I don’t sense any animosity, but they do push each other and they’re a very competitive group. —Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah quarterback Jason Shelley acknowledged it was a little tough at first.
After racking up big numbers over three years at Lone Star High School in Texas — passing for 8,772 yards passing and 84 touchdowns, plus rushing for 3,163 yards and 54 touchdowns — Shelley’s first season with the Utes was spent as a redshirt.
“I realized it was the best for me. It allowed me to get bigger, stronger, faster and understand the playbook even more,” Shelley said. “So after realizing it was just the best thing for me, then I just took it and ran with it and got my mind right.”
Shelley weighed 178 pounds when he joined the Utes last fall. He’s since bulked up to 194 and said he feels a little bit more secure.
“My body is right,” Shelley noted.
The timing is good as well. Shelley is well equipped to compete with returning starter Tyler Huntley and highly touted newcomer Jack Tuttle this spring.
“They’re all performing well. I can tell you that,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that there’s a pecking order currently in place.
Huntley is No. 1, while Tuttle and Shelley are battling for the second and third spots on the depth chart. Whittingham said that Huntley is having an outstanding spring and that the other guys are also performing well.
“I think they make each other better. They push each other. It’s an intense competition,” Whittingham said. “I don’t sense any animosity, but they do push each other and they’re a very competitive group.”
As for Shelley, Whittingham noted that “he’s done a lot of good things this spring.”
So, too, have others at the position, Whittingham explained, including fourth-stringer Drew Lisk.
“The progress of the quarterbacks, I think, has been outstanding and we’re in a good situation,” he said.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Troy Taylor agrees.
“I like all our quarterbacks. Obviously, you know, Tyler is our guy, but there’s always competition,” he said. “We think a lot of Jason. He’s a guy that’s dynamic.”
Taylor pointed out that the Texan did some good things with his legs in Tuesday’s practice. He added that Shelley is also smart and a very accurate as a passer.
“He’s a great player,” Taylor said.
Shelley insists he’s just trying to show the coaches what he can do with his talents. As such, there’s a bit of tunnel vision.
‘I’m not really worried about the new guys coming in because we’re supposed to get new guys every year. There’s going to be hype with them every year,” Shelley said. “So I just know that if I don’t come to perform my spot is going to get taken. So I just come out to work every day.”
It’s all about being prepared. Such was the case in 2017 when Huntley, Troy Williams and Cooper Bateman topped the position on the active roster.
“I’m always ready. Even last year during my redshirt season — if God forbid all of them got hurt — I was ready to go. So I’m always ready,” Shelley said. “I’m always going to prepare like it’s going to be my time to go because, you know, it’s one play away — things can happen.”
As such, Shelley vows to work hard every day. He’s not worried about when the coaches make a final decision on the depth chart. It could be spring, summer, or fall.
“I’m going to put in work every year, every minute of the day,” said Shelley, who has always been a quarterback in his football career. “That’s just what I do.”
Shelley’s competitors know it.
“Jason is a really good player and he’s a really good guy, too,” Tuttle said. “He’s a competitor. I think all of us are and we’re getting each other better.”
Huntley expressed similar thoughts. However, he said there’s more to it than improving one another.
“Like I’ve said before, it’s not too much of a competition,” Huntley noted. “It’s great to have those two right behind me and just making me better.”
Huntley isn’t the only confident quarterback up on the hill. It’s rampant amongst the signal callers.
“Everybody wants to play. Everybody wants to touch the field, seeing our name called and everything,” Shelley said. “But you’ve just got to go out there and earn your spot. It’s not given to you.”