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Zach Wilson is getting most practice time, but BYU coaches only ‘close to naming’ starting quarterback

Head coach Kalani Sitake said he’s confident that any of four scholarship QBs on the roster (yes, four) could get the job done if called upon. Zach Wilson, Baylor Romney and Jaren Hall are joined in the derby by freshman Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters.

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson looks to pass during a scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020.
Jaren Wilkey/BYU

PROVO — It is the worst-kept secret in Provo, at least among those who have watched the last few BYU football practices and the scrimmage last Thursday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Junior Zach Wilson is going to be the Cougars’ starting quarterback against Navy on Sept. 7, even if the offensive coaching staff refuses to acknowledge they’ve made that all-important decision. Wilson took the majority of reps with the first-team offense last week, and is clearly at the top of the depth chart, which hasn’t been officially released.

Still, head coach Kalani Sitake said during a video teleconference Tuesday after another practice that featured some players fully padded up, and others just in shells (helmets and shoulders pads) that he isn’t ready to name a starter for the Labor Day night game to be televised nationally by ESPN.

The offensive coaching staff is “close to naming one, so so when we are ready to do it, we will have it out there,” Sitake said. “But I think the guys have done a pretty good job. I feel really good about the four quarterbacks that could play for us right now. So yeah, I will just leave it up to that.”

Four quarterbacks? Isn’t the derby between Wilson and sophomores Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney?

Sitake echoed offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes’ sentiment last week — that true freshman Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters of Hau’ula, Hawaii, by way of St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., has had an outstanding preseason training camp and is giving coaches a viable fourth option.

“Certainly we are gaining more information about those guys every day,” Grimes said Thursday. “But we are not in a position to say anything yet.”

While Romney is a decent athlete, but more of a pocket passer than the other three, don’t be surprised to see Hall or even Maiava-Peters used in a non-quarterback role by Grimes’ offense. Right, coach?

“You never know,” Sitake said, asking a reporter if he was trying to give away secrets. “You never know.”

If Hall and Romney weren’t as effective as they were last year when Wilson was out with a fractured thumb, the point would be moot and there would be no quarterback battle, Sitake acknowledged.

“When you have this type of situation that we have on offense, I think you utilize them all,” Sitake said. “They are there for a reason, and you try to have everybody have a role and maybe somebody is young and inexperienced, but they can have a role on this team, they can have a package that will put us in a situation where teams have to defend us and try to defend not just the 11 on the field, but the options that we have as well — looking at the 30 guys we can put on the field.”

Sitake said the quarterback competition will come down to “what is going to give us the best chance to win.”

Receiver Neil Pau’u, returning to action after redshirting last year to take care of some well-publicized personal issues, said the quarterbacks’ experience shines through across the board during practices and scrimmages.

“It is exciting to see them all come out each and every day and compete for the starting job,” Pau’u said. “There is still a ton or work that each quarterback and us receivers have to do before we are ready against Navy. I feel like we are on track; We still have some work to do, though.”

Asked about national college football writer Bruce Feldman’s supposition in The Athletic that a BYU could have a top-10 offense this season, Pau’u issued a stern warning.

“After today, after the last couple of practices we had this week, it is looking like the bottom 10,” Pau’u said. “We are just going to take each day as its own, continue to work toward being that top 10 offense that we want to be. That will be cool to have that, but there are things we got to do better, such as the red zone, to be that top 10 offense.”

Sitake did give one glimpse of what the depth chart will look like. He said true freshman returned missionary Ryan Rehkow has won the punting job and sophomore Jake Oldroyd will be the starting placekicker for field goals and PATs.