Provo • It's a new year, so it's another competition. And no one's job is safe.
Let’s start at quarterback.
While the spring roster lists five quarterbacks, the competition for QB1 is centered around three of them: Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney.
Even though Wilson was the Cougars’ season starter last year, that may not be the case this upcoming season. Wilson’s mid-season injury allowed Hall and Romney to step in and showcase not only their talent, but the depth at the quarterback position.
Now, they’re all up for the gig.
BYU opened its spring practice session Monday and coach Kalani Sitake said every job is up for grabs. If the position isn’t won outright by the end of spring practice in four weeks, then the competition will continue into the fall.
“No one's safe – that's how it works,” Sitake said.
Unlike last year, the main contenders for starting quarterback are all able to practice and have, for the most part, recovered from their injuries last season. Only Romney got less reps than the other two in Monday’s practice as he continues to recover from a foot injury that’s plagued him since last season.
Dividing the majority of reps among three players can make it seem like no player is getting enough, but assistant coach Aaron Roderick said this is the best time to do so. Come fall camp, the team will focus on the one guy who looks to be the starter. As for what he’s going to be looking for, Roderick said he’s mostly focused on consistency, but it will also come down to scoring points.
“We took a huge step forward last year as an offense, in just about every way,” he said. “Even in scoring we did go up, but we’ve got to score more points. So, that’s the name of the game. Who moves the team, takes care of the ball and score points? That’s what we’re looking for.”
Wilson started nine of the 13 games last season, completing 199 of 319 passes for 2,382 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also \ran for 167 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns. The Draper native passed for at least 200 yards in eight of nine starts.
But even though Wilson was QB1 last season, he knows he needs to fight for the position again. However, that won’t stop him from being a leader on the field.
“I'm going to come out there every single day like I'm the guy and talk to guys like I'm the guy just to bring that leadership presence, and that's up to the coaches,” Wilson said.
While the Cougars produced more total yardage in 2019 (5,769 yards compared to 4,744 yards in 2018), they struggled to score get into the red zone and score. Wilson hopes to use the offseason and spring football season to diagnose those team issues while still working on personal development.
“I would just say the ability to step back and diagnose your play and your footwork and maybe hit the weight room a little bit, work on some rehab,” Wilson said. “I think that's huge. That's where all the advantage comes for players that get an offseason. I'm really happy with where I'm at right now. I feel like we can still take a lot of big strides throughout spring.”
Both Hall and Romney said they’re looking forward to the QB1 competition and are excited to be part of it each and every day. Last season, Hall saw action in seven games, completed 31 of 46 passes for 420 yards and one touchdown, and had 139 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Romney played in four games, completed 54 of 85 passes for 747 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He also had 59 rushing yards.
While all three QB1 contenders are similar in the way they play, Romney proved to be more efficient in the air, while Hall provides a stronger running option. Either way, coaches are hoping to get a clearer picture of who will be QB1 in four week’s time.
“The guys are doing good and there’s a lot of experience, so I expect a lot from those guys,” Sitake said of the quarterbacks group. “I know they expect a lot from themselves, so we’ll see how it carries over. I think we have a solid defense to contend with them and make things really difficult, but I have a lot of confidence in all the quarterbacks on our roster.”