When the BYU offense stepped onto the field to start the second half against Utah State last Friday, it marked an important moment for one Cougar.

That became the start of quarterback Jacob Conover’s college career, as the third-string freshman stepped in for injured backup Baylor Romney and helped BYU beat Utah State 34-20.

Now, the question is who will start for No. 10 BYU when it hosts Boise State this Saturday. BYU coach Kalani Sitake is keeping close-lipped on the subject.  

“As far as right now is concerned, they are all still in contention to play this Saturday,” he told reporters Monday of Jaren Hall, the team’s starting quarterback, Romney and Conover, who were listed in that order on the depth chart BYU released that day. “So until we practice and get a look at them, no one has been taken off (the depth chart). So right now, as of today, everyone is still available to play.”

If it’s Conover, here’s a look at who will be asked to lead the BYU offense against the Broncos.

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Who is Jacob Conover?

Conover was a part of the Cougars’ 2019 recruiting class, rated a four-star prospect in the 247 Sports composite rankings. He prepped at Chandler High in Chandler, Arizona, southeast of Phoenix, and was a high school teammate of BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney. 

He threw for 10,098 passing yards and 102 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions in three years as a starter at Chandler High and was No. 104 on ESPN’s list of the top 300 recruits in the 2019 class. 

Conover served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asuncion, Paraguay, a mission shortened to 15 months by the COVID-19 pandemic, then joined the football team last fall and paid his own way at school for four months as a walk-on

Why BYU was appealing to Conover

Conover always had BYU in his blood; his father, Jeff Conover, went to the school. Jacob Conover held scholarship offers from several Power Five programs, most notably Alabama, per 247 Sports, but he chose the Cougars. “The story is that he’s always held a BYU football in BYU pajamas,” then-Chandler High coach Shaun Aguano, now an assistant at Arizona State, said about his quarterback during his senior high school year in 2018.

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Conover also liked what he saw in BYU’s coaching staff. 

“My dad went to BYU and I’ve been surrounded by that campus my whole life. Coach Kalani is one of the most amazing head coaches I’ve ever met, and the whole atmosphere about it — I love it,” he told the Deseret News in 2018. “I have a lot of family in Utah, and getting like Gunner and Cash (Peterman, another Chandler player) to go to BYU with some other Arizona kids helps build that family.

“Growing up, I loved watching BYU football.”

Conover embracing the QB competition at BYU

In the spring, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Conover was part of a then-four-way competition to replace NFL bound Zach Wilson. Eventually, Hall won the job and started the Cougars’ first three games this season before a rib injury sidelined him the past two games.

That experience in the spring and the past two fall camps, though, have helped Conover develop strong relationships with the other players in BYU’s quarterbacks room.

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“I love each and every one of those (other quarterbacks),” he told the Deseret News in March. “We are all super tight, which is awesome. In the quarterback room, there shouldn’t be any contention, or else neither one of us will thrive.

“I loved being here last year, because I was able to build personal relationships with all of them.”

How Conover performed against Utah State

Conover’s night against the Aggies got off to a rocky start before he settled down and helped lead BYU to two key fourth-quarter scoring drives. Conover finished the game completing 5 of 9 passes for 45 yards. 

Here’s how his first collegiate action played out:

  • Conover’s first three drives all were three-and-outs, as the Cougars netted just 6 yards on 10 plays. BYU had a penalty on each of those drives, and Conover was 2 of 5 passing for 5 yards to start, including a 3-yard pass on a third down that was well short of the line to gain for a first down.
  • On his fourth drive, Conover and the Cougars finally got something going. He completed back-to-back passes of 15 yards to Romney — the wide receiver gained 11 yards after the short catch — and Neil Pau’u to get the drive off to a strong start. Later on a third-and-2 at the Utah State 31, Conover completed a swing pass to Tyler Allgeier and the running back picked up 16 yards for a first down. Conover threw incomplete on a third-and-10 later in the drive — in the first minute of the fourth quarter — that ended with a BYU field goal and a 27-13 lead.
  • Conover never threw another pass in the game, as BYU relied on Allgeier and its running game for another touchdown and to run down the clock.
  • Of his five completions, none were thrown more than around 5 yards downfield, with the receivers using yards after the catch to make bigger plays.
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