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Addition of former Ute Jason Shelley adds intrigue to Utah State quarterback competition

Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) warms up prior to kickoff as BYU and Utah play at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Shelley has transferred to Utah State, the Aggies announced Monday.
Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) warms up prior to kickoff as BYU and Utah play at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Shelley has transferred to Utah State, the Aggies announced Monday.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

LOGAN — Utah State’s quarterback competition just got a little more interesting.

The Aggies announced Monday that former University of Utah quarterback Jason Shelley has transferred to USU. A junior, Shelley will be immediately eligible and able to suit up for the Aggies both this season — if it indeed happens — and the next.

A three-star recruit out of Frisco, Texas, and ranked the 12th-best dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2016 by 247Sports, Shelley spent the last three years in Salt Lake City.

After redshirting the 2017 season, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Shelley played in 19 games for the Utes, starting five times. All five starts came at the end of the 2018 season, when Shelley took over for an injured Tyler Huntley and helped Utah win the Pac-12 South title and advance to the program’s first Pac-12 championship game.

During the course of his Utah career, Shelley racked up 1,428 yards of total offense — 1,205 passing yards and 223 rushing yards — and finished with a 3-2 record as a starter.

Toward the end of his time at Utah, Shelley began to make the transition to safety, although he made it clear that his preferred position was and would always be quarterback.

“I came here as a quarterback,” Shelley told the Deseret News in December. “I’d really like to play quarterback, you know, but I’m all here for the team and I’ll do whatever it takes for the team But, you know, they felt like I was probably better at safety. I would like to get a shot at QB in the spring. But, you know, it is what it is so I’m just going to go out there and work.”

Shelley made the decision to leave Utah in February, when he announced his entry into the NCAA transfer portal on Twitter.

“After a lot of praying and talking with my family I have decided to enter my name in the NCAA Transfer Portal,” Shelley wrote. “Thank you coaches for this opportunity to play for the University of Utah these last three seasons. I am very grateful for all my teammates/brothers that I have made throughout the years.

“Lastly, thank you Salt Lake City along with Ute Nation for all the great memories and experiences. However, I believe that God has a plan for everyone, and I am moving onto the new chapter in my life. Forever all love.”

Shelley arrives in Logan at an interesting time, what with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic casting considerable doubt on the future of the 2020 season. He immediately becomes the Aggies’ most experienced and established quarterback.

Junior Henry Colombi, USU’s presumed starting quarterback since the departure of Jordan Love, has played in 13 games in his career — six less than Shelley — and has thrown for 460 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 139 yards and two scores.

What Colombi lacks in experience, he more than makes up for with talent — he’s known for his accuracy, particularly on the long ball, as well as his mobility — and his intangibles. By all accounts, he has the confidence of the Aggies’ coaching staff, as well as his teammates.

“(Henry) is an amazing kid and has great relationships with everyone on the team and I think that is an important thing for a quarterback,” Utah State wide receiver Taylor Compton told the Deseret News in May. “Jordan (Love) had that as well. We’ve had some great kids in the QB room who’ve really connected with their teammates and get along with everyone. That is no different with Henry.”

The quarterback competition doesn’t end with Colombi and Shelley, either.

With Andrew Peasley, Cooper Legas and Josh Calvin all battling for playing time, USU has a jam-packed quarterback room, all learning the ropes in new offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder’s system.

“When we talk about the competition at any spot, it’s all over this team right now,” Utah State coach Gary Andersen said. “These kids know that. Those guys are going to compete against each other. They’re all going to battle like crazy.”

Shelley, for his part, is no stranger to quarterback competition and as the newcomer to Logan he will have to earn his playing time. That is something he’s always been prepared to do.

“It’s cool — I’ve been the underdog my whole life,” he told the Deseret News last August. “It’s nothing new to me. I’ll keep working because I know whenever it’s my time to shine, I’m going to go out there and do the best I can and lead the team to victory.”