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‘It is becoming pretty clear’: BYU football coaches could name their starting quarterback very soon

After Saturday’s scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said the three candidates for the starting job will no longer receive an equal number of reps in practice

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick gathers with his QBs during fall camp in Provo.
BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick gathers with his QBs during fall camp in Provo, Utah.
Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

Head coach Kalani Sitake and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick are zeroing in on their guy.

But they aren’t ready to announce who will be BYU’s starting quarterback just yet.

After Saturday’s final scrimmage of 2021 preseason training camp, both coaches said the QB who will replace Zach Wilson could be named as soon as Monday.

Wednesday, when the Cougars turn all their attention to the Sept. 4 opener against Arizona in Las Vegas, it will almost certainly be apparent, Roderick said.

Repeating what he told the Deseret News last Thursday, Roderick said after the 100-play scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium that he is getting close to establishing clarity and separation, in his mind. Last Wednesday, he told Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover how they would stack up if the opener were that day, then challenged them to prove him wrong or right Thursday, Friday and Saturday when they would continue to get equal reps.

“I am getting close to being able to divvy up those reps a little more to give whoever is going to start the first game, give him a little more (reps),” Roderick said. “We will start getting to that real soon. It might be as early as Monday. It will be Wednesday at the latest that we get to that.”

Roderick and Sitake, who also spoke to reporters via Zoom after the scrimmage, said they were heading off to watch film to get more clarity as soon as the news conference was over.

“It is becoming pretty clear,” Roderick said. “If you went and asked the players right now, they could probably tell you. The (three candidates) have battled hard and they have all gotten better, but that picture is starting to clear up for us.”

No players were made available to the general media after the scrimmage, which was also closed to the media for the second straight Saturday.

Most outlets, including the Deseret News, have reported that Hall is the front-runner. Nothing that Sitake or Roderick said Saturday alters that thinking.

Sitake said he will “echo” what Roderick said about a timeline and this coming week being the point where reps are no longer divided in thirds. However, the head coach said there still hasn’t been a lot of separation in one of the few three-way races, and one of the closest competitions, since 2010 when Jake Heaps and Riley Nelson opened the season splitting QB duties.

“I will just say that we feel really good about three quarterbacks,” Sitake said. “We have an idea of what we are going to do. We can see it.”

Sitake said he thought that one QB would elevate himself through nearly three weeks of camp, but that hasn’t happened.

“All three have elevated their game and we are starting to see how this is going to shape up,” Sitake said. “We just want to confirm it all with the film and communicate with the quarterbacks themselves and away we go. I think we are headed right down that timeline A-Rod gave you.”

As far as the scrimmage went, Sitake declined to declare a winner, saying the offense started slowly “which means the defense did pretty good.”

But the offense “got things rolling” to even the score. After that, it went “back and forth,” Sitake concluded.

A lot of the scrimmage included “situational football” such as two-minute drills, red-zone work and third-down work.

“We had a good amount of the scrimmage go live (tackling to the ground),” Sitake said. “But the new, we didn’t do live — we did most of our practice temp that we normally do with them.”

Roderick agreed with Sitake’s assessment that the offense started slowly and gradually got it going.

“We can’t start slow. That was kind of a downer,” Roderick said. “We made some really good plays later in the scrimmage.”

He noted that the offense was handcuffed a bit because defenders aren’t allowed to tackle star running back Tyler Allgeier, among others.

“When we get our best 11 players on the field, I think we are really hard to stop,” Roderick said. “We did some really good things.”

He singled out walk-on receiver Hobbs Nyberg as having an outstanding day; Nyberg arrived at BYU as a baseball player but is now turning heads on the football field, last year as a punt returner and this summer as both a specialist and a receiver.

“He had a good scrimmage today to the point where he is in the mix (to play more receiver),” Roderick said.

New linebackers coach Kevin Clune said he was only “taking care” of his linebackers and declined to proclaim a scrimmage winner. However, he said the front seven is “on point right now” and “right where we want to be through this stage in camp.”

Perhaps the best news to come out of Saturday was Sitake saying the Cougars “are really healthy right now” and that there hasn’t been a season-ending injury.

“Obviously, we have some injuries; we have some guys that are a little banged up here and there,” he said. “But I think going into the first game … I think everybody is still in play right now.”

That includes star receiver Puka Nacua, the transfer from Washington who hasn’t been at full strength until recently.

“Looking at guys who are getting (healthy), Puka has been limited, but today he went full go and he has been doing that for probably the latter part of this week,” Sitake said. “He looks really good.”