Jaxson Dart’s visit shows BYU in the market for a QB out of transfer portal, ‘if it is the right fit’
Cougars passing game coordinator Fesi Sitake says coaches are pleased with starter Jaren Hall and other QBs on the team, but are open to adding one or two more
Is BYU in the market for a quarterback out of the transfer portal?
It has been a question asked over and over again in Provo since 2020 and 2021 backup quarterback Baylor Romney announced on New Year’s Eve that he was leaving BYU and one-time BYU recruit Jaxson Dart announced he was leaving USC.
The question was answered Wednesday when Jeff Hansen of Cougar Sports Insider on the 247sports.com network reported that Dart visited BYU earlier that day, a development that Hansen termed “a big deal” because the “national expectation has been (Oklahoma) and Ole Miss” were the only schools remaining in the picture for the five-star prospect’s services.
Jaxson Dart at BYU today is a big deal. The national expectation has been OU and Ole Miss for two weeks with little mention of BYU. And yet, he's still visiting BYU when nobody thought he would.— Jeff Hansen (@rakoto10) January 19, 2022
The Deseret News has confirmed that Dart made a late-morning visit to BYU, but was not accompanied by former USC teammate Michael Trigg, the tight end that many believe will be a package deal with Dart out of the portal because of some correspondence between the two on social media.
At least one sports media company that covers Ole Miss, SSN Ole Miss, reported Wednesday that BYU won’t be “a factor” and “it will still be between Ole Miss and OU.”
Clearly, however, the Cougars won’t give up hope until the former Deseret News Mr. Football in Utah out of Draper’s Corner Canyon High confirms he is heading elsewhere.
In a lengthy telephone interview last week, BYU passing game coordinator and receivers coach Fesi Sitake said when it comes to signing a QB out of the portal, the coaching staff is “open to anything, as long as it is the right fit.”
No staff in its right mind would pass on a player of Dart’s caliber and potential. He’s a five-star recruit, after all.
But what about signing a high school quarterback? The Cougars signed 19 high school prospects on Dec. 15 when the three-day early signing period began, but none whose primary position in high school was quarterback.
“Not really,” Sitake said, when asked if BYU has room for more preps on national signing day, which is Feb. 2. “We are pretty full. Our (signees), most of them, are going to be going on missions. I think there are a couple individual slots where we can take a guy right now, if it is the right fit and the right position. But for me and my (receivers) room, I am not taking any full scholarship guys for this class right now.”
Back in December, head coach Kalani Sitake said he would hold on to a few scholarships through spring camp, because a lot of attrition takes place after spring practices because some players learn they are not as high on the depth chart as they want to be and hit the portal.
A half-dozen or so players who were on the Cougars’ 10-3 team in 2021 are in the portal or have already committed to a new program, including the aforementioned Romney, receiver Chris Jackson, tight end Bentley Hanshaw (Liberty) and defensive back Jacques Wilson.
A BYU football spokesperson said spring practices begin Feb. 28 and will conclude on March 25, which is also the Cougars’ pro day. It is not known yet whether there will be a spring game, or scrimmage.
As of Thursday morning, Romney, who went 4-1 when he was BYU’s starting QB the past two seasons, had not publicly announced his intentions.
Last week, Fesi Sitake said “a lot could happen” regarding Romney and was not ruling out a return to BYU for the El Paso, Texas, native who originally committed to Nevada out of high school and before a church mission to Carlsbad, California.
Romney’s wife, former BYU pole vaulter Elise Machen Romney, is in physician assistant school at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo.
“Baylor hasn’t declared the place he is transferring to yet,” Fesi Sitake said. “He could end up coming back here. He could end up finding a (new) home. And how we are dealing with it is, ‘OK, are we going to get someone else?’ If so, it has to be the right fit.”
Coincidentally, Nevada Sports Net reported Wednesday that BYU will host the Nevada Wolf Pack — the school Romney was headed to before a coaching change while he was on his mission — in the season opener on Aug. 31, 2024, in Provo. The contract was signed a couple months after BYU announced it was joining the Big 12 in 2023 last September, meaning that move will not affect this agreement.
BYU was scheduled to host Central Florida in its 2024 opener, but UCF is also joining the Big 12 so that game will theoretically be played later in the season and will be a conference game.
“We like the guys we have in the quarterbacks room, but Baylor is obviously a very experienced guy,” Fesi Sitake said.
Of course, the Cougars already have something that Oklahoma and Ole Miss don’t have — an experienced quarterback coming back. That would be Jaren Hall, who returns for his fifth year in the program with 12 starts under his belt.
Hall, who gave up baseball at this time last year to focus solely on football, has completed 64% of his passes for 3,003 yards and 21 touchdowns in his career, with just five interceptions. He’s also an above-average runner, with 450 rushing yards to his credit.
“By no means are we saying we have to find someone,” Fesi Sitake said. “But if there is someone out there we believe can help us, we would be very open to it.”
Especially if he just happens to be the top quarterback in the transfer portal right now.