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Dick Harmon: Trio of QB gurus nailed what BYU’s Zach Wilson could do, given time

SHARE Dick Harmon: Trio of QB gurus nailed what BYU’s Zach Wilson could do, given time
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (11) warms up before playing the Western Michigan Broncos in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018.

BYU true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson lived up to the expectations after winning the starting job midway through the season.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

PROVO — Quarterback gurus John Beck, Riley Jensen and Dustin Smith made a trio of predictions this past summer about Zach Wilson that held true.

Beck, a former NFL and BYU quarterback, is a professional passing coach in Southern California and has spent most of this year consulting with Wilson in person and from a distance about his workouts, fundamentals and skill development.

Smith is the founder of QB Elite, a Utah-based football skill development outfit that involves camps and training with former NFL quarterbacks, including Ty Detmer, Kurt Warner and Mark Brunell.

Jensen, a former BYU and USU quarterback, is in the Snow College Hall of Fame and operates Mountain West Elite camps.

Beck reported that Wilson had a unique work ethic and his interest in learning was both intense and productive. If he gave Wilson assignments to work on specific drills, he would do it consistently and report back through phone calls and texts as to his status and work.

“That really stands out about Wilson," Beck said. "His fundamentals are solid and he is far ahead of where I was at that stage of my career.”

Smith predicted that Wilson and Jaren Hall, both freshmen QBs on the Cougar roster, were capable of starting on any team in the country and not only doing well, but being very productive. It remains to be seen if Hall can make Smith’s projection come true, but Wilson’s first year is in the books and, statistically, the prophecy had merit.

Jensen said Wilson walks like a quarterback, talks like a quarterback, and acts like a quarterback. He predicted if Wilson wasn’t the starter at the beginning of the year, he would be the starter at some time.

Having completed his last pass against Utah, Wilson has now completed 19 passes in a row heading into the opener with Utah in 2019. The BYU record for most consecutive completions overall is 22 by Steve Young in 1982 with eight at Utah State and 14 against Wyoming.

As for Wilson’s ability to perform at a high level in Div. I, consider the following comparison from his stats as a starter this season.

Wilson’s pass efficiency rating was superior to every opposing quarterback he played against in his seven starts.

Hawaii: Cole McDonald 124.82; Wilson 167.48.

Northern Illinois: Marcus Childers 93.62; Wilson 111.57.

Boise State: Brett Rypien, BSU’s all-time leading QB, 120.79; Wilson 145.07.

UMass: Ross Comis, the NCAA’s No. 8-rated passer, 116.28; Wilson 157.40.

NMSU: Josh Adkins 76.19; Wilson 101.72.

Utah: Jason Shelley 121.94; Wilson 143.92.

Western Michigan: Kaleb Eleby 90.83; Wilson 321.27.

On the national scene, Wilson projected extremely well in his role as a starter during the second half of BYU’s season.

The NCAA’s pass efficiency leader is national championship title game-bound quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with a 205 rating. He is playing with what may be the top surrounding cast of players any college team could fathom.

The second-rated pass efficiency leader is Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma at 199.2.

The remaining top 10, including West Virginia’s Will Grier (175.5), Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (174.1), Georgia’s Jake Fromm (171.2), Iowa State’s Brock Purdy (169.9), Houston's D’Eriq King (167.0), UMass's Ross Comis (161.5), UCF's McKenzie Milton (161.0), and Utah State’s Jordan Love at No. 10 with a 158.3 rating.

There at No. 12 is Wilson, with a 157.2 rating, which is higher than Rypien (156.0) and Stanford’s K.J Costello (155.0), or any other QB in the West who was not named Jordan Love.

“The thing about Wilson is he has even more of an upside. I don’t think BYU has yet to tap into him and what he is capable of doing,” said Jensen.

“They haven’t unleashed him at all. In the Boise State game, it was a real simple pass package they put in for him. I feel like now they really trust him. I don’t care at what level you are playing, if you go 18 for 18 (bowl game performance) it is not easy to do what he did at all, no matter who you are playing against — even if it was back in 1984 against Bo Diddley Tech.”