Ute QB Tyler Huntley looks good in the first real test since an injury ended his 2018 season early

Utah’s No. 1 defensive line is dominant against the run in the team’s first spring scrimmage.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Quarterback Tyler Huntley, #1, fakes a pass as he scrimmages with the team during spring practice at Rice Eccles stadium, the first of two major scrimmages prior to the April 13 Red-White Game. Huntley will face his first big test since he was injured Nov. 3 at Arizona State.

Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley’s first pass in anything resembling a football game in nearly five months, a rollout pass to his tight end for a 23-yard gain, showcased the skills that offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig hopes to maximize.

Huntley’s next pass was intercepted by Penn State transfer Manny Bowen, a linebacker who has made plays like that throughout March.

Utah’s first full scrimmage of the spring produced the usual mixed results Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, with Huntley’s successful return emerging as the biggest takeaway. His season ended in early November with a broken collarbone at Arizona State, but Huntley clearly has regained his starting job and appears ready for a productive senior year.

Huntley completed 10 of 12 passes for 98 yards (statistics are unofficial), including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Demari Simpkins in the red-zone phase of the scrimmage.

“I think Tyler has a chance to be a great quarterback,” Ludwig said. “I'm really impressed with the way he works. His football aptitude and football intellect in the meeting room is outstanding. I'm his third quarterback coach [at Utah], and he's been well trained. I just want to make sure the scheme caters to his skill set.”


Unofficial statistics for Utah's quarterbacks in Saturday's scrimmage:

Tyler Huntley – 10 of 12 for 98 yards; one touchdown, one interception.

Jason Shelley – 4 of 8 for 47 yards.

Drew Lisk – 4 of 7 for 40 yards; one touchdown.

The playbook gives the quarterback considerable responsibility to make adjustments. “It’s a lot of thinking when you come to the line,” Huntley said, “but in the long run, it’s going to be good.”

Jason Shelley and Drew Lisk split series with the No. 2 offense. The uncertainty about Texas transfer Cameron Rising's 2019 eligibility makes it impractical to reduce playing time for Shelley and Lisk, coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Shelley went 4 of 8 for 47 yards with three throwaways, due to the coverage. Lisk was 4 of 7 for 40 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown to Samson Nacua. Solomon Enis caught three passes for 57 yards.

Partly due to injuries and inexperience on the offensive line, Utah’s straight-ahead running game was stuffed by the veteran defensive line on nearly every play. The offense’s most rushing success came via misdirection runs, handoffs to receivers and quarterback keepers on the zone-read option. Running back TJ Green posted runs of 18, 9 and 8 yards. Receiver Demari Simpkins ran for 10 and 15 yards and Shelley kept the ball for gains of 11 and 10 yards, plus a 6-yard touchdown.

Quarterbacks were not tackled; nor were first-team offensive players in the 68-play scrimmage. Rising quarterbacked a 7-on-7 segment at the end of the Utes' ninth of 15 practices this spring.

Placekicker is among Utah’s unsettled positions, with the graduation of former Lou Groza Award winner Matt Gay. Sophomore Chayden Johnston was No. 1 going into the spring, but his inconsistency has created a competition with freshman Jadon Redding, who made field goals of 42 and 37 yards. Johnston hit a 25-yarder.

The Utes will stage another scrimmage Friday in the last live work for most front-line players. The Red-White Game is April 13.