Utah sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley is not a pocket passer like Southern California’s Sam Darnold. Nor is he a run-first burner like Arizona’s Khalil Tate.
Huntley might actually be somewhere in the middle. And he’s unlike any quarterback No. 18 Washington (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) and its defense has seen this season.
A first-year starter, he’s given the Utes (5-5, 2-5) something they can build around for the future. His 1,953 passing yards and 13 touchdowns prove what he can do through the air. Huntley’s 432 rushing yards show he has the mobility needed to either create or escape.
“He’s just a completely different guy that we have to deal with,” Huskies defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said of Huntley. “Because you can cover up the route and then he’ll scramble, his guys will get open and he’ll launch it down for a 75-yard touchdown.
“Or you can cover it up, we cover everyone up, we lose contain and he’ll run for a 75-yard touchdown. He’s explosive with his legs, explosive with his arms. He can make all the throws.”
Find any footage of Huntley from his time in high school through his last game. The first thing that jumps out is his athleticism.
At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he has the build to take contact if he runs it. If he has the time, Huntley can survey a the field and pick apart a secondary.
“He’s a very athletic QB,” Huskies defensive back senior defensive back Ezekiel Turner said. “They’re kinda building the offense around him, as a running-style offense with a QB.”
Asked about Huntley’s accuracy, Turner said he was “pretty decent” but considers him more of a runner than a passer.
Yeah, about that.
Huntley established himself as one of the most prolific passers in South Florida high school history.
As a senior in 2015, he starred at Hallandale High, which is between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Huntley completed 61 percent of his passes, threw for 3,636 yards and 42 touchdowns.
He holds the state record for most attempts in a game (71) and did it against national powerhouse Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas.
Huntley was named the Florida Gatorade Football Player of the Year in 2015. A four-year starter, he finished his career with 9,053 yards and 106 touchdowns.
“We gotta do a good job of leveraging him in the pocket when he goes back to throw,” Huskies defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said of Huntley. “We gotta try and minimize and keep him in the pocket and keep him from scrambling around.”
Even for all of his success, he was still rated by Rivals as a three-star prospect. But when Huntley committed to Utah, the move was viewed back in South Florida as a major win for the Utes.
Utah used last season to give Huntley time to learn the offense. He saw some action and went 5 of 7 for 60 yards.
He won the job in fall camp and immediately showed why.
Utah jumped out to a 4-0 start and Huntley was unstoppable. Through three games, he threw for 868 yards, six touchdowns and completed 72.2 percent his attempts. He also rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns.
He started strong in the fourth game of the year against Arizona but hurt his shoulder in the second quarter of a 30-24 win. Huntley missed the next two games and the Utes lost both.
In his first game back, he threw four interceptions.
As of late, he’s shown flashes of promise and but still has moments of inexperience.
Huntley torched UCLA by throwing for 234 yards and four touchdowns while adding 93 rushing yards in a 48-17 win.
The next week, against Washington State, he threw for 305 yards, a touchdown and ran for 50. But he also had three interceptions in a 33-25 loss.
“I think the big thing is we have a lot of great quarterbacks in this league that throw really well,” Huskies junior outside linebacker Tevis Bartlett said. “So when you add that extra element of being able to run on top of that — which Huntley can do both really well.
“So think that’s where it becomes difficult. You’re not just worried about the pass. You’re worried about the run too.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark
UTAH (5-5, 2-5 PAC-12 SOUTH) AT NO. 18 WASHINGTON (8-2, 5-2 PAC-12)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium
The line: UW by 17 1/2
TV: ESPN. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
Outlook: Both Utah and Washington are in need of a win but for completely different reasons.
Utah is coming off a 33-25 defeat to Washington State last weekend. The loss was the Utes’ fifth in their last six games. Keep in mind, this was a team that started the year 4-0 and was once ranked in The Associated Press Poll.
Early losses to Stanford and Southern California were by a combined four points. The next two games Utah dropped to Arizona State and Oregon were for a combined 41. Utah got something of a respite in a 48-17 win over UCLA before its loss to WSU.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley (1,953 yards, 13 TDs, 9 INTs; 432 yards, 3 TDs) is a dual-threat passer who is unlike anyone the Huskies have faced all year. Whether its Chris Petersen or one of his players, they’ve all said something about Huntley’s mobility and how he extends plays. He’s also completing close to 65 percent of his passes. Another player worth following is senior receiver Darren Carrington II (830 yards, 6 TDs). At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, it’s possible he could create problems for the Huskies’ smaller corners but is currently questionable with a leg injury.
The Utes have a number of players who are battling injuries, including senior linebacker Sunia Tauteoli (58 tackles, 10 tackles for loss). Both he and fellow senior linebacker Kavika Luafatasaga (66 tackles) have helped the defense become the No. 31 unit in the nation.
UW is in a different place altogether. The Huskies’ hopes for a Pac-12 Championship Game berth are slim but would greatly improve should California upset Stanford. If so, it amplifies UW’s need for a win a week before it faces rival Washington State for The Apple Cup.
The pick: Washington 41, Utah 20
– Ryan S. Clark