Kragthorpe: BYU’s Taysom Hill shows signs of passing upgrade
Published: April 22, 2014 10:06AM
Updated: March 29, 2014 11:44PM
image
Kurt Kragthorpe

Provo

Any study of how BYU quarterback Taysom Hill’s erratic passing affected the Cougars’ chances of winning football games last season comes with a disclaimer: Throw out the game that featured Hill’s running for 259 yards and resulted in the firing of the opposing defensive coordinator the very next day.

Other than that victory over Texas, Hill’s passing performance pretty much dictated BYU’s success or failure. His accuracy rate was 62 percent in the Cougars’ eight wins and 45 percent in their five losses. The quality of opponent obviously had something to do with it, although BYU’s season-opening loss to Virginia prevents any tidy packaging.

What’s clear from Hill’s sophomore season is that he’s a phenomenal runner. So just imagine what kind of quarterback he could become, with more than serviceable passing ability.

This is an intriguing spring for the state’s returning quarterbacks. At Utah, the questions are whether Travis Wilson will be medically cleared to play, and if he can become the first Ute QB in six seasons to start every game. In Logan, everyone wonders if Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton, coming back from a knee injury, will be the same quarterback. In Provo, the issue is whether Hill will be a different passer.

Hill completed half of his passes in only two of those five losses, thanks mostly to short tosses against Notre Dame and a meaningless, last-minute flurry against Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in late December.

His last pass attempt that night in San Francisco resulted in a 22-yard completion. And then the next night, Emily Nixon, a sister of former BYU linebacker David Nixon, accepted his marriage proposal. BYU followers can only hope his streak of success continues in 2014.

The signs were encouraging Saturday, when Hill completed 19 of 27 attempts for 307 yards and three touchdowns in surprisingly extensive work in BYU’s public scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Highlights included passes of 50-plus yards to Michael Davis and Terenn Houk.

“I like the way I’m playing right now,” Hill said earlier in the week.

Hill did considerable self-study during the winter, looking for flaws in his delivery and trying to correct them.

“There are a lot of things that I know now that I didn’t know last season,” Hill said. “As I break down film, I can see why I missed high or why I missed low. I’ve been able to kind of nitpick myself and analyze what I need to do to get better.”

Hill rushed for 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns and passed for 2,938 yards and 19 TDs with 10 interceptions last season. In his return from a knee injury, Hill took every meaningful snap in all 13 games. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall wants to keep him healthy again.

Part of a film review of former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s running success involved Mendenhall’s pointing out how Kaepernick willingly stepped out of bounds.

“Got it, coach,” Hill would say.

After showing the next such play, Mendenhall rewound it and ran it again.

“Got it, coach,” Hill said.

Hill will have to overcome some instinctual habits to avoid hits, and he’ll have to improve his passing accuracy if the Cougars expect to produce a distinguished season in 2014. BYU’s schedule is nothing like last year’s, but there will be some checkpoint games — notably, Sept. 6 at Texas, where a new coaching staff will be determined to make Hill beat the Longhorns with his arm, not his feet.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt

Hill’s ups and downs

A comparison of BYU quarterback Taysom Hill’s passing statistics in wins vs. losses in 2013:

Wins

Opponent Comp Att Pct Yds

Texas 9 26 34.6 129

Middle Tenn. 14 19 73.7 177

Utah State 17 31 54.8 278

Georgia Tech 19 27 70.4 244

Houston 29 44 65.9 417

Boise State 27 41 65.9 339

Idaho State 11 19 57.9 153

Nevada 14 18 77.8 98

Total 140 225 62.2 1,835

Losses

Opponent Comp Att Pct Yds

Virginia 13 40 32.5 175

Utah 18 48 37.5 260

Wisconsin 19 41 46.3 207

Notre Dame 21 36 58.3 168

Washington 25 48 52.1 293

Total 96 213 45.0 1,103