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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley passes against San Jose State during NCAA football played in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.
He’s not up there yet, but he reminds me of Marcus a lot, how he can throw off the run and throw off his back foot 70 yards and make people miss. He’s just a ballplayer. —Utah WR Darren Carrington II

SALT LAKE CITY — Darren Carrington II was just a little hesitant when he was asked after Saturday night’s victory if Utah’s young quarterback, Tyler Huntley, reminded him of anyone.

“He reminds me of a quarterback I had in the past, a young one,” he said.

And who might that quarterback be?

None other than his former teammate at Oregon, Marcus Mariota, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 when Carrington was one of his top receivers.

“He’s not up there yet, but he reminds me of Marcus a lot, how he can throw off the run and throw off his back foot 70 yards and make people miss,” Carrington said. “He’s just a ballplayer.”

Carrington played for three years at Oregon and during his freshman season, Mariota’s Heisman-winning season, he was second on the team with 37 receptions for 704 yards and four touchdowns.

Already this year, Carrington has caught four touchdown passes from Huntley and with 26 catches for 409 yards, he’s among the NCAA leaders. Carrington is tied for second in the nation in receiving yards, tied with receiving yards per game (136.3) and tied for fifth in both receptions per game (8.7) and receiving touchdowns.

“It’s huge and it gives Tyler a target,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham of the Huntley-Carrington connection. “I like to say we have good receivers but with Darren and Tyler seem to have great chemistry and trust."

Whittingham wasn’t afraid to echo Carrington’s comparison of Huntley to Mariota when asked.

“They’re certainly comparable in their athleticism and the way they are a true dual threat,” he said. “There are a lot of similarities in their style of play. Marcus was very accurate and so is Tyler. That’s a pretty favorable comparison because Marcus Mariota was one of the first players taken in the draft that speaks to what Tyler’s shown so far. It’s still early in Tyler’s career and he’s got a lot of football left but what we’ve seen so far is very positive.”

As for Huntley, he was flattered to be compared to a recent Heisman Trophy winner.

“That’s a lot of love from Carrington," he said. "I don’t want to take that praise but that’s amazing that he compared me to Mariota and I just hope I live up to it."

If you compare Mariota’s second season (he redshirted as a freshman) with Huntley’s (he played a handful of snaps last year as a freshman), Huntley has comparable numbers and is actually better, average-wise.

Huntley is averaging 291 passing yards per game and 71 rushing so far, while Mariota averaged 206 yards passing and 58 yards rushing in his first season as the Ducks’ signal-caller. Huntley also has a better passing percentage at 72.1 percent, while Mariota was 68.3 percent in his first season and 66.8 for his career.

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Huntley does have a pair if interceptions this year and will need to avoid them as Pac-12 play begins, something that Mariota was exceptional at. Mariota only had six interceptions as a freshman and just four each of the next two years, 14 for his career.

It’s a stretch to say whether Huntley will be as good as Mariota by his third season as a starter, but the Utes are excited about his future.

“He’s a tremendous athlete, he’s got a great arm, he’s accurate and he’s a good decision-maker with over 70 percent completions,” said Whittingham. “If we can keep that trend we’re going to have a very successful year.”