BYU football: Can QB Taysom Hill handle the heat?
Provo • Taysom Hill is named after a construction company. That, or a park in his hometown of Pocatello, Idaho, depending on the version of the story one wishes to believe.
He is a man's man, too, with a self-professed love of the outdoors, especially hiking, hunting and fishing.
Whatever the case, the unique first name somehow seems fitting for the rugged young man chosen to lead the rebuilding of BYU's once-proud offense.
Although he started in two games last year and played in six before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Utah State, the Taysom Hill Era officially begins on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., as the sophomore quarterback leads the Cougars against Virginia (1:30 p.m. MT, ESPNU).
Is he ready?
The new offensive coordinator who has done most of the heavy lifting to get Hill ready believes he is.
"Oh, I can't think of a quarterback that I've been involved with that fits this type of deal [better than Hill]," said Robert Anae. "Because he's fast, he's quick, he's accurate and he's smart. Those are good qualities to have. I mean, everybody is looking for those qualities in a quarterback.
"And I feel, personally, that we just kind of hit a real good deal," Anae continued. "Now, is he going to be perfect? Shoot, no. Nobody is perfect, especially not a sophomore at the quarterback spot. But the tools, all the tangibles, in my opinion, are there. We are looking forward to a very exciting season."
If Anae's "go fast, go hard" offense takes flight and the Cougars reel off upward of 90 plays a game, which is their lofty goal, Hill could conceivably put up some monster numbers as a dual-threat QB. Anae and Hill's teammates insist he has all the tools to make that happen, especially if a young, inexperienced offensive line is more stout than most outsiders believe it will be.
"I think we are ready," Hill said. "We have had a lot of practices. â¦ As far as us knowing our offense and things like that, and going fast and going hard, we are ready."
Hill was 2-0 as a starter last year, beating Hawaii and Utah State.
But it was during the 7-6 loss at Boise State, when he came off the bench to spell a hurting Riley Nelson, where he showed he might just have the moxie to be the next great BYU quarterback.
Anae said he has improved "by leaps and bounds" since returning from the knee injury rather quickly and participating in spring camp.
"Much better handle on the offense, much more chemistry with his teammates," Anae said.
Hill's teammates have noticed, too.
"Stud is the word that comes to my mind," said tight end Brett Thompson, describing how Hill invited him to go buy their books together at the campus bookstore the first day they met. "First of all, just a really good person, someone that as a team, we trust. Also a leader. Freak athlete with amazing abilities. Strong arm."
Offensive lineman Brock Stringham got to know Hill well last winter as they rehabbed together day after day, Hill with the surgically repaired knee and Stringham with a fractured vertebrae in his back.
"A natural athlete, a hard worker and a natural leader who could easily have gotten discouraged, but didn't," Stringham said. "Most positive guy on the team."
Saturday, the glaring spotlight that comes with being the quarterback at BYU shines brightly on Hill in front of a hostile crowd of more than 60,000 at Scott Stadium and a national television audience.
Is the Idahoan who originally signed with Stanford before an LDS Church mission to Australia ready for that?
"Definitely," Thompson said. "I could say 100 percent that he is ready to handle anything that's thrown at him. He is going to be in the limelight, but he has the confidence, he has the humility to thrive in it. That is key. That's something that will help him. Yeah, I think he will be able to handle it really well."
Taysom Hill's freshman season
Comp-Att Yds TDs Int
42-71 425 4 2
Att Yds TDs Long
55 336 4 68
BYU at Virginia
O Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV • ESPNU