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Utah football notes: As lone backup QB on scholarship, Tyler Huntley ready for anything

August 24, 2016

The competition was fierce at times, freshman Tyler Huntley admits, but he never wanted to see Brandon Cox leave.

After Huntley earned a backup job to starter Troy Williams this fall, Cox decided to transfer to Hampton. And Huntley, who was mentored by Cox throughout the offseason, said it was a blow.

“It was like losing a brother,” he said. “I’m going to miss him a lot. He taught me a lot. He took me under his wing.”

And yet now, Huntley stands out that much more on his own. In practice on Tuesday, he continued to flash an evolving sense for avoiding the pass rush, stepping out to complete a pass to Saiosi Wilson in second-team reps. The coaching staff has pointed to his playmaking ability as one of Huntley’s big strengths, but also tried to get him to throw the ball away more when plays aren’t open to make.

Huntley is also focused on adding weight, by eating more times a day, “even when I’m not hungry,” and working harder in the weight room. The Utes would like to see him add weight this fall to add to his durability.

“I have to be mentally prepared to step in once my team needs me,” he said. “I also have to be careful not to put my body in harm’s way.”

Coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday that the Utes have not specifically designated a third quarterback behind Williams and Huntley. Safeties Chase Hansen and Jason Thompson, who both started their careers as quarterbacks, remain “emergency options.” The Utes also have walk-ons Drew Lisk, Logan Bateman and A.J. Cecil as possible arms to throw in.

Butler-Byrd returns to practice

Following Cory Butler-Byrd’s court resolution on Monday afternoon, the Utes have “partially” reinstated the senior receiver to the football team.

Utah athletics released a statement on Tuesday morning saying that Whittingham would allow Butler-Byrd to practice and participate in other team activities. He is still serving an indefinite game suspension and will not be made available to the media this season.

Butler-Byrd was suspended before the start of fall camp after a July 27 incident in which he damaged a university police car and broke a window in a police building. He was charged with criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor, for which he entered a guilty plea in abeyance. The charges will be dismissed next year pending 12 months without an offense, mental health counseling, and a restitution payment of $1,691.50.

Before his trouble with the law, Butler-Byrd was listed as Utah’s starting slot receiver for the upcoming season. He practiced with the team on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s great to have him back in the fold,” Whittingham said.

Burgess, Falemaka try different positions

It wouldn’t be a complete season if Utah’s coaching staff didn’t try switching around a few players to opposing sides of the ball.

In Tuesday’s practice, there was some evidence of experimentation: Freshman cornerback Terrell Burgess took some reps at receiver, while freshman tight end Bapa Falemaka got a look at defensive end. Both had experience in high school at those respective positions.

“We’re pretty stacked at corner as far as healthy bodies, so you want to look at all your athletes who have skill sets to help somewhere else, so [Burgess] is there,” Whittingham said. “Bapa Falemaka is taking some reps at defensive end to see how he looks there because he’s a natural body type for a defensive end. We do that from time to time.”

Quick hitters

Whittingham said Sunia Tauteoli and Cody Barton remain Utah’s starters at linebacker. He added that Kavika Luafatasaga, listed as a competitor with Barton on Utah’s depth chart, missed a few days of practice with an injury and is now trying to catch up. … Nine Utes were named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl watch list: Isaac Asiata, J.J. Dielman, Hunter Dimick, Kylie Fitts, Reggie Porter, Pita Taumoepenu, Sam Tevi, Justin Thomas and Joe Williams.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon