With Zach Wilson entering the NFL draft, where does that leave the BYU Cougars at quarterback?

BYU has plenty of talent in the quarterback room to vie for the open starting gig.

(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.

Getting right to the point, with Zach Wilson gone, who will become BYU’s next quarterback?

The moment Wilson opted to not come back to Provo for his senior season, the QB race got started. Luckily for BYU, there are plenty of horses in the race.

The Cougars currently have six other quarterbacks on the roster. Barring any transfers, they should all return next season. And should be part of a BYU offense that could be dominant for years to come, Wilson said.

“I really think that they have a lot of young players stepping up,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t tell you a specific quarterback, but I know those guys will all compete for it in the springtime and I think they’ll do a great job.”

The list of candidates consists of Baylor Romney, Jaren Hall, Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters, Jacob Conover, Rhett Reilly and Mason Fakahua.

Assistant coach Aaron Roderick, who recently went from being the Cougars quarterback coach to offensive coordinator, said the upcoming battle and decision for the starting quarterback position will be tough, but most likely will start with who the staff has seen play in a game.

In that regard, Romney leads all other candidates.

Romney got his first start in 2019, when he played in a total of four games, and served as Wilson’s go-to backup through 2020. Through seven games in 2020, Romney threw for 747 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 64% of his passes.

“Zach had such a good season, it was overshadowed, but when Baylor played this year he was very efficient and played well,” Roderick said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU quarterback Jaren Hall (3) throws the ball for the Cougars, in football action between Brigham Young Cougars and Utah State Aggies in Logan, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.

Due to a hip injury, Hall opted to sit out the 2020 season, but played in seven games in 2019 as the second-string quarterback. Hall suffered two concussions within a month, but when he was on the field completed 67% of his passes for 420 yards and one touchdown.

“Of course, when Jaren played a couple years ago, [he] briefly showed some really exciting flashes of what he’s capable of,” Roderick said. “He’s an excellent passer, very accurate thrower with a lot of ability to be a good player. Had some bad luck with injuries, but expect him to be fully healthy for spring ball.”

Following in order of who has game experience, Maiava-Peters would fall next in line. The freshman got out on the field in three games, but didn’t accumulate any stats. However, before coming to BYU, Maiava-Peters was named the offensive MVP of the Polynesian Bowl and rated the No. 23 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by 247Sports.

The last big contender in the QB race, and who fans seem excited to see in action, is Conover. The freshman, who was a four-star recruit by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN, joined the Cougars during fall camp.

The Arizona native led Chandler High School, where he was a teammate of BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney in 2017, to three consecutive state titles. In his high school career, Conover threw for more than 10,000 yards with 102 touchdowns.

The loss of Wilson, along with other key offensive players who have decided to declare for the NFL draft, will certainly cause the BYU staff to make adjustments, but Roderick feels confident they’ll find someone for the starting QB gig.

“It’s going to be tough, and I can’t make predictions right now, but we will make sure each one of those guys gets an opportunity to show what they can do,” Roderick said.