BYU backup quarterback Jacob Conover is leaving the program and will enter the transfer portal, he announced Friday.
The three-year backup to Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall departs after being one of BYU’s most highly touted recruits, but never getting a start.
In his career, Conover attempted just 11 passes and played in five games. With the potential departure of Hall next year, Conover would have likely competed to be BYU’s starting quarterback in 2023.
That said, the coaching staff never appeared to put their full confidence in Conover to truly take the reins after Hall leaves. Last week, Conover played the entire fourth quarter against Stanford — a total of 22 snaps — but was only allowed to throw the ball once.
After the game, head coach Kalani Sitake insisted that it had nothing to do with a lack of faith in Conover to run the offense. Yet, it didn’t exactly show a comfort level with the quarterback either.
“I don’t know if that was the time,” Sitake said about Conover throwing the ball. “In looking at it, Jaren threw 11 times. ... I felt like, just looking at the offensive game plan, I just felt like we were doing good with the run game. That was the outcome right there. It doesn’t really matter to me, just wanted to get the win.”
This wasn’t the first time either that Conover could have conceivably been given a real opportunity to play, but didn’t. Hall played injured for most of October, but Conover never entered the game. Against Notre Dame, Hall struggled to throw the ball in the first half, but he still started over Conover.
Also, in late-game situations with the game in hand, Conover never appeared. Against South Florida, Liberty and Arkansas — all games in which the margin was over three scores — Conover stayed on the sideline. When asked about why Conover did not play, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said he didn’t feel like there was a clear opportunity to put Conover in.
All of that was already against the backdrop of the last two offseasons, when BYU brought in Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan to compete with Conover. Overall, it led to the belief that the former four-star recruit was not the clear-cut guy to replace Hall, whenever the two-year starter decided to enter the NFL draft.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Conover said in a statement Friday. “... I am excited for what the future holds and ready to attack the new challenges ahead.”
Now, BYU is left with an even murkier future at quarterback going into the Big 12. Hall could come back for another season, but he also turns 25 years old this offseason and such a move wouldn’t make much sense if he wants an NFL future.
After Hall, BYU could bring in a transfer quarterback or roll with the current trio of Fennegan, Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters and Nick Billoups. None of those players has started a game at BYU. Fennegan attempted 28 passes at Boise State in 2020 before transferring to Provo. Even with Conover on the roster, BYU would have likely considered a transfer.
The quarterback position was always going to be a difficult situation for Roderick and Sitake to address this offseason. Unlike when Wilson left the program in 2020, there is no clear answer on who will be the first face of the Big 12 era.
When Wilson left, Hall and Baylor Romney had both started several games and the belief was Hall was the proven leader to assume the role. The closest that BYU had to stability this year was Conover.
The transfer portal window opens on Dec. 5. BYU will likely have to make a move soon at quarterback to bring in a transfer. Roderick declined to comment on whether BYU would bring in a quarterback, but said the program would be looking for players ta positions of need.