Five questions to ponder regarding Utah football in the months leading up to next season:

1. Who is the Utes’ quarterback?

There’s senior-to-be Tyler Huntley and there’s sophomore-to-be Jason Shelley. Huntley acquiesced to Shelley only on account of injury, otherwise this question might not make the list at all. But he did get injured, Shelley did take over, impressing at first and then sagging over his last two starts, both disappointing losses in important games — the Pac-12 championship and the Holiday Bowl.

Shelley had his moments, some of them scintillating. But, as is to be expected from a freshman, he made mistakes, too. The Utes’ loss to Northwestern was a classic example of that. Shelley threw for more than 300 yards, he was by far the most impressive offensive player in Utah’s arsenal through the bowl game’s first 30 minutes, giving glimpses of what he might be in the seasons ahead.

At the half, he was Utah’s leading rusher — with 52 yards — and its leading passer — with 155 yards, and two touchdown throws that were picturesque, especially a 27-yard laser to Jaylen Dixon. Without his early contributions, the Utes would have been stuck on attack.

Afterward, he said: “Yeah, that’s why you got to play 60 minutes. We had a good 30, first 30, then a very sloppy 30 in the second half. We just got to put two halves together. Once we do that, we’ll be hard to beat.”

Is Shelley the guy to take two halves of a sliced melon and slap them back together? Is he the guy to take two halves of a game, of a season and align them just so?

Before Huntley got injured in the Arizona State loss, he completed149 of 233 passes for 1,762 yards, 12 touchdowns, six picks. He also ran for 304 yards and four TDs.

Neither quarterback could do much to beat Washington, the team that kept the Utes out of the Rose Bowl. Huntley’s offense scored seven points against the Huskies. Shelley’s got three points.

Right now, the edge is Huntley’s, but Kyle Whittingham would be foolish to jump too quickly to a final decision on the matter, particularly since he still doesn’t know who his new offensive coordinator will be.

2. Can the Utes re-establish a dominant run game?

This is an area that once was an absolute given. Nobody could cram into their imagination the thought that Utah might not be able to effectively move the ball on the ground. It’s what Utah football does. It’s what it is. It smashes you in the mouth and runs over you, laughing at your pain.

Look at the running backs of the past, from Jamal Anderson to Mike Anderson, from John White IV to Devonte Booker, from Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala to Joe Williams, from Darrell Mack to Brandon Warfield to Quinton Ganther to Zack Moss.

Trouble is, is Moss a running back of the past or of the present?

If he stays, Utah’s run game will flourish. If he leaves, then … who knows? Whittingham said the two main reasons his team lost to Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl were turnovers (the Utes had six) and no run game (they gained a mere 91 rushing yards, many of those coming from Shelley).

“No consistency,” he said. “No movement on their front.”

No matter who is coordinating the offense, Whittingham cannot abide that kind of meager production. Armand Shyne was not effective (33 yards), Devin Brumfield got 19, TJ Green ran for three. Who will step forward in 2019? Who will clear space for them?

“Something that we got to go to work on in the offseason,” Whittingham said.

3. Is it possible that Utah can build on its 2018 success, advancing farther in 2019?

The Utes have many skilled players returning, players who had key roles this season, players with the kind of talent that could blossom into something more. As mentioned, the offensive line has to run block better than it did at the end of 2018, a bevy of receivers can contribute in a more consistent manner than they did this season, and the defensive secondary must edge forward, as well.

If they do, if the Utes can replace guys like Chase Hansen and Cody Barton on defense and Moss, if he chooses to leave, on offense, they could win not only another Pac-12 South title, they could win even more. If …

4. Who will the new offensive coordinator be?

Troy Taylor is gone. He’s gone because he wanted out because Whittingham was a bit rough on him, making him uncomfortable, nudging him out the door. Truth is, Taylor was looking to escape from Utah after his first season, and he found that escape after his second. Unvarnished truth.

The new coordinator will be the 10th to run Utah’s offense under Whittingham, and whoever it is had best align his goals and philosophies with the head coach’s, otherwise 10 will move to 11 as quickly as it went from nine to 10. It’s just a fact of life.

Reports that Rich Rodriguez’s price at Mississippi was being pushed up by Utah’s late pursuit of him is evidence that Utah has grown tired of goofing around with its offense, wanting instead an established offensive mind who will help them win.

5. Can the Utes actually qualify for and win the Rose Bowl in the not-too-distant future?

It’s sort of the same as question No. 3, asked a different way, an important way.

In the aftermath of Monday night’s bowl loss, Whittingham was clinging onto the notion that he could judge the season on the whole, and not focus in too much on just the way it bumped and skidded over the last two games. Utah is deepening its talent pool, even if some recruiting services have doubts about that.

The key this offseason will be for players in the program to gather themselves, and move forward without getting their daubers down. They did win the South, a first for the program. They do have talent already in-house. They do have a foundation upon which to build.

They know that.

“”Without question, this was a big step forward for our program this season,” Whittingham said. “… When you look at the body of work, we took a step forward. We can line up and play with anybody in the Pac-12. Took us eight years to get to this point.”

Now, can they win the whole thing?

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.