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BYU opened up the QB position in preseason camp, but it’s looking like Zach Wilson will hang on to the job

(Photo courtesy of Jaren Wilkey | BYU) Zach Wilson (1) participates in BYU football practice in Provo, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.

Last season, for weeks, the BYU coaching staff listed three co-starters at quarterback on their weekly depth charts: Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney.

Back then, coaches had to juggle between the three due to injuries. Wilson suffered a fractured right (throwing) thumb at Toledo, Hall walked off the field during the USF and Utah State games with concussions and Romney came in after Hall in those games and played a complete game against Boise State, but also sustained a foot injury in the process.

The quarterback battle continues this year.

Last season, it was about who’s available. This time around, with everyone healthy, it’s about who’s the best to lead the Cougars.

And it’s a question coaches have avoided, especially as fall camp has progressed.

“They’re close — they’re closer to naming [the starting quarterback],” coach Kalani Sitake said. “When we’re ready to do it, we’ll have it out there. But I feel the guys have done a pretty good job. I feel really good about four quarterbacks that can play right now.”

Earlier in fall camp, coaches said the majority of the reps between the quarterbacks was being evenly divided between Wilson, Hall and Romney, with a few reps going to freshman Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters. But a week ago, after the final camp scrimmage, offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes didn’t want to specify which quarterback took the lead on the amount of reps.

Grimes also said he didn’t want to specify which quarterback got reps with which group because it could lead to speculation based on who’s working with the 1s and could be the season starter.

“We’ll just continue to say what we have said, and that’s that all the guys are progressing,” Grimes said. “I know it’s not much information, but they’re all getting better. And I think the experience that we have there is certainly showing in practice and they’re all making progress every day. So, you probably won’t hear much else until we’re ready to announce something.”

Breaking it down, Wilson has the most experience from the group and could earn the starting gig again, having played in a total of 18 games over two seasons for a career 3,960 yards on 64% passing for 23 touchdowns.

However, Wilson threw a career-high nine interceptions last season.

And after playing a nearly perfect first half at UMass in which he threw for 293 yards on 17 of 20 passing for four touchdowns, after which the reserves took over for the starters, Wilson struggled to score through the air in the regular-season finale at San Diego State and against Hawaii’s Rainbow Warriors at the Hawaii Bowl.

But quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick said earlier this month he’s seen a lot of improvement from Wilson, who spent a lot of the offseason attending the 3DQB program in California. Roderick said Wilson has improved in every area and is impressed with what Wilson has done with the offseason, including his physicality.

“He looks good — he’s big and strong — and he’s just such a hard worker,” Roderick said. “He’s worked hard at every part of the game. He’s throwing the ball really well, he looks really fit and strong and he’s making great decisions. You can tell he’s really taking to heart some of the mistakes he’s made in the past as well as, we’re trying to build on the things we already do well in this program. We had a pretty good season throwing the ball last year and we’re trying to build on those things and eliminate some of the mistakes we made.”

Last season, Hall played in seven games (starting in two) for a total of 420 yards on 31 of 46 passing for one touchdown and rushed for 139 yards on 29 carries for three rushing touchdowns.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU quarterback Jaren Hall (3) tries to get past Utah State Aggies cornerback Cameron Haney (6), in football action between Brigham Young Cougars and Utah State Aggies in Logan, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.

Romney played in four games in 2019, throwing for 747 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions on 64% passing.

Then there’s Maiava-Peters, who has impressed coaches, particularly Roderick, with his raw talent.

“He’s just a playmaker,” Roderick said. “He’s kind of wild out there, he doesn’t know what he’s doing yet all the time, but he’s super athletic, got a lot of confidence in himself and, like I said, he’ll do some instinctive things that are hard to coach. He has a great feel for when to make a back shoulder throw.”

Reading between the lines, and with the knowledge that one quarterback is now receiving the majority of the first-team reps, it appears likely that Wilson has hung on to the starting job, at least for now. But Hall is still right there, along with Romney.

With so much QB depth and essentially a free season from the NCAA, which has ruled any athletes that play this fall will not lose a year of eligibility, the Cougars could use the situation to play around with different scenarios this season.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Baylor Romney, looks down field, in football action between Brigham Young Cougars and Utah State Aggies in Logan, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.

Sitake could move players around in multiple positions, and that could even include quarterbacks if the right opportunity presents itself.

“When you have this type of situation that we have on offense, I think you utilize them all,” Sitake said. “They’re there for a reason and try to have everybody have a role. Maybe someone’s a little younger and inexperienced, but they can have a role on this team and they can have a package that will put us in a situation that will put us in a situation where it makes teams defend us. Try to defend, not just 11 on the field, but the options that we have as well, looking at the 30 guys that we can put on the field.”

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