‘Better than advertised’: How high-profile transfer Kedon Slovis has won over his BYU teammates
One-third of the way into his only season in Provo, Slovis has emerged as a ‘fiery leader,’ according to receiver Chase Roberts
High-profile transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis was not the prima donna, everything-is-about-me guy they thought might be arriving in Provo after stints at USC and Pitt. Slovis was humble, down-to-earth and unfailingly optimistic, those players told the Deseret News recently.
“There have been a lot of ‘welcome to BYU’ moments. I’m grateful for all of them.” — BYU quarterback Kedon Slovis
Through four games, nothing has changed. As good as Slovis has been on the field in helping the Cougars go 3-1 and upset the SEC’s Arkansas 38-31, he’s been even better as a leader and glue guy, coaches and teammates say.
“Better than advertised,” is the way Roberts described Slovis on Monday. “The kid is a stud player, and off the field (a leader). That’s the biggest thing that stood out to me.”
Slovis’ remarkable leadership skills will be tested again Friday as the Cougars attempt to rebound from their first loss of the season — the 38-27 setback at Kansas last Saturday — in their Big 12 home opener against Cincinnati (0-1, 2-2) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“He has been a great leader for us, just the way that he leads and carries the team is pretty cool to watch. I have learned a lot from him,” said Roberts. “And the way he carries himself, it has trickled down to the other leaders. … So it has been awesome to see. He has played really well and we are grateful to have him and his leadership.”
Roberts said when Slovis arrived on campus last January he was initially quiet and “kinda let everyone else talk” for a couple of weeks. As he grew more comfortable, he began to be more outspoken and vocal.
“And I feel like he has surprised me in a way in getting us fired up before games. Like he will be the one to gather us up, yell ‘Let’s go,’ get us going,’” Roberts said. “He brings that fire. Even midgame he will get the team together and get us riled up and ready to go score.
“I watched him before at USC and Pitt,” Roberts continued. “But what surprised me the most is his drive to win games and to be a fiery leader.”
He’s also willing to own up to his mistakes.
Forced to throw 51 times against the Jayhawks because BYU’s running game was going nowhere, Slovis completed 30 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
He took full accountability for the pick-six that enabled KU to take the lead early in the second half, although the interception was tipped twice before Kenny Logan corralled it, and Rex might have been held — nothing was called — prior to the ball hitting his outstretched hand.
“Kedon played a really good game, but he forced one right there a little bit,” offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said on his “Coordinators’ Corner” program Monday. “And also we didn’t execute the play quite as it was planned. When you are playing a good team in this conference, the margin of error is small. You can’t make those mistakes.”
It is often said that a running game is a quarterback’s best friend, and although Slovis already has dozens of friends on the team, he hasn’t had that security blanket of a capable rushing attack through four games, but has still played about as well as could be expected.
“We have to run the ball more efficiently. I think everyone knows that. It is no secret,” he said after the loss when he was asked if throwing the ball 51 times a game is sustainable. “When you are playing from behind, you gotta throw the ball.”
Slovis’ stats haven’t been spectacular, but one has to wonder if the Cougars would be 3-1 without him.
He is No. 78 in the country in passing efficiency, at 135.34. He has completed 85 of 141 passes for eight touchdowns and three interceptions, and also ran for three touchdowns — after having not recorded a rushing touchdown in his first four college seasons.
In his weekly press briefing Tuesday, Cincinnati coach Scott Satterfield said Slovis and a “very solid defense” are big reasons why the Cougars have won three games, including the upset of Arkansas.
“Very experienced player, very poised,” said Satterfield, who coached against Slovis last year when the QB was at Pitt and the coach was at Louisville. “Throws a really good ball, catchable ball. You are probably not going to rattle him with anything you are doing defensively.”
Handling high expectations
Slovis is replacing one of the better quarterbacks in BYU history, Jaren Hall, who is now with the Minnesota Vikings. Those are big shoes to fill.
He stepped into a situation where expectations were high. They always are for a BYU quarterback, but especially one who started his career at a blue blood program such as USC — and flourished his freshman season in Los Angeles.
Head coach Kalani Sitake said the Scottsdale, Arizona, product has met those expectations, both on and off the field.
“I think he and the other leaders have been amazing,” Sitake said Monday. “I like the response to the adversity and the loss. I thought the guys did a great job showing class, shaking hands, and also showing a lot of appreciation and gratitude to the fans that were there.”
Slovis was at the forefront, and has emerged as one of the faces of the program as BYU moves into the Big 12. He’s spoken to the media after every game, win or lose.
“There is a lot of urgency to learn and get better,” Sitake said. “We are trying to find ways to get better this week and I know that Kedon is the same way, finding ways to get better.
“There are a lot of regrets in that game of what we could have done differently and done better. This is the time to learn it, so I know that some guys can be really hard on themselves. I think Kedon is in a good mindset. I think most of the guys are in a good mindset right now.”
Like Roberts said, Slovis has been one of the first players to lift others up, encourage teammates, and also hold himself accountable.
“Obviously the run game is something we need to improve on,” Slovis said. “But that’s beyond the O line. As a quarterback, I need to make better decisions with the (run-pass options). As a running back unit, we can hit the holes better at times. And it falls on all 11 of the guys. It is not just one unit or one group in particular.”
Fitting right in
The ways in which Slovis has adjusted well to life in Provo and at BYU, which is supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have been well-documented.
He has attended church services, although he is not a member, to hear teammates give talks and lessons. He organized player-run practices, and then golf outings, last spring and summer.
Slovis and Epps drove from Sandy to Provo to watch backup tight end Anthony Olsen play in the Powder League, a Pro-Am basketball circuit.
In short, he’s totally embraced the fishbowl that is Provo for a BYU football player, let alone the Cougars’ starting quarterback. He acts like he’s going to be there for four years, not one. He’s embraced that celebrity status that others such as Zach Wilson, Taysom Hill and Hall warned him was coming his way.
He’s accepted everything from vintage Beatles albums (because he mentioned on a radio show that he’s a big fan of the group) and genealogy work done on his behalf so he can trace his own family roots, all while ensuring the gifts are in line with NCAA rules.
“There have been a lot of ‘welcome to BYU’ moments,’” he said last spring. “I’m grateful for all of them.”
During fall camp, he was asked if it seems like he has been at BYU for years, and he acknowledged it has.
“It just works. I think looking at my teammates and the coaching staff, we are just similar as people, and our values, and what we value in a competitive environment, a football environment, and off the field, too,” he said. “What kind of people are we off the field? What do we like to do and what do we value? That is helping others and being selfless, and I think people in the building and my teammates are super selfless.”
Rex said Slovis is thriving because he doesn’t have a big ego, genuinely wants to get to know his teammates, and wants to ensure his final season as a college athlete is the best yet. So far, so good.
Cougars on the air
at BYU (3-1)
Friday, 8:15 p.m. MDT
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM
“Just proud to be a Coug,” he said after the Cougars took down nine-point favorite Arkansas in Fayetteville, after marveling at the number of fans wearing royal blue at the stadium some 2,000 miles away from Provo.
Slovis famously called Provo and BYU “a weird place” a few years ago after his USC squad lost 30-27 to the Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2019, but he said he’s come to find out that is only “partly” true, and he actually enjoys it.
“I think for me, this is what I always wanted to be a part of culturally and in a football organization and just in life,” he said. “For me, it has been easy. I didn’t expect to see that level of maturity from everybody in the program. I think it has allowed us to work seamlessly and allowed me to fit in and feel comfortable being myself. It really has been a blessing.”
From coaches to his teammates, the Cougars can concur.