Spenser Heaps
Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) celebrates his team's win over the Oregon Ducks at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

SAN DIEGO — Utah quarterback Jason Shelley is having a different type of bowl experience. As a true freshman, he was a redshirt on the team that defeated West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Now, a sophomore, he’s made four consecutive starts prior to the Utes facing Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl.

“My role is going to be different,” said Shelley, who explained that part of the redshirt process is being part of the “juice crew” that brings energy to the team during preparation. “My role last year was to keep the guys upbeat, keep everybody’s head above water. This year it’s more of just running the offense.”

Shelley said that a big part of it includes leadership and leading the team to victory.

Neither Shelley, or head coach Kyle Whittingham have offered any insight into the starting quarterback situation for the Holiday Bowl. Junior Tyler Huntley has resumed practicing earlier this month after recovering from a broken collarbone in a Nov. 3 loss at Arizona State.

BOWL-A-RAMA: The Holiday Bowl treated the Utes to an afternoon at the San Diego Zoo. Whittingham was among those participating. He visited Utah’s Hogle Zoo over the summer with his grandkids.

“Grandpas do those kind of things,” Whittingham said. “That’s a grandpa thing to do.”

As for going to the zoo as a bowl activity, Whittingham acknowledged that such things are part of a balancing act between getting the work done and having a good time.

“Our guys have done a great job of that this week,” he said. “Practices have been outstanding, meetings, all that stuff and they’ve also been able to relax and enjoy some of the activities.”

Whittingham enjoyed a tour of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Friday.“Those things are amazing,” he said of the active aircraft carrier.

NOT SAYING: Whittingham still hasn’t ruled out the possibility of having senior linebacker Chase Hansen on the field Monday. He hasn’t practiced since suffering an unspecified injury in the Pac-12 championship game.

“I never give up hope on Chase Hansen. Any normal human being I would say he would be out,” Whittingham said. “But Chase is not normal, so we’ll see.”

TRADING PLACES: Utah defensive tackles coach Sione Po’uha has stepped into his new role a bit early by assisting in bowl preparation. He left the staff at Navy to fill a void created by Gary Andersen’s departure to Utah State.

“It’s awesome to be here,” said Po’uha, who expressed gratitude for being able to help coach and the team and enjoy the bowl experience with them.

“Yes sir, life is great,” he added.

LIFE OF REILLY: Graduate assistant Trevor Reilly, who played in the NFL from 2014-17, is back at a bowl game with the Utes. It’s his first such outing with the team since the 2011 Sun Bowl.

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“I didn’t get to go to a bowl my last two years in college,” Reilly said. “So this is fun. I’m happy and it’s my hometown. So it’s fun to be back.”

ZOO-PER DUPER: Four Utah seniors — Cody Barton, Jackson Barton, Matt Gay and Mitch Wishnowsky ­— participated in some behind-the-scenes activities at the San Diego Zoo. They met with trainers and got up close with some wolves, a hawk and an owl.

“The zoo was pretty fun,” said Cody Barton. “It was pretty cool.”

When asked if hewas a lone wolf, or rode with a pack, the linebacker didn’t hesitate giving a response.

“I lead the pack,” Barton said.