BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is off to historic start. Here’s how he got there
Wilson’s record performances this season underscore a plan of hard work, exactness in goals, and plenty of help around him.
PROVO — What in the heck did Zach Wilson do since the Aloha Bowl to be able to put up these kind of numbers, albeit against a softer schedule than expected?
Wilson found the switch, hit the button, found the reconstructed planet Krypton.
“For heaven’s sake, he’s completed 84.5 percent of his throws in three games. Nobody in storied BYU quarterback history has had three consecutive games registering a pass efficiency rating over 200 (222.7, 231.6 and 206.0).”
He’s throwing darts. He’s as accurate as GPS to within half a foot. It’s as if he’s got laser sights. He’s got touch, power and velocity. His footwork is impeccable and he has a burst when he wants it. He gets his hips in perfect position to launch his throws on a rope. He’s anatomically doing it almost perfectly.
For heaven’s sake, he’s completed 84.5 percent of his throws in three games. Nobody in storied BYU quarterback history has had three consecutive games registering a pass efficiency rating over 200 (222.7, 231.6 and 206.0).
At present, Wilson ranks No. 2 in the NCAA in pass efficiency at 221.9 behind Alabama’s Mac Jones (222.1), and just had a game with more TDs (5) than incompletions (2).
We know he drove 10 hours each way to San Diego from Provo to train with QB guru John Beck, but what exactly did Beck have Wilson do? Is Beck Yoda?
Well, some of Beck’s clients include Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff and Matt Stafford. His firm is called 3DQB and Beck is the motion mechanics instructor.
Is it just that Wilson, a gym rat extraordinaire, simply worked himself to an obvious higher level of consciousness and acumen, or is he simply healthier and in better shape than at any time in his life?
It is a lot of things, excluding playing Navy, Troy and Louisiana Tech instead of Utah, Michigan State and Arizona State. It’s pass protection and the emergence of receivers Gunner Romney, Dax Milne and freshmen tight ends Carter Wheat, Isaac Rex and very capable running backs.
It’s more time with Jeff Grimes, Aaron Roderick and other coaches.
I asked Beck, the former Cougar and NFL quarterback, what the answer is.
“Zach dedicated himself like crazy this offseason, pushing himself to make difficult throws easier,” said Beck.
Do ya think?
“Those things take time and he put in the work. I think what being healthy did was give him time to work on those things,” Beck said via texts over the weekend.
Former Heisman winner Andre Ware (Houston) pointed out multiple times during the game Friday that Wilson was making throws that few in college ball could make.
Ware wasn’t just blowing smoke. Even without a secondary defending, some passes are hard to get to a receiver just going against air, and Wilson was making them, from the opposite hash mark to the far sideline.
“There are throws out there tonight I wouldn’t even have attempted last year,” Wilson told BYUtv in a postgame interview Friday night, specifically about a deep throw to Milne down the sideline, a 40-yard pass thrown while sprinting to his right.
BYU currently is 1st in the FBS in:— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) October 4, 2020
Total offense (585.7 ypg)
Total defense (214.3 ypg)
Pass efficiency (214.9)
Completion percentage (82.9%)
Fewest penalties per game (2.7)
BYU is also 2nd in FBS scoring offense (49.3 ppg) and 4th in scoring defense (8.0 ppg).
Post-surgery workouts are extremely limited and take months of rehabilitation to regain range of motion, strength, timing and even grip. Wilson had shoulder surgery after his freshman year and broke his hand last year as a sophomore.
There are a few critics who overlook those hurdles and made harsh judgments about Wilson when he was down.
“When you suffer an injury or have to learn a new offensive system, you have to spend time in rehab or learning,” explained Beck Saturday. “When you are healthy and get to carry over the same offense, you can now spend your time working on the aspects that can really elevate your game. That’s what Zach got to do this offseason.”
It’s been five years since BYU has had a quarterback with back-to-back 300-yard passing games. Tanner Mangum last did it in 2015 against UConn and UMass. And with Wilson’s offense outgaining opponents 1,757 to 643, BYU broke its own record for the difference (1,114 yards) set 39 years ago (860 yards) in 1981.
My @AP_Top25 ballot (I'm only ranking teams that have played):— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) October 4, 2020
Wilson’s numbers were not a surprise to La. Tech’s head coach Skip Holtz, no stranger to big offensive numbers.
“They’re a very good football team and Zach was incredibly accurate,” said Holtz. “It was really impressive sitting there watching him on the field. I think he throws the ball very well, he’s very accurate and he was really mature in how he handled their offense tonight. I was really impressed with him.
“We were dropping eight and there were guys running wide open. But you know, he still had to hit them. He still had to find them and he did that. I think he’s a very good quarterback, very seasoned. He’s been in this program and he’s doing a really nice job. There’s a reason he’s put up the number of yards and points that this football team has. I think he’s a very, very talented quarterback.”
Beck explained, Wilson’s progress has been deliberate and the trajectory took time. Beck has worked with Wilson for almost three years.
“Last offseason was about getting Zach as close to 100 percent as he could be,” said Beck. “This offseason was about growth, and tying all his athleticism and his throwing ability together.”
Well, the plan appears on track.
“He’s been darn near perfect,” Beck told Yahoo Sports.