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Dick Harmon: Zach Wilson at BYU's halfway mark in the season brings one absolute piece of the puzzle

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (11) throws in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. BYU won 30-3.
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (11) throws in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. BYU won 30-3.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

BYU's 2018 offense needs an important element in its design at the halfway point the season, and when freshman quarterback Zach Wilson takes the field for a significant role on Saturday against Hawaii, it will be on display.

It may not be used extensively, it may not be relied on completely, but it should add something the Warrior defense will have to account for, something opponents really didn't have to scheme for in previous weeks.

What is it?

His mobility. His escapability. His ability to gain chunk yards with his feet. Factoring in Wilson's ability to move and run will force defenses to account for him, and that will be positive for an offense that has struggled to maintain drives and score. With upcoming games against high-scoring teams like Hawaii, Boise State and a rejuvenated Utah squad, it is all hands on deck in the Cougar camp.

As I opined in Tuesday's column, this is a week in which BYU's coaching staff had to make some bold decisions. Even if means a learning curve, some pre-snap penalties and possible turnovers, it is worth it to deploy Wilson for his escapability alone.

We're talking about an offense that was very physical and impressive the first few weeks of the season, especially in the upset of No. 6 Wisconsin in Madison. But since then, defenses have figured things out, and at the same time, BYU lost Moroni Laulu-Pututau and watched as Squally Canada's time got limited due to injury.

The offense needs help.

"We are not the same offense we were when we had Moroni," pass coordinator Aaron Roderick said.

Consider BYU's predicament statistically and remember when doing so that BYU has faced one of the toughest schedules in the country (top 5) so far: 120th in total offense, 118th in rushing offense, 104 in passing offense, 117th in scoring and 99th in pass efficiency.

It is no wonder tough decisions in personnel needed to be made at the halfway point in the season, even if the strength of schedule has been high. Hawaii's defense ranks 88th in total defense, 66th in rush defense, 98th stopping the pass, 114th in pass efficiency defense and 85th in scoring defense.

Come Saturday, Wilson may display all kinds of traits. But the one that will be very obvious without having seen him play a full game is the contribution he will make with his feet to extend plays and keep drives alive. He is not Taysom Hill. He doesn't need to be a 4.4 guy to be a big deal in this offense that is screaming for big plays.

It should be interesting to see.