Provo • More than six weeks since suffering a fractured right thumb in the fourth quarter of an eventual 28-21 Toledo loss, quarterback Zach Wilson is close to coming back to take the reins of the Cougars’s offense.
Once again, Wilson, Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney are all listed as possible starters on BYU’s depth chart for the Idaho State game Saturday — the final home game of the season.
But during the Coordinators’ Corner Show on Monday, the staff revealed that Wilson is closer to coming back. Hall, however, is still under concussion protocol and considered day-to-day, but will most likely be out for another week or two.
“if he’s cleared to go, then let’s go — let’s see what happens,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “I think that Baylor’s done some good things, but I’ll leave it up to (quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick) and (offensive coordinator Jeff) Grimes and those guys to figure out which (quarterback) gives us the best chance for victory.”
When asked if Wilson would take an immediate starting role, Sitake didn’t give a definitive answer. It’s been hard to gauge Wilson’s improvement, but he’s noticed development from his season starter from Thursday through Saturday. And will be looking to see how much more he’s improved from Saturday’s in Monday’s practice.
For wide receiver Aleva Hifo, the uncertainty at quarterback hasn’t worried him. If anything, it’s served as the perfect example of next man up.
Wilson, Hall, Romney and even Joe Critchlow prepare each week as if they're getting that week's start, Hifo said.
“It’s very good that you can have a group of quarterbacks like that,” Hifo said. “It definitely instills confidence in the receivers and the offense, but the whole team as well. And they understand that the whole team has their backs and coaches have their back, and it shows on the field.”
Even if Wilson doesn’t get the start, he may get some playing time. And if that’s the case, he won’t be the only player coming back.
Offensive lineman Kieffer Longson could also make his return from a foot injury. Longson hasn’t played since the Sept. 21 game against Washington.
On defense, Chris Wilcox (knee) and Troy Warner (foot) will look to return from injury. Both defensive backs have yet to see any action this year.
After moving over to safety a couple of games ago, Dayan Ghanwoloku switched back to defensive back in the second half against Liberty last Saturday. With the return of Wilcox and Warner, Sitake said he’s going to have to figure out the depth chart and see where Ghanwoloku fits in best.
“Luckily we have guys that can swing it and go corner or safety — Troy’s one of those guys, Beau Tanner’s another,” Sitake said. “And we have some flexibility there, trying to get the best 11 on the field.”
The opportunity to come back this late in the season is also helped by last year’s change in redshirt rule. The NCAA now allows players to play in up to four games in a season and still save a year of eligibility.
With three games remaining, BYU is able to give some playing time to freshmen or once injured players.
However, because of the amount of injuries the Cougars have suffered, Sitake said the team hasn’t been able to take full advantage of the redshirt rule.
“It’s actually getting to a point where, because we have such a young team and so many guys are playing, that we’re not able to use as many of the redshirts as we thought we were going to be able to use,” Sitake said. “I think the goal is still to win games, right? So, I think we have to be able to plug guys in certain spots.”