Who’s Jacob Conover? He’s BYU’s dark horse in the race for the open starting quarterback position.

The pandemic caused the Arizona native to come to BYU sooner than planned, which now puts him in the middle of arguably the biggest position battle.

(Jaren Wilkey | BYU Athletics) Freshman Jacob Conover looks to make a pass during a recent spring football practice, Monday, March 8, 2021. Conover is amongst those fighting for the starting quarterback position.

Jacob Conover wasn’t expected at BYU so early.

The quarterback stud was serving a church mission that was scheduled to keep him in Paraguay until January 2021, but the pandemic had other plans. Instead, Conover found himself coming to Provo two days before the start of the 2020 fall semester.

The Chandler High grad immediately joined the Cougars as a grayshirt and helped on the scout team.

Now, he’s throwing his hat into the quarterback race.

“This spring has been so exciting, like my first time in competition with the other quarterbacks,” Conover said. “It’s just been so exciting to finally be getting into it. Last year, I was getting home from my mission, working on the scout team, and it was a blast. I enjoyed every moment, but now it’s time to shine and just rock and roll.”

Because Conover got to Provo a full season before scheduled, it gave the Arizona native a chance to not only study the playbook (which he has since fully learned), but study under former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, who’s expected to be a top five NFL draft pick.

With the unexpected experience he got over the 2020 season, Conover almost considers himself a veteran heading into the 2021 season.

However, Conover falls behind Baylor Romney and Jaren Hall in the game-experience department. Romney and Hall both got their first starts during the 2019 season, when Wilson was out with a fractured right (throwing) thumb.

Hall sat out the 2020 season with a lower body injury, while Romney served as Wilson’s relief.

But Conover believes he still has a chance to win the starting role.

“I think it’s just going to take a lot of confidence in myself and also trusting the coaches,” Conover said. “Each of us have talents and abilities, and it’s going to be the one who takes charge of the team and is able to show the confidence that, even under pressure and in stressful situations, they can handle it.”

BYU coach Kalani Sitake remembers the recruiting job he and his staff had to do when targeting Conover. The Chandler High product was already verbally committed to BYU, but other big programs tried to lure him elsewhere toward the end.

The four-star recruit, per 247Sports, received a total of 12 offers, including Arizona State, Alabama, Arizona and Memphis. Besides BYU, the only other school Conover made an official visit to was his hometown Sun Devils.

One of the things that struck Sitake about his recruit was how Conover helped with recruiting calls himself. Conover, who’s considered a pro-style quarterback, wanted to make sure he had good targets to throw to and strong linemen to protect him.

Sitake described the 6-foot-1 freshman as someone he didn’t have to ask to do something, but was always on top of everything.

“And that’s just the way he’s been as a player,” Sitake said. “He took advantage of all the reps that he got as a scouting quarterback and against our defense. … He gave our defense a lot of issues and a lot of fits with his accuracy and his ability to make plays and make great, accurate throws. He’s just the type of guy that, whenever faced with adversity or even faced with things that aren’t ideal, he’ll turn it around and make it a positive and learn and grow from it. And that’s exactly what our culture is all about here on this team. He’s a perfect fit for the program,” Sitake added.

Competition aside, Conover is excited for his future at BYU.

The freshman grew up training at BYU and always wanted to play for the Cougars. It was a dream he planned out since he was a kid. When Conover was in third grade, he and his father mapped out every year up until now with what Conover would have to do to get here.

Now, Conover is living his dreams.

“It was cool to finally be here and to make dreams become a reality,” Conover said.