BYU opens spring practice with wide-open competition at backup QB as starter Zach Wilson only watches after offseason shoulder surgery

Quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick says Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Joe Critchlow will get all the reps in camp, although 10 QBs are on the roster

(Photo courtesy of Jaren Wilkey, BYU photo) BYU quarterback Jaren Hall, checks a play call in a non-contact scrimmage on Aug. 2, 2018. Hall is one of three QBs trying to become Zach Wilson's backup and will also play baseball for the Cougars this spring.

Provo • No fewer than 10 players on the roster that BYU distributed on Monday afternoon as the Cougars held their first practice of spring camp are listed as quarterbacks.

“Yeah, that’s a lot,” said redshirt freshman Jaren Hall, who got the most reps among the group vying to be starter Zach Wilson’s backup in the media-viewing portion of the practice held at the Indoor Practice Facility on campus. “But I think there are only eight or nine of us who were actually practicing.”

Wilson definitely was not practicing, having undergone shoulder surgery in January. Wilson is not expected to throw at all in the 15 camp practices and scrimmages. He was there the whole time, however, almost connected at the hip to quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick.

“He will continue to do that every single play call,” Roderick said. “We are constantly talking. He is communicating with the receivers and all the guys. He’s a coach on the field right now.”

Roderick explained that a half-dozen or so of the QBs on the roster — guys such as freshman returned missionary Gunnar Legas, former Lone Peak star Talmage Gunther, Isaiah Ramos, Hayden Griffitts, Stacy Conner and Rhett Reilly — are listed as such because they “either tried out for the team that way, or maybe they just played that position in high school and we will eventually figure out another position for them to play.”

The main three competitors to be Wilson’s backup, Roderick said, are the three who got all the reps on Monday: Hall, redshirt sophomore Joe Critchlow and redshirt freshman Baylor Romney.

“It is wide open,” Roderick said. “I thought Jaren had a really good day. Joe did some good things, and then Baylor made a good throw on the last play of the practice where he made a nice completion and showed good pocket presence.”

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Hall, who is also playing on BYU’s baseball team this spring, said it was the typical first day of camp, but thought the Cougars picked up where they left off last December when they beat Western Michigan in the bowl game, rather than “starting all over” like they did last year with new offensive coaches.

“Obviously, there is some rust that needs to be knocked off, but that will happen in the next few days,” Hall said. “It was a good first day, overall. But there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Wilson isn’t the only offensive star sitting out of camp; Receiver Aleva Hifo and tight ends Matt Bushman and Moroni Laulu-Pututau aren’t expected to see action this month, either.

Although sad to see Wilson missing camp while he recovers, Critchlow said it will be a good opportunity for the others to get valuable experience in case they are called upon this fall. Critchlow played in six games, and started the last three, of 2017 and was 2-1 as a starter.

Roderick said the big redhead’s attitude has been great and said that Critchlow is not that far behind Hall and Wilson athletically, as some have suggested.

“I think he went through some tough times last season,” Roderick said. “He had high hopes of maybe being the starting quarterback, and then after some initial disappointment, he regrouped and he made a good contribution to the team. He is a team guy. He was ready to play every week. He does a lot.”

Head coach Kalani Sitake did not address the media Monday, saying he wanted his assistants to do interviews and he will speak to reporters on Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said player development will be a huge focus of camp.

“The expectation is higher,” Grimes said. “The standard is higher, because last year, you are just starting from scratch and they didn’t know what the standard was. Our standard is higher. Our tolerance level as coaches is smaller, which might be the reason I lost my voice a little bit right now.”

Primary Quarterbacks in BYU Spring Camp

* Redshirt freshman Jaren Hall, 6-1, 205

* Redshirt sophomore Joe Critchlow, 6-4, 215

* Redshirt freshman Baylor Romney, 6-2, 190