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A breakdown of the BYU QB room: Who’s likely to emerge as the starter?

Here’s my prediction of what the depth chart at quarterback will look like when BYU takes to the spring practice field

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Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Retzlaff (12) passes the ball as BYU and Oklahoma play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The quarterback position at BYU presents a true open battle for the 2024 season.

The Cougars begin spring practices in March, and the battle at quarterback is certain to grab most of the headlines, and for good reason. How Kalani Sitake’s team acquits itself for its second season in the Big 12 will largely depend on quarterback play.

During my career as a Cougar, our team benefited greatly from both the leadership and play of quarterbacks John Beck and Max Hall. It’s very much an unknown if there’s even one quarterback on the current roster who can approach the exploits of those two BYU greats, but that’s not to say there aren’t several intriguing options among the eight players who will be competing for the starting nod.

Through my own experience and observations, here’s my prediction of what the depth chart at quarterback will look like when BYU takes to the spring practice field. 

Will my list resemble what fans can expect come the start of the 2024 season? Maybe, but it’s a good bet there will be some movement on the depth chart — all things considered.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jake Retzlaff (12) scores a touchdown on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff scores a touchdown against Oklahoma at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

1. Jake Retzlaff (6-foot-1, 205-pound senior): Retzlaff enters spring practice as the incumbent at the starting position and showed some promise after taking the starting spot for the final four games of last season. He’s a dual-threat QB with good leadership qualities. He projects confidence and moxie in his own abilities. Jake has a true boxer’s mentality — comprised of a short memory and a competitive fire that is difficult to find. Last season didn’t end in an ideal way. Retzlaff, like Kedon Slovis, was forced to work with a two-deep roster that was built mostly by the transfer portal, which proved to be inconsistent and sporadic in its productivity. This time around, Retzlaff will be inheriting a much more seasoned and hopefully healthy offense around him, which could boost his prospects considerably. He was highly productive at the juco level. He has two years of eligibility left despite his senior status. 

South Florida quarterback Gerry Bohanon throws during a game on Oct. 15, 2022. Bohanon is transferring to BYU.

South Florida quarterback Gerry Bohanon throws a pass against Tulane during game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.

Chris O’Meara, Associated Press

2. Gerry Bohanon (6-foot-3, 235-pound senior): Bohanon will begin spring practices fully healthy and ready to compete. Considering his past experience and skill set, the South Florida transfer and former Baylor Bear should present a strong bid for the starting spot. Bohanon has experienced a good deal of success and failure during his collegiate career that he should be able to funnel into a good deal of focus. That focus, combined with his four-star talent, could lead to a QB1 title for him during his final year of eligibility. 

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BYU QB Cade Fennegan throws the ball during spring practice at the Indoor Practice Facility in Provo on March 10, 2023.

Ryan Sun, Deseret News

3. Cade Fennegan (6-foot-2, 190-pound junior): Fennegan enters spring practice with a lot of experience within BYU’s system and the athletic ability to compete for a starting spot.  Fennegan was a highly regarded prospect out of high school, who received a lot of recruiting attention from the likes of USC (under former OC Graham Harrell), among others. If he puts in the work necessary, the former Boise State signal-caller and BYU legacy player (his father, Garth, played for the Cougars) could legitimately compete for the starting role. He has all the tools to be a starting QB at BYU.

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BYU quarterback Nick Billoups looks to pass during practice in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

4. Nick Billoups (6-foot-1, 203-pound junior): There’s a lot of good athleticism within BYU’s quarterback room, but Billoups rises above all of them with his unique skill set. He also has a very strong arm, and if he improves his mechanics and field vision, Billoups could provide some quality competition. Given his superior athleticism, I would love for him to at least etch out a role as a wildcat-type change-of-pace quarterback that could aid the Cougars’ offense in short-yardage situations. Forcing defenders to account for a runner like Billoups would also allow for some great one-on-one matchups downfield in the play-action game. He has the arm strength to make defensive coordinators pay for buying into the box. 

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BYU quarterback Ryder Burton walks off the field after practice in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

5. Ryder Burton (6-foot-2, 200-pound freshman): I really like Burton’s accuracy and live arm. I love how well he showed in practices as a true freshman last fall. Ryder was an early commit for the 2023 class, committing in May 2022. This gave him ample time to digest some of offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick’s playbook during his senior offseason at Springville High and be ready to compete in spring ball after signing in the early signing period. He was only 17 when he arrived at BYU as a midyear enrollee, but he proved to have the maturity and moxie to show well in limited opportunities despite his lack of experience. Burton is an acolyte of John Beck’s 3D QB training regimen and it showed during his first season in Provo. He’s blessed with perhaps the strongest arm in BYU’s current quarterback room and certainly has the tools to compete for a QB1 spot in future seasons.

6. Treyson Bourget (6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore): Bourget comes to BYU as a preferred walk-on expecting an opportunity to compete for a spot. He comes to Provo with some good experience at Western Michigan and a good skill set with both running the football and throwing the deep ball. He was originally recruited out of high school by Roderick. Bourget will need to work on his short and intermediate passing, but certainly has the tools necessary to move up the quarterback depth chart this offseason. 

Corner Canyon’s Cole Hagen looks to pass during a game against Jordan on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.

Corner Canyon’s Cole Hagen looks to pass during a game against Jordan on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

7. Cole Hagen (6-foot, 185-pound freshman): Hagen saw a lot of work with the scout team last season, which should help him compete for a spot this spring. He’s an extremely intelligent and hardworking player who comes from a family that taught him great habits. Hagen’s skill set and trajectory reminds me of Baylor Romney, in that he was productive enough in high school to warrant plenty of  scholarship offers, but chose to turn those down to come to BYU as a preferred walk-on. Considering all of the other talented options, Hagen has his work cut out to legitimately compete for a spot, but like Romney, if given the opportunity, he could prove productive.

8. Noah Lugo (6-foot-2, 185-pound freshman): Like most of the first-year players, Lugo isn’t likely to see a lot of team/seven-on-seven reps during spring practices unless he shows phenomenally well during his individual work, but I love his skill set. His film shows all the traits necessary to run Roderick’s system at a high level. Lugo had good offers coming out of high school, including an offer from UTSA’s Jeff Traylor, who I believe is one of the better evaluators of quarterback talent in Texas. The future is very bright for Lugo, considering how well he runs and throws the ball. I could see him moving up the depth chart a few spots during spring ball. Furthermore, I love me some midyear enrollees that are wanting to come in and compete immediately.

Dividing the reps among all the eight players within the quarterback room will be a tremendous challenge for the Cougars’ coaching staff. 

Should the staff follow a recent model implemented last spring, the first four quarterbacks on the depth chart should see the bulk of the reps, initially, with the bottom four having their work cut out in gaining reps within the offense. 

However, due to employing an expanded coaching staff, the four at the bottom of the depth chart could see more quality practice reps than in years prior. 

The competition is very much open, which will provide some mobility within the depth chart from the start of spring practices leading up to the start of the 2024 football season. From my perspective, there’s really two quarterback competitions. One is for the starting spot, which includes Retzlaff, Bohanon and Fennegan. The five behind those will likely undergo another competition vying for a position as the fourth or even third option, which should prove valuable in competing for the starting spot heading into the offseason.

Ben Criddle is the host of “Cougar Sports with Ben Criddle” on ESPN 960AM and a former BYU defensive back.

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick watches from the sidelines during practices in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023.

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick watches from the sidelines during practices in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. Roderick has a big job ahead: Who will be QB1 when the Cougars open the 2024 season.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News