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BYU settles on a starting quarterback for Iowa State game

Jake Retzlaff to start against the Cyclones as Kedon Slovis continues healing.

(Photo by Jaren Wilkey | BYU) Quarterback Jake Retzlaff attempts a pass in spring practice on March 10, 2023.

Provo • BYU has named quarterback Jake Retzlaff its starter against Iowa State.

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Retzlaff will start against the Cyclones. Earlier this week Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake said usual starter Kedon Slovis would have to earn the starting job back when he is cleared to play, but Roderick indicated Slovis isn’t yet fully healthy.

“Right now we are planning on Jake starting,” Roderick said. “Kedon is improving, made a few throws today. He’s healing but he is not all the way there yet. We’re unsure if he will be available Saturday or not.”

Roderick, meanwhile, also said he believes Slovis would have to earn the starting role back from Retzlaff when he is cleared.

“Well every position is like that,” Roderick said. “If somebody comes in and plays better than you were playing while you were out, that’s how it works. That’s part of our program.”

Retzlaff’s first start in West Virginia resulted in a 37-7 loss. Roderick thought Retzlaff played well as he threw for 210 yards and scrambled 10 times.

“I thought he played pretty well,” he said. “Obviously we didn’t score enough points. It’s super disappointing to have seven points. But he did a lot of good things in that game. Thought he did a good job. I would say solid performance. Just need to do a better job as an offense.”

As BYU hits the final month of the season, the team will not have to worry about burning Retzlaff’s redshirt. Roderick indicated the plan was always to play Retzlaff in some capacity during the last month of the season, regardless of Slovis’ health status.

“There was never a plan to necessarily start him in any of those games,” Roderick said. “But we wanted to at least get him in some. So this is unfortunate for Kedon, but it has turned out to be a good opportunity to at least see what we have in Jake.”

Roderick said Slovis was again limited this week in practice. It is not often BYU plays players who have not practiced during the week, though one higher-profile exception was quarterback Jaren Hall starting against Notre Dame without practicing last year. However, Hall did struggle in the first half of that loss.

“You have to make decisions about, ‘Are you going to play a guy who didn’t practice very much?’ How much did he practice? How ready is he?” Roderick said. “But for the most part we are playing guys who are available to practice. In rare cases have I seen guys play well Saturday that didn’t practice the whole week.

“It just hit a point where [Kedon] couldn’t throw. I mean he was in a lot of pain last week. He couldn’t grip the ball. Having trouble throwing, so we had to pull him back.”

With Retzlaff starting, the offense will shift slightly in terms of play calling. Retzlaff is more mobile than Slovis to navigate around some pressures — especially with the offensive line struggling.

But Roderick cautioned against changing the offense completely.

“Obviously he does some things a little different than Kedon,” he said. “Last game you saw him run around a little more than what you saw with Kedon this year. He is a little different player. But you can’t change too much this time of year or you mess up all the other guys around him. We are trying to play to his strengths as much as we can without wholesale changes to the offense.”