How does a team fill a spot left empty by a player who was selected No. 2 overall in the NFL draft? The decision is made even more difficult when the position in question is the starting quarterback job — arguably the most essential job on the team.
So, when will BYU name Zach Wilson’s successor?
Once again, that’s complicated.
“I don’t know if I want to put, like, a deadline, because I think that creates a lot of stress and anxiety on the staff more than it does on the players,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “I know that the deadline’s before the [first] game [of the season] — we need to have a starter for the game. ... If you’re asking me, ideally, when [I] want it done, I think the sooner the better.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick also doesn’t want to put a hard deadline on the decision, but believes two weeks into fall camp may be a good time for it.
By then, all three contenders will have had ample time in fall camp to put up respectable arguments for why each one should be the starter and give said starter enough time to get ready for the season opener.
“I’m not going to be pinned down to an exact date, but that’s approximately what I’d like to do,” Roderick said.
However, just because the coaching staff may come to a conclusion by mid-August, that doesn’t mean they’ll make their decision public.
In fact, on paper, it may be written in as a game-time decision. The same happened when Wilson was coming back from his thumb injury in 2019; there was an “or” listed between Wilson, Hall and Romney for weeks.
Roderick may also hold off on announcing who their starter is as a way to throw off Arizona — their first opponent.
The Wildcats are under a new coaching staff, which makes it a little harder for the BYU staff to prepare for. Arizona hired Jedd Fisch back in December 2020.
Fisch came from the NFL ranks, most recently coaching with the New England Patriots. The 44-year-old came to Arizona with eight years of collegiate coaching experience and 13 years of NFL coaching experience.
One of Fisch’s collegiate stops BYU is focusing on is Michigan. Roderick said the coaching staff is watching Michigan film from when Fisch was there and trying to measure that to the talent Arizona has on its roster, while also trying to gauge the level of talent of transfers who joined the Wildcats’ roster.
Because the change of staff at Arizona has caused “a lot of question marks” for BYU, Roderick said, they are hoping to “maybe give them a couple of question marks to plan for.”
The tactic is nothing new for BYU, as previously stated, but it’s also one Roderick learned from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham when he was on the Utes staff.
“If one of those guys just clearly becomes the guy and it’s undeniable, then I’ll say it — I’ll just say it,” Roderick said. “But we might hold off till the game. I hope people aren’t mad about that, but just looking for every advantage we can to win that first game.”
Part of why the decision has been so difficult, Sitake said, is because all three of the contenders made big improvements during spring practices, although at different times.
The staff tried looking for ways to start separating a player or two from the pack, but were never able to. It’s been between those three all along, and will be that way until the season starts.
Sitake said he didn’t plan it to be this way, it was just the way things have played out.
“It just happened that these three young men got better as quarterbacks with Zach Wilson at the starting spot,” Sitake said. “All three got better during the fall. And then the spring, they did the same thing — they got better. There’s really a high standard right now at the quarterback position. Obviously, with Zach leaving, there’s a standard that’s really, really high.”
So, while the BYU coaching staff may come up with a decision by mid-August, fans — and Arizona — may not know who the starting quarterback is until just before kickoff on Sept. 4 in Las Vegas.
“I can tell you it’s going to be one of the three,” Sitake said.