Last summer, quarterback Troy Williams was named a Utah football co-captain and lost his starting job two days later.
That won’t happen to junior Tyler Huntley, who was announced one of six co-captains Saturday as the Utes concluded preseason camp with a scrimmage at Rice-Eccles Stadium, closed to the media.
His teammates' election of Huntley as an offensive captain with center Lo Falemaka was not surprising, considering the Utes have only 12 scholarship seniors and quarterback is a traditional leadership position. Yet it is significant, validating the snapshots of Huntley's interaction with other offensive players in the media-viewing portions of practice.
Huntley’s aura among his teammates and the improvement in passing that his coaches have cited made his performance one of the Utes' biggest developments in camp — even though he was not necessarily among anyone’s primary concerns when practice started.
Matt Gay, a senior kicker and co-captain, summarized the camp as “competitive.” Amid a lot of talk about how good the Utes can become in 2018, the players “want to live up to it,” Gay said.
Cody Barton, senior linebacker. Lo Falemaka, senior center. Matt Gay, senior kicker. Chase Hansen, senior linebacker. Tyler Huntley, junior quarterback. Mitch Wishnowsky, senior punter.
With the Utes launching their weekly, in-season routine Monday as the academic calendar begins, here’s a look at how they have answered some key questions in advance of the Aug. 30 season opener vs. Weber State:
Who’s the (backup) quarterback?
This was a valid question, leading into good competition between freshman Jack Tuttle and redshirt freshman Jason Shelley. It would be an upset if Shelley is chosen over Tuttle for the No. 2 role (coach Kyle Whittingham intends to issue a depth chart in the next few days).
Tuttle will have earned the position, if he gets it. The next question would become how the coaches manage Tuttle’s freshman year, with the potential for him to play in four or fewer games and maintain redshirt status. Teammates voted Tuttle to the Utes' 15-player leadership council.
Who will develop among the receivers?
This answer is twofold: The receivers have shown overall improvement, reducing fears about how the team's weakest position group would perform. And three players have risen above the others: Demari Simpkins, Britain Covey and Siaosi Mariner.
Mix in tight end Jake Jackson, and the Utes should have enough receiving threats to help Huntley become a more effective passer.
How healthy is Marquise Blair?
The Utes believe they will field one of the best secondaries in school history, starting with Julian Blackmon as a star cornerback. That could happen only if Blair, a safety, and cornerback Jaylon Johnson fully overcame the injuries that sidelined them late last season.
They have looked good in camp, and the Utes also like their depth in the secondary.
Who will emerge up front?
Other than some intrigue about the No. 2 QB, the depth chart's biggest news will involve the offensive and defensive lines.
Offensive guard Nick Ford’s progress was a notable development early in camp; Orlando Umana then appeared to be pushing him. Either way, the Utes should have a solid player to go with their four returning starters.
Questions remain about the first-team defensive line, especially at an end spot opposite Bradlee Anae. The coaches seem comfortable with the rotation, though.
Do the Utes have enough depth?
This question can be answered only in November, traditionally a difficult month for the Utes. This season's complication is Utah's bye comes in mid-September, followed by nine weeks of games.
Nobody knows how many injuries any team will suffer, but the Utes have discovered several freshmen who can help them in 2018, including offensive lineman Braeden Daniels, receiver Solomon Enis, running back Devin Brumfield and defensive tackle Jackson Cravens.