The dream of Tanner McKee and the reality of BYU’s future at quarterback

Game against Stanford will highlight murky future of QB position for BYU.

Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee (18) throws against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Utah Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

BYU went all-in back in 2017 trying to recruit a 6-foot-6 quarterback with a live arm out of California.

It made sense back then for Kalani Sitake and his staff to target Tanner McKee. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His father graduated from BYU and he has family in Provo. He could contribute to a team hopeful to enter the Power Five.

All those same qualifications have some extremely hopeful BYU fans hoping the current Stanford quarterback might somehow make his way to Provo this offseason.

Sitake is excited to see what’s next for the Stanford signal-caller after this week — though that move is likely the NFL.

“Wonderful family, great young man. Tons of talent, he is an NFL talent for sure. … We recruited him because we wanted him here,” Sitake said. “Obviously, can’t cheer for him this weekend but I can cheer for him from this point on as he moves on with his career.”

McKee is projected to be anywhere from a late first-round pick to a mid-round guy. But his future could also include staying another year with the Cardinal or entering the transfer portal, where he would have his pick of schools.

At the very least, this regular-season finale between BYU and McKee will at least highlight BYU’s own murky quarterback situation next year. Will BYU dive into the transfer portal to find Jaren Hall’s replacement? Or is the future Big 12 quarterback on the current roster?

“Premature, I don’t know yet,” offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said on whether he will be in the market for a transfer quarterback. “But my standard answer to the portal is difference makers are what you are looking for, you know? Someone that has an impact, immediate impact, at any position.”

Last year, the Cougars entertained USC transfer Jaxson Dart on a visit before he went to Ole Miss.

Roderick added that he has not spent any time this week looking at potential transfer portal options. He noted, though, that BYU has members on the staff looking at portal options all year long.

Sitake did his best to dance around the question of whether a transfer quarterback will be a priority this year. He elected to say BYU will need to use the portal to bolster its depth, where presumably quarterback will come into play.

With their two-year starter Hall potentially moving onto the NFL after this year, there will be no quarterback on the current roster who has started a single game at BYU. It is a much different situation than two years ago when Zach Wilson left the program.

At that point, BYU had two quarterbacks in Hall and Baylor Romney who started multiple games. It made that offseason a foregone conclusion that the next starter would be an internal candidate

The closest thing to experience on this current roster is Cade Fennegan, who made a start while playing at Boise State before transferring to BYU. But he has a total of 28 career pass attempts and hasn’t been in a game since Nov. 12, 2020. The current backup quarterback, Jacob Conover, has not throw a pass this season and has tallied 10 his entire career.

“You have to see where you have some deficiencies and where you lack some depth,” Sitake said. “... I like to recruit from within first and see what we have in our program. Then we can add to that. … The transfer portal is part of recruiting now.”

Sitake went out of his way on Monday to say whoever is brought in through the portal must “be aligned” with the mission of the LDS Church.

“You look at it as see if they are good fit, and are they willing to do what the football program is about,” Sitake said of his criteria on Monday. “Also, they are aligned with the mission of the Church and the mission of the university.”

A decision on what BYU will do with quarterback has to be made soon. The first transfer portal window will open up on Dec. 5 and run through Jan. 18. This is the first season with a transfer portal window — before players could transfer at any time — so it is unclear exactly how that will play out. However, it is likely that many of the top available transfers will be gobbled up in that time.

The next window is open May 1 to May 15, after spring practice would end.

So, if BYU does want to be in the market for a one-year rental at quarterback, the decision will likely be made within the next few weeks.

“Any positions that you are a little thin, you might consider the portal,” Roderick said. “But we don’t have any specific names that we are looking at.”