In a season when true freshman quarterbacks will start for Power Five programs USC, Minnesota and Nebraska, the most celebrated QB recruit in Utah history is No. 3 on his team's depth chart.
Redshirt freshman Jason Shelley is Utah’s No. 2 quarterback and former BYU linebacker Francis Bernard is the backup rover in two of the biggest developments of the Utes' preseason practice this month, according to the depth chart announced Monday.
Shelley was awarded the backup QB job ahead of freshman Jack Tuttle, who has a redshirt year available. Coaches hope to preserve that status, although Tuttle could appear in as many as four games, via the NCAA’s new rule.
Shelley “just slightly edged out” Tuttle, coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday, explaining that Tuttle's redshirt option was a consideration in the decision. Both players will get practice opportunities with the No. 2 offense each week.
“Two good players; they're learning, they're young, they did a good job,” said starting quarterback Tyler Huntley, one of three players made available to the media in advance of Thursday's opener vs. Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
WEBER STATE AT UTAH
When • Thursday, 6 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network
As for Tuttle’s reaction to the news, Huntley said, “I’ve been in those shoes, not getting exactly what you expected. That’s all about growing up and respecting the process, so everybody’s going to be good.”
Bernard began practicing in pads Aug. 15 after completing academic requirements, earning an associate degree via an Arizona junior college after leaving BYU. He moved ahead of redshirt freshman Devin Lloyd as the backup to senior Chase Hansen at one of the Utes' two linebacker positions.
“He's been on an upward trajectory ever since he got here,” said Whittingham, who praised Bernard's work on and off the field in learning the defensive scheme.
Other notes from the first official update of the depth chart since practice started Aug. 1:
• Redshirt freshman Nick Ford and sophomore Orlando Umana are listed as co-starters at left guard and will share time in games until one of them moves ahead, Whittingham said. The No. 2 offensive tackles are freshmen Braeden Daniels and Simi Moala, although in the case of an injury to a starter, Ford would move to either tackle spot.
Fourth-year junior Johnny Capra, a projected starter on the line after spring practice, is out for the season due to injury.
• On the defensive line, end Mika Tafua and tackle Hauati Pututau have earned starting positions.
• Utah lists 12 starting offensive players, including four receivers: Siaosi Mariner, Britain Covey, Samson Nacua and Demari Simpkins. Jake Jackson is the tight end.
• Covey and Simpkins will return kickoffs and Covey will return punts. Matt Gay will kick off, having moved ahead of Mitch Wishnowsky, the Utes' star punter who did most of the kicking off in 2017. Maddie Golden, a freshman, will snap for place-kicks and Central Michigan transfer Keegan Markgraf will snap for punts.
• In addition to Capra, three injured players are out for the season: running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole, defensive end Blake Kuithe and linebacker Moroni Anae. Defensive end Davir Hamilton is transferring from Utah.