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BYU quarterback derby: Here’s why whoever wins the job won’t be tackled until the first game

New BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick says the Cougars can win games with whichever quarterback he chooses as the opening-day starter

BYU quarterbacks Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover are in the running to replace Zach Wilson in Provo.
BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, center, is surrounded by quarterbacks, from left, Baylor Romney, Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters, Jaren Hall and Jacob Conover during fall practice on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, in Provo. Hall, Romney and Conover are in the running to replace Zach Wilson.
Jaren Wilkey/BYU

The first few days of BYU’s preseason training camp provided very few clues regarding who will win the starting quarterback derby, but offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has already set a couple of parameters for the competition.

One, none of the three QBs vying for the spot — neither Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney nor Jacob Conover — will get hit until the opener on Sept. 4 against Arizona in Las Vegas.

“They won’t get tackled in fall camp,” Roderick said Thursday. “The first time they will get hit will be the first game.”

Two, Roderick repeated a statement he made during June’s football media day that he would like to identify the starter some time during the first two weeks of camp. Whether he publicly names the starter remains to be seen.

“If it goes a little longer, that’s OK,” he said. “It might, because the guys are good players. But that would be ideal. Whoever is going to start the game maybe has a week to 10 days to maybe know it is his and be ready for the game. That’s the idea.”

As far as how the quarterbacks looked the first day, Roderick described them as “good, not great.”

But he said that was to be expected, considering the “install (of plays) is kind of limited; You don’t have your best plays in yet.”

Some fans are reading too much into the fact that Hall took the first snap during the media viewing portion of practice. Roderick said weeks ago that the first five practices of camp had already been scripted.

However, the first-year OC’s statement during media day that Hall would be tough to beat out if he stays healthy apparently still applies. Hall said he feels “great” after recovering from a hip injury that kept him out of action last season.

Asked if he can deliver the “explosive plays” that Roderick has said will be vital for the offense to succeed in 2021, Hall answered affirmatively.

“I don’t think I would be here if I couldn’t do that,” he said.

As for his much-publicized work with former BYU quarterback John Beck in the offseason — much like Zach Wilson did the past two summers — Hall said it is already paying dividends.

“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “I mean, John has his thing, the way he works mechanics, the way he works quarterbacks to play the game. So working this summer on that I hoped it would play into the practice today. That is something I will be able to look at today on film and see if some of those things were incorporated.”

Hall, whose 2019 season was cut short by multiple concussions after he started against South Florida and Utah State as Wilson’s backup, said he is all in favor of wearing the green jerseys in practices, jerseys that signify to defenders that the player wearing them can’t be touched.

“Shoot, man, I hope I don’t ever get hit. That’s the plan, right?” Hall said. “Avoid all of that. That’s football, though. You play the game to get hit, and that’s just part of the deal.”

Roderick said it is not worth the risk of letting the quarterbacks get tackled in camp just to get their feet wet (in the case of Conover) or just to get them reacquainted with the physical nature of the game in the cases of Hall and Romney.

“We are just going to run our offense and play and if (Hall) wins the job then we will just roll. But we have to be smart,” he said. “We did the same thing last year. QBs didn’t get hit until the first game, and the QBs did fine. I have been on a lot of teams where that happens. You don’t worry. I don’t think it is a big deal.”

If the short video that BYU put out after Friday’s practice — which was not viewed at all by the media — are any indication, the quarterbacks struggled when the workout was moved to the Indoor Practice Facility because of smoky air in Provo from the Northern California wildfires.

Defensive backs Keenan Ellis, Mitchell Price and Hayden Livingston were shown making interceptions, and at least one pass was absurdly wobbly.

Hall became a father for the first time on July 1 when his wife, Bre, delivered a baby girl to the family. Her name is Jayda Mae, and Hall said the infant’s birth has driven him to work even harder to win the job.

“It is a great way to set up your life, and to do it playing a game you love,” he said. “But the (main) goal is to win. I love winning and I love to compete. That’s why I play the game.”

Head coach Kalani Sitake has said that the decision will be mostly made by Roderick, but every other coach on the team will have some input — including the defensive coaches who will scheme against all three QBs in camp.

“I trust him,” Sitake said of his longtime friend, dating back to their days as BYU players, then assistants at Southern Utah University and the University of Utah. “A Rod is one that comes to mind when you are (talking about humility). No egos are involved there. And so when you have a man that is humble and willing to work hard, the sky is the limit for him.

“So he’s a brilliant coach. Obviously, he knows how to get an offense ready. He knows how to get the quarterback room ready and he’s got a lot of talent there,” Sitake continued. “I have a lot of confidence in what he can do. He’s not against asking for help, or looking for other ways to do things.

I am just thankful that he is on our staff and he is one of my best friends.”