SALT LAKE CITY — Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley isn’t afraid to put his confidence on display. The junior wears jersey No. 1 — a fitting number considering his spot on the depth chart. Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium against Weber State, Huntley begins his second season as the starter for the Utes.
"He is doing everything better than he was last year. He was very good last year for us, but he is a year older and is more mature. He has that year of competition under his belt and he is a seasoned veteran now I guess you could say,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “He has done a good job running the offense in the offseason ever since last spring. His decision-making is better, not that it was bad, but he has just improved in all areas. There was no glaring weakness.”
However, Whittingham acknowledged being concerned about the number of hits Huntley took last season.
“He knows that and we have talked about it a lot,” Whittingham added. “And that is one of the primary objectives of this year, is to make sure he is not subjected to as many hits.”
Huntley, who missed three games last season because of injuries, understands the situation. In camp, he said he’s been working on his slide and has just gotten better protecting his body.
Thanks to eating a lot of steak and bread and hitting the weight room hard, Huntley has bulked up 6-foot-1 frame to about 200 pounds.
It’s a work in progress.
“One thing we haven't quite gotten him where we want is on his size, but he is working hard,” Whittingham said. “It isn't anything he’s doing, some guys just have a harder time putting on weight than others.”
Huntley, though, has tipped the scale in other ways such as with his decision-making ability. Whittingham said it’s been very good in both the run and throw game.
And there’s more to it.
“He’s always been a really confident guy and I think this year, like Coach said, he’s just matured a lot more and he’s really taking charge of the whole offense and being a field general,” noted sophomore receiver Samson Nacua. “I think it’s helped a lot.”
Confidence is something Huntley exudes. He expressed excitement for the upcoming season and predicts it’s going to be a great year.
“We’re straight ahead now,” Huntley said. “We’re working on winning games.”
The Utes went 6-4 with Huntley as their starter. He completed 199 of 312 passes for 2,411 yards with 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Huntley rushed for 537 yards and six scores.
In spring ball, second-year offensive coordinator Troy Taylor credited Huntley for continuing to stay hungry and improve as he grows more comfortable in the system. He praised him for being more detailed with his preparation.
Huntley, in turn, noted that he definitely feels “one hundred percent comfortable” in the system Utah is running.
"You know the checks and the different looks you are looking for,” he said. “Coach Troy is doing a great job of communicating to the quarterbacks."
As the returning starter, Huntley explained that he’s grown as a quarterback and as a person. Although he admits his mindset is a little bit different, the same cannot be said about the focus the former Florida prep star is carrying into the season.
Huntley is as determined as ever. The same can be said about his confidence.
After the season-opening depth chart was released Monday, Huntley wasn’t surprised where things stood with the position group. A year ago, he beat out senior Troy Williams for the starting job. This time around he fended off challenges from Jason Shelley and Jack Tuttle.
“This year it was too much of a competition,” Huntley said. “But they definitely pushed me during practice and it just made me grow as a person and as a player.”
Huntley added that he knew he was the No. 1 quarterback going in and did what needed to be done in order to get ready for the season. The offense, as a whole, is eager to get started.
“I feel like we’re all comfortable in each other and comfortable with the plan,” Huntley said. “We’ve just got to go and win some games now.”