Provo • When he became an offensive consultant at BYU in 2017 and then the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2018, Aaron Roderick started to develop a blueprint for what he wanted in a Cougar quarterback.
Athleticism was at the top of the list, followed by decent size, above-average arm strength, running ability and poise in the pocket.
“We’re getting there,” Roderick said Wednesday night after the Cougars wrapped up their first practice of preseason training camp.
Of course, it all starts with Zach Wilson, who probably isn’t quite the 6-foot-3 that he’s listed at on the roster, but is as athletic as any QB that BYU has had not named Taysom Hill. And the sophomore has good company in that regard, because his primary backup — redshirt freshman Jaren Hall — is so versatile athletically that he contributed on BYU’s baseball team last spring.
Roderick listed his first-day depth chart after watching Wilson throw a long touchdown pass to Aleva Hifo on the first play of the first 11-on-11 session of camp, saying Wilson is the starter and Hall is his backup. Sophomore Joe Critchfield and redshirt freshman Baylor Romney are battling to be the third-stringer, while walk-on returned missionary Rhett Reilly of Valley Center, Calif., is the fifth QB Roderick mentioned.
“We are starting to develop a theme, as you will see,” Roderick said. “These kids are all similar: Zach, Jaren and Baylor, especially. I can’t mention names, but some of the guys we are recruiting — they are similar guys. They have similar attributes. We are trying to build a pool of depth where our offense is what it is and these QBs, we plug them in, and we go. That’s the idea.”
BYU’S QUARTERBACK DEPTH CHART
Starter: Zach Wilson, 6-3, 203, Sophomore
Backup: Jaren Hall, 6-1, 210, Freshman
Third or Fourth String: Joe Critchlow, 6-4, 220, Sophomore
Third or Fourth String: Baylor Romney, 6-2, 193, Freshman
Fifth String: Rhett Reilly, 6-2, 175, Sophomore
In June, BYU got a commitment from one of the better dual-threat QBs in the country, Sol-Jay Maiava, who will be a senior this fall at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. Next year at this time, four-star quarterback Jacob Conover, from Chandler, Ariz., will presumably join the team after his church mission to Paraguay.
There has been a lot of talk about coaches finding ways to get the 6-1, 205-pound Hall on the field after his standout performance in the spring scrimmage while Wilson was chatting with former Cougar great Max Hall on the sidelines, his arm in a sling. But Roderick said Romney — brother of receiver Gunner Romney — is just as athletic and could also be used in a similar role.
“Baylor is a super athlete,” Roderick said. “I don’t want to overstate it, but he’s one of the better athletes in our program, just, all around. He is a guy that could start for us at other positions. But he’s a good passer, and he’s a smart guy, and I really liked him as a quarterback in high school. He had a really good film.”
Baylor Romney played high school football in El Paso and signed with Nevada, but after a coaching change in Reno while he was on a church mission in Carlsbad, Calif., he decided to join his brother in Provo.
“He’s a good thrower and a smart, tough kid,” Roderick said. “He’s a humble, hard-working guy. I love him. He has a chance to play here some day.”
While reporters swarmed around Wilson on Wednesday to get an update on his surgically repaired right shoulder — he says it is “solid” and “pretty good” — Hall scooted out of the Indoor Practice Facility and Romney chatted with one or two reporters at a time.
“For me personally, I am just trying to take advantage of every rep that I get,” Romney said. “I want to show the coaches that I am reliable and they can count on me during the season if they need me.”
Romney said the quarterbacks are a “close-knit group” that pushes each other and cheers for each other because they are all freshmen or sophomores. Clearly, though, Wilson is the leader.
“Yeah, I like to bring the guys together,” Wilson said. “That’s a huge key, bringing that connection as a team and bonding and getting everyone together. I can get on them sometimes, but that’s not my job. It is to show them the direction and also hop on board with them.”
Wilson said all the position groups on offense — not just the quarterbacks — put in countless hours the past three months to be ready for camp.
“The receivers, our offensive line, our running backs, they all bought in,” Wilson said. “I know those guys are taking it personal and focusing on how good they want to be and how they want to help this team be good. I know a lot of them took big strides this summer, doing extra work to show what makes them stand out. it shows here in camp because guys are balling out.”
Led by the quarterbacks.