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Zach Wilson eager to prove himself at BYU, compete for starting QB job

PROVO — Corner Canyon quarterback Zach Wilson is prepared, anxious and excited to enroll at BYU and toss his helmet into the quarterback derby on Monday.

And he’s had a great break for the holidays preparing for the adventure.

Wilson and his family just returned from a Caribbean cruise out of New Orleans — a celebration after he graduated from high school early in order to begin his college career this month.

Now, it’s back to business.

“Our whole family took off for a cruise in Louisiana and then went to the Sugar Bowl. It was nice, just something before taking off for college,” said Wilson.

On Monday, Wilson’s winter semester at BYU begins, complete with off-season conditioning inside BYU’s football program. He’ll be involved immediately in team meetings where a new offensive staff will address players and further explain their designs and goals heading into spring practice in March.

Wilson said he’s ready.

“I’m excited to go in there and start a schedule of a meal planning and workout program to get my body in shape like it was before my last high school season, put on more weight and draw from others and get to know other people. I’m looking forward to starting school and taking some intro classes.”

What’s his mindset about football and his approach to this first six months?

Well for one, he expects to compete. To him, it’s an open-door opportunity.

The Cougars finished the season with their No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks injured. Tanner Mangum is recovering from a ruptured Achilles. His backup and the starter against Wisconsin and Utah State, Beau Hoge, is recovering from a foot injury and concussion protocol. Joe Critchlow, a freshman returned missionary walk-on, finished the season against Fresno State, UNLV and Hawaii, Kody Wilstead and Koy Detmer Jr., is also in the mix.

Another early enrollee freshman from Texas, Stacy Conner, will also be going through what Wilson is next Monday.

Said Wilson, “I have to come in and compete with anybody, whether they’ve been there for three years or whether they just got there. I have to go in there and show them I’m not afraid to compete, show them I’m capable of playing early.

“Having a new coaching staff, I think it really takes away the bias of everybody else, so I think I’ll have that opportunity to be able to show them something.”

Wilson, a one-time commit to Boise State, received offers from Syracuse and Minnesota in October. He also had offers from Cal, Utah State, Colorado State and Weber State. He opened up his recruiting in a Twitter announcement in December.

The timeline is interesting. BYU relieved Ty Detmer from offensive coordinator duties Sunday, Nov. 27. A week later on Dec. 4, Detmer’s nephew, Somerset, Texas, QB Zadock Dinkelmann, de-committed from BYU.

Wilson de-committed from Boise State on Tuesday, Dec. 11, and made it public on Twitter Dec. 12. On Dec. 14, BYU announced the hiring Jeff Grimes to replace Detmer as the OC. During that week Wilson made a visit to BYU and then signed with the Cougars on Dec. 21.

Once the hire of new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes became official, Grimes immediately contacted Wilson and has remained active in talking and texting him almost every day, according to Wilson.

That confirms what other recruits have said about Grimes, that he has been plugged into making allowable recruiting contacts since he was hired by Kalani Sitake.

“He’s called me about six or seven times, texted me every day. He just asks what’s up, what I’m doing and explains some things he wants me to be doing.”

Wilson's prep career included 6,691 yards passing and 54 touchdowns. In his senior season, he passed for nearly 3,000 yards, an average of 298.6 per game, and rushed for 752 yards for a team that finished 11-1.

Wilson said he has also talked to BYU’s new pass-game coordinator Aaron Roderick a few times, but that has been limited because of restrictions put on Roderick during the hiring process and the dead period when he was hired.

Fesi Sitake, who Wilson said would be working with BYU receivers, has talked to him often and was actually the first college recruiter who came after him when he was at Weber State.

“He was my first offer when I was a sophomore. I’ve always talked to him over the years and he’s been good to give me advice on schools who were recruiting me and just talking about things. I’m glad he’s there because I like him a lot.”

Wilson said to his knowledge BYU is still looking for a running backs coach, which might shed some insight into that 10th coach hire allowed by the NCAA beginning Jan. 9. Roderick will work with quarterbacks, Fesi has receivers, Steve Clark is assumed to be the tight ends coach. Reno Mahe was previously the running backs coach.

Grimes told Wilson he intends to get things done and he’s not going to allow anyone to slack off.

“He sounds like a fun guy and he’s not going to be miserable to be around or awkward to be around. He just wants to get things done, which I think is awesome.”

Wilson reflects back on his sophomore year in high school when he was skinny and everyone on the field appeared so much bigger and stronger than he was. Then, as a senior, he came out bigger, faster, stronger and was equal to or better than others on the field, and it made him feel so much more confident, which allowed him to be productive and compete at a high level.

“It was the first time I’d played with people who were younger than me rather than those who were older than me and that was really cool.”

In a sense, Wilson will be entering that same kind of arena and the adjustment will be tangible and real for him.

But he welcomes the challenge. Again.

It’s a whole new year and season.