Provo • On the first play of the first team session of BYU’s first preseason training camp practice, sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson cocked his surgically repaired right shoulder back and threw an 80-yard touchdown strike to Aleva Hifo.
“He threw it about 60 yards in the air,” said quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick. “I thought he looked sharp the rest of the day. We had him on a pitch count — about 62 throws — and he looked great. We will keep him right there for awhile and build on it.”
For his part, Wilson humbly said that Hifo — also coming off offseason surgery — made the play work with a juke on the safety and that the ball only traveled 40-50 yards in the air.
More importantly, Wilson said that if the rivalry game against Utah was tomorrow instead of Aug. 29, he would be ready to play after having had shoulder surgery last January and throwing for the first time June 1.
“The problem is just endurance, of course,” he said. “I haven’t been throwing long routes as as much as I have wanted, but you have to be smart, you have to be on a pitch count, all that kinda stuff. But the game fortunately is not tomorrow, so I don’t have to worry about that.”
Baylor Romney, who is battling with Joe Critchlow to be the third-string quarterback behind Wilson and fellow redshirt freshman Jaren Hall, said Wilson made all the throws and was as sharp as he was when he went 18 for 18 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Wilson threw only a couple short routes in the 20-minute media viewing portion of the practice, which was held inside the Indoor Practice Facility became it rained intermittently all afternoon in Provo.
“Zach is going to be fine,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I have no worries about Zach.”
Sitake was pleased with what he saw on the first day.
“I can tell these guys worked really hard in the offseason,” he said. “A lot of coaches will say that, but it was pretty evident in the way they executed.”
Sitake addressed several other offseason issues, absences, and position changes:
• Wide receiver Neil Pau’u, who pleaded guilty to driving while impaired last week, is on the roster and will enroll in school in the fall, but will not play this season. The junior, who was on the sidelines Wednesday, will redshirt and still participate in team activities.
“He’s considered on the team and he will still be around the guys,” Sitake said.
• Oft-injured senior Kavika Fonua has moved from running back to linebacker and will compete with Max Tooley and Jackson Kaufusi for the starting middle linebacker spot, assistant head coach Ed Lamb said.
“We feel like we have a lot of guys at the running back position and he will be able to help us out there at linebacker,” Sitake added.
• Tight end Joe Tukuafu is back on the roster after missing the entire 2018 season for personal reasons.
• Former quarterback Beau Hoge has decided to retire from football and pursue a master’s degree at BYU. Hoge was part of Bronco Mendenhall’s 2015 signing class, but was hampered by injuries his entire career.
• Defensive back Austin McChesney announced Monday that he is retiring from football due to the lingering effects of multiple knee injuries. The former Lone Peak star hurt his knee against Cincinnati in 2016 and his other knee during the first week of camp in 2017 and made the announcement on Twitter a few days ago.
McChesney’s brother, Jackson, recently returned from a church mission and will compete for playing time at running back this fall.
• Another defensive back, junior college transfer Eric Ellison, is not on the roster and will reportedly enroll at BYU in January after he wraps up some academic work at Mt. San Jacinto College in California. Ellison was a three-star recruit who prepped at Banning High School and was coached by former BYU star Casey Mazzotta in junior college.
• Linebackers Zayne Anderson and Isaiah Kaufusi practiced Wednesday after having had offseason surgeries and are ticketed to get the starts at outside linebacker in Sitake’s 4-3 system, Lamb said.