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‘I am moving onto the new chapter in my life’: Utah’s Jason Shelley announces he’s entering transfer portal

Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) runs the ball for a touchdown during a Pac-12 football game against the California Golden Bears at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Jason Shelley, who started five games for Utah at quarterback in 2018, is entering the NCAA transfer portal. The redshirt junior-to-be made the announcement via Twitter on Friday.

“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,” he continued. “However, I believe that God has a plan for everyone, and I am moving onto the new chapter in my life. Forever all love.”

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Shelley was moved to safety late last season and made an immediate impression despite having never played the position. He saw action in the secondary in Utah’s loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

As a quarterback, Shelley saw limited action behind starter Tyler Huntley in 2019. He played in 10 games and completed 6 of 11 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. When Huntley was injured in 2018, Shelley stepped in and led Utah to wins over Oregon, Colorado and BYU. He also started in losses to Washington in the Pac-12 title game and Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl. Overall, he finished that season by completing 98 of 168 passes for 1,162 yards with five TDs.

Shelley’s career rushing totals included 82 carries for 223 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 58% of his passes over 19 games, winding up with six scoring strikes and six interceptions.

The move to defense came during Alamo Bowl preparations with Utah’s secondary depleted by injuries and Jaylon Johnson’s decision not to play in the game.

“It is what it is,” Shelley said at the time. “I’m just over there ready to play some safety.”

Shelley added that it had been an adventure and an experience early on. He vowed to go out and do his best wherever he’s at, just trying to help the Utes win games.

“Personally I’ll probably do all 23 positions except for kicker and punter,” Shelley said. “I can’t kick or punt, but if anything ever got asked of me I’ll be ready to go out there and play.”

The greatest challenge, he explained, was going from scoring touchdowns to preventing them. Even so, he felt his understanding of offense could be an advantage.

Despite early reports of progress at safety, Shelley made his preference clear.

“I came here as a quarterback. 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,” he said in December. “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.”

At that point, Shelley had no plans to transfer — saying he’s “all Utah.”

Utah’s quarterback situation changed greatly when South Carolina’s Jake Bentley joined the program as a graduate transfer. Texas transfer Cameron Rising is also eligible this season. Veteran Drew Lisk and newcomer Cooper Justice round out the personnel.

Earlier this week, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Shelley would remain at safety and has a big upside “if he continues to stay excited about the position switch and gives it his all, which he has so far.”