and was chased by some of the top programs in the country. … Tuttle graduated early and enrolled at Utah to get a jump start on life as a student-athlete. … He participated in Elite 11 camp and was one of 12 QBs to be invited to Nike’s The Opening tournament last summer. ... Threw for 3,171 yards and 41 touchdowns his senior year.