Impressive spring camp has BYU freshman Zach Wilson in the running for starting QB position

Former Corner Canyon star is shining in new offense and physical scrimmages

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU quarterback Zach Wilson reaches for the snap during spring football practice for BYU in the indoor practice facility in Provo Thursday March 15, 2018.

Provo • Less than four months ago, Zach Wilson was wrapping up his academic work at Draper’s Corner Canyon High school so he could enroll at BYU in January and participate in spring camp.

Now he’s a legitimate contender to be the Cougars’ starting quarterback when they open the 2018 football season on Sept. 1 at Arizona.

“This whole spring has been crazy,” Wilson said Wednesday, after another live spring camp scrimmage, a scrimmage that was dominated by the offense with at least three 80-yard touchdown plays and several other scores in red-zone situations. “Some of the seniors have taken me under their wing and kinda showed me around. It has made practicing a lot easier. You feel way more comfortable that way. … It is kind of like how I expected to be.”

Speaking to reporters for the first time since camp opened in early March, Wilson was poised and humble, yet confident. He said he will be ready to lead the team at Arizona Stadium in a little more than five months if he wins the starting job.

“Yeah, that was my mentality coming in,” said the 6-foot-3, 195-pound freshman. “There is no bias toward anybody — brand new [offensive] coaches, brand new playbook. We are all learning it at the same time. You can’t have a better opportunity to come in and prove yourself. That was one of my strong [reasons] for coming here.”

Wilson, sophomore Joe Critchlow and junior Beau Hoge got all the reps at quarterback in the media-viewing portion of the scrimmage and the QBs were “live” for the fourth time in spring camp. Wilson got the most reps of all, however, and took a big hit from Devin Kaufusi as he was delivering a pass. “We need to see guys perform in this type of environment,” said head coach Kalani Sitake, defending the physicality that has been a theme of this camp. “It is easy to play football when quarterbacks have all the time in the world and the only punishment they get is to get tapped on the shoulder pads. … I think it will make us better.”

Could this kid really be the opening-day starter? It is shaping up to be a four-man race between the three aforementioned players and senior Tanner Mangum, who won’t see any live action in camp but has been getting plenty of work in 7 on 7 drills and the like.

Wilson said he is “not sure” where he is on the depth chart, which is reportedly updated every day. He diplomatically reiterates that he still has a lot to learn and improve on before he can go boasting about anything.

“Kind of what I am worried about right now is just myself,” he said. “When coach tells me to go in, I am going to take full advantage of every opportunity I have to get our team down the field to score, and then go from there.”

Even though he had to give up the last half of his senior year of high school, move away from his friends and family and sign with the school in Provo he wasn’t fond of growing up as a University of Utah fan, Wilson said it has all been worth it. He has become close friends with the other QBs, especially Hoge.

“Off the field, those ties and those connections really mean something,” he said.

Wilson was mostly a shotgun quarterback his senior season at Corner Canyon, but said new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ under-center approach is fine, too, because he played in a pro style offense his sophomore and junior seasons of high school. The biggest adjustment is getting used to the size and speed of college athletes.

“No offense, but some of my receivers back in high school were a lot slower than some of the guys we have here,” he said. “You gotta adjust to the speed of things. … I have more help around me. There have been positives and negatives and it has been tough. But I think I have adjusted really well.”

BYU QUARTERBACK ZACH WILSON<br>• Three-star recruit from Draper’s Corner Canyon High graduated early sohe could enroll at BYU in January and participate in spring camp.<br>• Threw for 2,986 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for 752 yards and eight scores his senior season of high school.<br>• Originally committed to Boise State, but reopened his recruitment late and signed with BYU in December.