‘Chin up, chest out’: Jaren Hall standing tall on the field and on the sidelines
Calm, poised, patient and an accepted leader, BYU quarterback has proved to be cornerstone of BYU’s 2022 season in the early going
Despite BYU’s setback at Oregon, Jaren Hall is the team’s clear success story three games into the season.
Hall’s attitude following the disappointing loss to Oregon?
“Chin up, chest out,” he said.
The senior quarterback is the epitome of calm, class, poise under pressure and maturity this season, a vet on a veteran team. In short, he’s exactly what the Cougars need heading into Saturday’s rebound home game against old foe Wyoming.
Much has been made of BYU’s struggling run game the past two weeks, as well as defensive woes against an Oregon team that the Cougars defense never stopped. It also bugs everyone that momentum was killed with a missed field goal. The injuries to top receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney, and two top defensive linemen have hurt as well.
Jaren Hall's top-50 individual FBS stat ranks:— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) September 19, 2022
9th completions per game
22nd total offense
25th passing yards per game
26th completion percentage
Saturday at Oregon, Hall set career highs for single game attempts (41) and completions (29).
But Kalani Sitake and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick still have Hall.
And that’s a great weapon to lean on.
“So much of the quarterback position is judged by wins and losses and deservedly so,” said Dustin Smith, a quarterback guru who has worked with Hall since junior high. “A QB’s job is to win games.”
Smith, who works with former Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer, former BYU QB and offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, and others at QBElite camps, is the head football coach at Spanish Fork High.
When the run game struggles and the defense isn’t having success, Smith said it is up to the quarterback to find other ways to still compete and give a team a chance. “Sometimes the only way he can do that is to be extremely accurate, extremely focused in his decision making and throw the ball effectively — that’s tough to do.”
Oregon witnessed this in Hall last Saturday in his pinpoint shot to Keanu Hill, an over-the-back shoulder completion. The Ducks saw it again on a play-action fake and TD throw to tight end Isaac Rex. It was on display on Hall’s showoff throw on a perfectly led scoring strike to freshman Kody Epps.
The best part of BYU’s team right now is Hall and the pass-pro protection he is getting from his offensive line. His hogs up front may have been struggling with the run game against Baylor and Oregon, but they are more than holding their own when Hall drops back to pass.
“Jaren has shown the ability — even when the team hasn’t been successful — to make good decisions, not turn the ball over and deliver accurate and timely balls. He’s kept his poise about him,” said Smith.
A year ago, Hall had the huge luxury of having an NFL back to hand the ball off to and it took the pressure off him as a game manager. “Sometimes as a quarterback, you can win a game and not even play well because you have such a great run game. Jaren did that last year, he helped win games and got a lot of praise and credit for being a winning quarterback.”
This year, it’s proving to be different for Hall. He is needing to produce, not turn the ball over and move the chains without two deep athletic threats in Nacua and Romney. It is a challenge.
“But in both the Baylor and Oregon games, he had enough pass protection to get to his second and third reads, make his progressions, and calmly and confidently make big plays for his team,” Smith added. “It shows the time and effort he has put into preparing for this season.”
Defenses wait to see if Hall can test them. If they shut down the run game, it puts stress on the play-action pass game. It also allows a defense to keep more defenders in coverage because they aren’t needed to crowd the box and defend the run.
“So far he’s done a commendable and respectful job against Baylor and Oregon. He’s taken pride in his craft and it shows,” said Smith.
In three games, two against preseason teams ranked in the AP Top 25, Hall is 77 of 112 for 827 yards for a 69% completion rate. He has thrown five TDs and has one interception.
Oregon played a lot of nickel back coverage against BYU last Saturday, putting in an athletic defensive back to come up for run support — not only on the bubble screens and run attempts, but also dropping back to help corners and safeties in coverage.
That forced Hall to really be careful in a game that demanded he be aggressive downfield. But at times, most times in fact, Oregon defenders won those matchups on BYU receivers.
“Brandon Doman used to say completions equal first downs and first downs equal touchdowns,” said Smith.
“I’ve told Jaren since he was in the eighth grade that you never go broke taking a profit. If a defense is going to give him five or six yards, take it and keep the chains moving, keep your team on offense and then eventually the big plays will pop up.”
Smith remembers last year he drove down to Las Vegas to see BYU play in the season opener against Arizona. He just wanted to see Hall play his first game of the season. He sat by himself in the stands and when BYU was playing very conservatively a guy next to him began to complain that Hall and Roderick weren’t being aggressive enough throwing downfield against the Wildcats defense.
Smith didn’t know the guy but he said, “Hey, hang in there. I promise you it’s coming, but he’s not going to force it.”
In the second quarter, sure enough, Hall struck pay dirt with a 67-yard scoring pass to Neil Pau’u to give the Cougars a 14-0 lead.
“He just kept making the simple throws. He wasn’t trying to pad his stats. He was taking what was given until something opened up. Jaren has a big arm, a major league type arm and he has shown that against Baylor and Oregon.”
“An NFL quarterback does that. He makes the short out and the hitch and gets you into a third-and-one where you have a chance to keep the chains moving,” said Smith. “This is what Jaren has been doing consistently. He takes the profits and moves the chains. He’s happy to throw the ball away when it isn’t there or run for five yards to convert a third down if needed. He’s playing smart, not panicked.”
Smith said one trademark of Hall during his BYU career is he has not been reckless. He may not have led his team to wins in every game, like at Oregon, but he has been extremely poised and ready.
“I see that all right now. Jaren is growing into a big league quarterback. He’s not just back there throwing it around, he’s controlling the game and that’s when you know you have a special quarterback.”
3DQB throwing coach John Beck, who tutored Hall in the offseason, agrees totally with Smith’s assessment. Speaking on ESPN 960 radio, Beck said Hall had an efficient game, the kind NFL scouts like to see, even in a team loss.
“He didn’t misread the defense, his throws were extremely accurate. He sees the field clearly and executing what the defense is giving him,” Beck said. “Sometimes with hyper-competitive guys, they don’t want to keep doing that and not get points, so they start forcing throws where they shouldn’t. They get emotional and make mistakes. He didn’t do that, he kept executing, executing and executing. He was smart with the football and ran when he needed to. He never stepped outside of his game,” said Beck.
This season Hall has already received national attention for both on and off-the-field leadership. His reaction to teammate Jake Oldroyd’s kicking struggles after the double overtime win over Baylor received a lot of comments.
This was not lost on a 2024 quarterback recruit from Oregon, TC Manumaleuna, who commented he was rooting for Hall against Baylor because he is a “really good person.”
This sentiment is echoed by his teammates, including freshman Epps, who told KSL Sports last week “This dude is a top-of-the-line human being in all facets as a person.”
Hall’s performances for the 2-1 Cougars is a great starting point for Sitake, Roderick and even defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki. In Hall they can find great confidence as they try to find answers for shortcomings exposed on the trip to Oregon last Saturday.
“We need to be a lot better than we were last week, better than we were in Week 1 and even Week 2,” said Sitake. The BYU coach said lack of fundamentals and technique in all phases are at the heart of BYU’s challenges.
By midweek, after all the demands for folks to be fired, others to be benched and criticism raised over everything from play call to playing time, they’ve got Hall as an ace card.
That’s a great place to start a discussion about how to defeat Wyoming come Saturday.