Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley returned to practice Friday for the first time in five weeks as the Utes started preparing for the Dec. 31 Holiday Bowl vs. Northwestern.
Huntley, whose collarbone was broken Nov. 3 at Arizona State, participated in individual drills and said he hopes to be cleared to practice fully within two weeks. “It’s still questionable, so I’m not getting my hopes too high. … If they clear me, it’s a go. If they don’t clear me, then I’ll understand we’ve got a whole other year next year,” he said. “So I’m just prepared for it all.”
Huntley added, “It's been tough, just to watch my team out there. … I want to play, but my team did a great job of getting to the [Pac-12 South] championship.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham left open the possibility of Huntley’s starting the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, if he’s medically allowed to play. “We’ll just work him in and see how much he can progress,” Whittingham said.
Huntley was hurt in the third quarter of Utah’s 38-20 loss at ASU, with that result giving the Sun Devils the tiebreaker in the Pac-12 South race. The Utes responded with wins over Oregon and Colorado with redshirt freshman Jason Shelley as Huntley’s replacement, and ASU’s loss at Oregon made Utah the division champion. The Utes then lost 10-3 to Washington in the conference title game, generating just 188 yards of offense.
Huntley “seems back in his groove, just getting back to where he used to be,” said Ute receiver Jaylen Dixon. “He's been ready to get back since the day he got hurt.”
Shelley said he liked having Huntley back on the practice field, “just like normal, practicing, having fun, doing our thing, learning from each other.”
As for keeping his job, Shelley said, “I always prepare to start. So I’m expecting to start. If it doesn’t happen, I’m just going to keep my mindset ready.”
Surgery for Covey
Sophomore receiver Britain Covey is officially out for the Holiday Bowl, requiring surgery after injuring his knee on the second-half kickoff vs. Washington, Whittingham said.
Covey is the only recently injured player who will miss the bowl game. Running back Zack Moss is sidelined after having knee surgery in mid-November.
Senior punter Mitch Wishnowsky was named Utah's first three-time All-American after making the Walter Camp second team.
Whittingham and Wishnowsky attended the College Football Awards in Atlanta, where the punter was a third-time finalist for the Ray Guy Award that went to Texas A&M’s Braden Mann. Wishnowsky, the 2016 winner, has averaged 45.1 yards as a senior, with 22 of his punts going inside the 20-yard line. Nine of them were caught or downed inside the 10, and he has only four touchbacks.
Whittingham and his staff have scrambled to make home visits to recruits this week, after focusing on the Pac-12 title game last week. “It's worth the tradeoff,” he said. “You've got a chance to play in a national platform in a championship game. We don't think we lost ground, but there is some catching up to do.”
East High School defensive lineman Siaki Ika, a national recruit, said he’s making an official visit to Utah this weekend. Jayden Daniels, a highly regarded quarterback from southern California, announced he will decide next Thursday from among Utah, Arizona State, UCLA and California. The NCAA’s early signing window begins Dec. 19.
Ute defensive line coach Gary Andersen has been recruiting locally this week, amid reports of his potential return to Utah State as head coach. Utah’s assistants were not made available to the media Friday.