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‘You can never get complacent with your spot’: Zach Wilson named BYU’s starting quarterback for opener

The depth chart at BYU has been set as the team prepares to take on Navy in the opener

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BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson warms up before the game against Idaho State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Wilson was listed as the team’s starting quarterback in the program’s game notes for its Week 1 matchup against Navy on Monday, Sept. 7.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU has its answer for a starting quarterback, and it’s no surprise.

Junior Zach Wilson was listed as the Cougars’ starting quarterback in the team’s game notes released Monday, one week before BYU kicks off the season against Navy on Labor Day.

Wilson, who took over as starting quarterback midway through his freshman season back in 2018, will again lead the BYU offense in 2020, after injuries kept him off the field at times last season. In his absence, both Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney, listed as co-backups to Wilson on the depth chart, filled in admirably.

“No matter what, the work I put in this offseason was going to be exactly the same. That has to show, as far as your character and your personality. You can never get complacent with your spot and take things for granted.” — BYU quarterback Zach Wilson

In nine games last season, Wilson threw for 2,382 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 167 yards and three more scores.

“No matter what, the work I put in this offseason was going to be exactly the same,” Wilson said of what went into him reclaiming the starting nod. “That has to show, as far as your character and your personality. You can never get complacent with your spot and take things for granted.”

Of course, the steady play of both Romney and Hall perhaps pushed Wilson in his workout regimen, for which the former Corner Canyon standout is grateful.

As for Romney and Hall, they were both listed as backups with the now-regular “or” designation, with no clarity as to who would receive starting reps should Wilson need to be replaced.

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Defensive flexibility

The new depth chart included several notable designations in positions, which included a new “Cinco” position and “Jack” linebacker spot. Listed as the starter at Cinco is Chaz Ah You (6-foot-2, 206 pounds) with George Udo (6-1, 210) listed as the backup. At Jack linebacker it’s Max Tooley (6-2, 215) or Pepe Tanuvasa (6-1, 230.)

Altogether there were 14 defensive positions listed, but with only 11 players allowed on the field at a time, the different positions speak to how flexible the defensive coaching staff plans to be with formations.

“They’re all hybrid positions,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “We feel like there’s a lot of guys who can play different positions, and ... there’s a chance you’ll see (some positions) doing a lot of different things that may not be your traditional role.”

A lot of formation within the defense has to do with player trust and versatility.

“It takes a unique player to play those positions,” Sitake said. “So that they can be a hybrid, where we need them to be a linebacker, safety and corner(back) at different times.”

Other notable revelations on defense were Chris Wilcox (6-2, 195) and Keenan Ellis (6-0, 181) listed as the starters at cornerback, although the starting positions may change there from week to week, as it could for every defensive position. Both Wilcox and Ellis weren’t available to play last season due to injury.

“Keenan has just done a great job during fall camp, and Chris is a player who has been here for a long time,” Sitake said.

Other offensive notables

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the offensive depth chart was Clark Barrington (6-6, 302) listed as the starter at left guard, beating out Kieffer Longson for the initial starting nod.

“He’s definitely made strides and he’s put in all the work that he can,” observed Tristen Hoge, who was named the starter at right guard. “Even during quarantine, I could tell he’d been working the entire time ... and in fall camp, you could see the dedication he has. ... He has definitely earned it.”

As for offensive newcomers, true freshman Kody Epps (5-11, 180) was listed as the backup at one wide receiver position, along with junior college transfer Chris Jackson (5-10, 184.)