When the college football transfer portal opens Monday, BYU coaches will be searching for a quarterback, and maybe more than one. They have no choice but to look around after a 5-7 season with another challenging schedule next fall.

This isn’t how offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick hoped it would go.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” — Mike Tyson

Grad-transfer Kedon Slovis was supposed to stay healthy and groom junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff for the next two seasons. During Retzlaff’s run, he was going to get redshirt freshman Ryder Burton ready to succeed him. This is how BYU’s quarterback factory functioned under LaVell Edwards and Roderick envisioned getting it back in business.

It was a noble plan, but as former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson likes to say, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

During BYU’s debut season in the Big 12 — the Cougars got punched in the face and Roderick’s dream scenario hit the canvas.

To his credit, Slovis marched BYU to a 5-2 record before a shoulder/arm injury knocked him out, leaving the Cougars one win short of bowl eligibility. The highly touted Retzlaff took over for the last four games and went 0-4.

Unlike many of his BYU predecessors, the former No. 1-ranked JC quarterback didn’t have a WAC, Mountain West or independent schedule to transition with. Instead, Retzlaff had West Virginia (8-4) on the road, Iowa State (7-5) and No. 14 Oklahoma (10-2) at home and a finale at No. 21 Oklahoma State (9-3) in the rain.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake is pictured here during a timeout during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake is pictured here during a timeout during game against Iowa State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. The BYU coach has big decisions to make moving forward. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Assessing his future by those games may not be fair, but in sports, nothing is. Everything is based on winning and losing. The fact that nine Big 12 programs are preparing for bowl games and BYU isn’t one of them burns in the belly of head coach Kalani Sitake.

Sitake isn’t sitting still. On Monday he announced the dismissals of his offensive line and tight ends coaches. His marching orders to the rest of his staff is to get the roster bigger, faster, stronger and deeper — including in the quarterbacks room.

To his credit, Retzlaff tackled the blame for his rookie mistakes — with the 100-yard pick-six against Oklahoma right at the top. The gunslinger is easy to like. He operates on a full tank of confidence. His arm is strong enough and his legs move fast enough to fit into Roderick’s desired run-pass-option offense — but he was understandably in over his head.

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If Retzlaff is the guy to start Aug. 31 against Southern Illinois, and he may very well be, then BYU needs an experienced backup or two who can also run Roderick’s offense. The Cougars just can’t afford to have a quarterback playing his first DI football game against a Big 12 defense.

The competition is too stiff. The margin for error too thin. The cost of failure is too expensive. At this level of football, rookie mistakes and misfires become game changers, especially in November.

Last week, with bowl eligibility on the line, Sitake watched Oklahoma State’s grad-transfer quarterback calmly erase an 18-point halftime deficit with a near flawless second half — while his own offense sputtered and punted on six consecutive possessions.

As valuable as Slovis’ experience was for BYU in its Power Five debut, his lack of mobility frustrated Roderick’s play calling. That is not on Slovis. He was never a runner and his 11,213 career passing yards speak to his strengths. Trying to turn him into one did nothing for advancing the football or preserving his health.

When Slovis went out with a shoulder injury, BYU lost a guy with 46 DI starts and he was replaced by a determined backup who had zero such starts, and the Cougars didn’t win again. If Roderick rolls the dice on Retzlaff next season without adding experienced reinforcements, BYU risks a repeat scenario. A second straight year on the couch during the lucrative bowl season might also put Roderick’s job in jeopardy.

For that reason and several others, the Cougars will be shopping for quarterbacks this holiday season and with the growing popularity of the transfer portal, there should be plenty to consider.

BYU Cougars quarterback Jake Retzlaff (12) huddles with the  offense against Oklahoma at LaVell Edwards stadium on Nov. 18, 2023.
BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff (12) gives the play to the offense as BYU and Oklahoma play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

 Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is a play-by-play announcer and show host for BYUtv/ESPN+. He co-hosts “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com and is the author of the children’s book “C is for Cougar” available at deseretbook.com.