Call it a midcamp progress report.
BYU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick gathered the three quarterbacks — Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover — competing for the Cougars’ starting job Wednesday and told them exactly where they stand on the depth chart, in his mind, he told the Deseret News on Thursday.
Roderick, who will make the decision and then take it to head coach Kalani Sitake for final approval, would not reveal his midcamp ranking when pressed on Thursday in a one-on-one telephone interview. He did say that he is “seeing some separation” but is not quite ready to name a starter, or primary backup.
“I am excited to say it when it is time to say it,” he said. “But it is just not the right time yet.”
As for the meeting held with all three QBs at once after Wednesday’s practice, Roderick said he stressed after telling the men where they stood that it is not a final ranking.
“I let them know how I see the ranking if we were to have a game today,” he said. “And I told them that they will have three more days of equal reps — Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s scrimmage — at a minimum before we make a final decision.”
Yes, Roderick said, a starter could be named as soon as next Monday. Or maybe not.
He told the players he “reserves the right” to also use practices Monday or Tuesday to get more clarification next week if that’s what it takes. The Cougars will begin shifting into game-week mode next Wednesday and start specifically preparing for the opener against Arizona on Sept. 4 in Las Vegas.
“So, I let them know they have three minimum, five maximum (practices) to sort of prove me wrong, or prove their case,” he said. “And then Wednesday we will start making the reps more applicable to the starter, the backup, the third guy.”
Roderick said through Thursday, another day in which the Cougars were forced inside due to smoky air conditions along the Wasatch Front, that Hall, Romney and Conover had received equal reps. He disputed some reports that Conover didn’t receive as many reps in last week’s scrimmage than the others.
“The scrimmage was close to 100 plays, and by the time the scrimmage was over the three of them were within two plays,” he said. “I think the guy who got the most reps had two more than the other two, who were exactly the same. It was very equal.”
Coaches have been so adamant that the reps be distributed evenly among the three that they have done more 11-on-11 work, which they refer to as “team” sessions, in practice than ever before.
“We have adapted our practice plans a little bit this year to do the most 11-on-11 team stuff than I have ever done in my career just to see those guys play football,” Roderick said.
The first-year OC said he issued the progress reports to all the quarterbacks at once for the sake of transparency, to cut down on miscommunication, and to prepare them mentally if they are not the chosen one.
“I feel like if you practice this long, and put in all this effort, and then just one day you get the gut punch that you are the two, or the three, that’s harder to deal with than getting the pattern I am seeing in the middle of camp,” he said.
No question, Saturday’s scrimmage “will be a big deal” for all three, he said.
Thursday’s practice gave the coordinator hope that all three quarterbacks took their ranking well and didn’t let it affect their play. He said all three made big plays and performed well.
“We put our guys in a really difficult two-minute situation, difficult for the offense, and executed well on one of them and then not so good on the other two,” he said. “We made it hard on purpose.”
Roderick said it has been a “stressful” process that he would like to see end, but not at the expense of making the right decision.
“They are all professional guys, and they are all competitive guys,” he said. “And it is not over yet. I made that clear. I said, ‘Hey, this is the way I see the ranking now.’ I just felt like it was fair to them to say, ‘Here’s where I see it right now, and you’ve got this many more days to prove me wrong if I am wrong. I just thought that was the best way to be fair to all those guys.”
Roderick said he knows what’s at stake. He also said that with the Cougars’ early schedule of tough, physical teams, they might need three or even four quarterbacks to play this season, like they did in 2017 when Tanner Mangum, Beau Hoge, Koy Detmer Jr. and Joe Critchlow all got snaps.
“My first obligation is to our players and the team to make a good decision for the team,” he said. “I told the quarterbacks, ‘You guys all want this so bad, but there are 100 guys in that locker room that all want it, too.’ And they want to have a great season. They want to have a great team. And I feel an obligation to all of them to get this right.”
He said he’s proud of the fact that in this camp they have gotten all three QBs a lot of reps and have gotten all three prepared if their name is called.
“If we have an injury, I am very confident that we are going to have someone capable to come in and do the job,” he said. “Everybody has to remember that it is a long season.”
But the days to pick a starter are getting short.