Utah QB Huntley ‘100 percent,’ will play vs. WVU

MORGANTOWN — The eighth-annual Heart of Dallas Bowl had a chance to be a battle between two backup quarterbacks when the matchup between WVU and Utah was announced Dec. 3.

The Mountaineers’ Will Grier was scheduled to be near the end of his rehab from a broken hand, while the Utes’ Tyler Huntley was battling an undisclosed injury suffered in the regular-season finale, against Colorado.

According to Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham on Sunday, Huntley will play Tuesday.

“He’s 100 percent,” Whittingham said during the Heart of Dallas Bowl news conference, at the Cotton Bowl. “With his future, we know we have to get him a little bigger and he knows that. He’s not a very big guy and he got banged up quite a bit this year.”

At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Huntley “needs to put some meat on his bones,” according to Whittingham, but despite injury problems, Huntley still had a prolific season for the Utes. He was second in the Pac-12 in total offense, averaging 302.9 yards per game, second only to UCLA’s Josh Rosen.

Huntley can make plays with his legs, something WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson knows he has to be on guard for. The defense repped as if Huntley was always going to start.

“We are still going to prepare for both and be ready. Again, Huntley is more of a runner, while (Troy) Williams is more of a thrower,” Gibson said. “We will do a good mixture the next couple of days.”

Williams, the backup quarterback, could still play, especially if Huntley takes a hard shot. But with Huntley’s ability to make plays outside of the pocket, the long layoff worries Gibson because of tackling.

“It’s always a concern in a bowl game when you have this long of a layoff,” he said. “The thing that we have done a good job of, though, is we have had them in pads every day and tried to get a tackling circuit in and tried to go live on your feet against the offense to get the speed of the game. We will continue to do that.”

For the WVU offense, head coach Dana Holgorsen announced last week that Grier will not play in the bowl because he’s “not ready.” Sophomore Chris Chugunov will get his second-straight start, but will have more time to prepare than he did when Grier went down Nov. 18, against Texas.

“It’s been good for Chugs,” Holgorsen said. “Chugs has been at West Virginia for three years, so it’s not like he doesn’t know the offense. The biggest thing is just understanding that he’s the starting quarterback and that when you have these extra practices, you develop timing with the guys that he’s actually going to be throwing to.

“You can’t really flip that switch right at the beginning of the second quarter, against Texas. It takes a little bit of time to develop that timing and develop a game plan that suits him.”

CHRISTMAS DAY: Both Holgorsen and Whittingham said that their teams will have a Christmas dinner today to celebrate the holiday.

“We’ll try to make this as enjoyable as possible,” Whittingham said, citing that this is nothing new for him, being on the road for most Christmases since he’s been the head coach at Utah.

There is still work to be done for the Mountaineers, according to Holgorsen, so other than the team dinner, it will be a normal day before a game.

“I don’t even know what day is it, it feels like a Thursday to me,” he said. “We’ve got two days before the game and we still have some work to do.”