BYU quarterback race tighter than ever in search of Zach Wilson’s replacement

At this point, assistant coach Aaron Roderick believes any of the three front-runners can take the lead when the season starts.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Baylor Romney (16) passes the ball on the Cougars first scoring drive, in football action between Brigham Young Cougars and Liberty Flames at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019.

Now that offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick has had time to process the work his players accomplished over the course of spring practices, the only thing that is clear is that nothing is clear.

The quarterback battle is ridiculously tight between Baylor Romney, Jaren Hall and Jacob Conover — and it won’t be decided anytime soon.

But really, that’s the best situation the Cougars could have found themselves after losing former starter Zach Wilson to the NFL Draft and New York Jets. Any one of the three candidates can find himself leading the offense come Sept. 4 when BYU opens the 2021 season against Arizona.

And Roderick is of the same mindset.

“The biggest takeaway [from spring practices] is that I have three good players,” Roderick said. “It’s really, really tight competition between Jaren and Baylor and Jacob Conover. … I think we can win games with any of those three — I have a lot of confidence in them. And so, that would be my biggest takeaway, that the quarterback position is in good hands right now and it’s going to take a little more time to sort it out. But I really feel good about the group.”

What makes Roderick’s job easier — or harder — is the fact that Romney, Hall and Conover all play similar styles. The assistant coach would say the three quarterbacks are more similar than different.

And it fits into the offensive plan BYU played last season.

So, there won’t be any major changes made to the offense.

“I expect us to be very similar to last year,” Roderick said. “Every season is its own year and you might have a tweak or two to the scheme just to — you’ve got to keep evolving a little bit — but we plan to be similar to what we were last year. And I feel confident that we can run the same offense we ran last year with all three of these guys.”

While no team practices are allowed during the offseason, Roderick has been meeting with his quarterbacks twice a week. During their meetings, the group is reviewing installation of sections of the offense and reviewing film from spring ball and last season.

There’s no film of Conover or Hall from last year. Conover redshirted and Hall nursed a hip injury while Romney served as Wilson’s backup. Add in a pair of starts in 2019 and Romney is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition based on experience alone. Hall started a couple of games himself in 2019, but Conover has yet to have any game-time experience at the collegiate level.

But that doesn’t make the decision any easier.

“There’s no substitute for the game experience, but then in Jacob you have a guy who just has a ton of confidence and sort of swagger about him that he acts like a veteran player, even though he hasn’t played in a game for us yet,” Roderick said. “He carries himself that way. So, I think experience-wise, we’re a little more experienced than people think. Jaren and Baylor have both played in big games and played well. We’ve seen them do it before and it’s not a stretch at all to see those guys playing well here shortly.”