A toddler must learn how to walk before he can run. In a similar way, a football team must be able to run before it can pass. BYU’s 5-7 season in 2023 was a direct result of its inability to move the ball on the ground and the quarterback, who has won more games than anyone else in Provo, wants to see it fixed.

“We need to get more creative in the run game. They also need a great signal caller who can manage everything and make plays when needed, but it comes down to running the football. It’s gonna be harder to do in the Big 12, but if they can establish some kind of running game, it’s going to open up other things in the offense.”

—  former BYU QB Max Hall

“It’s no secret we were not good at running the football last year,” former BYU quarterback Max Hall said to the “Y’s Guys” podcast. “A big part of A-Rod’s (Aaron Roderick) offense is play-action. If you can’t run the ball, play-action isn’t going to work as well as you want.”

Hall knows what he’s talking about. During his school-record 32 wins between 2007-09, he passed for 11,365 yards and 94 touchdowns. During that same period, Harvey Unga rushed for most of his 3,455 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Unga was the key to a play-action game that allowed Austin Collie and Dennis Pitta to develop NFL careers catching the ball down the field. Even Unga caught 102 passes for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns.

“We need to get more creative in the run game,” Hall said. “They also need a great signal caller who can manage everything and make plays when needed, but it comes down to running the football. It’s gonna be harder to do in the Big 12, but if they can establish some kind of running game, it’s going to open up other things in the offense.”

The ground attack is getting extra attention during spring practice with LJ Martin and Miles Davis getting most of the work. No matter who wins the quarterback battle between Gerry Bohanon and Jake Retzlaff, Roderick agrees with Hall, BYU must be able to run.

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“I think they have the talent and the right guys in place,” Hall said. “Now they have to put it together.”

Spring practice concludes March 30.

Alumni game

Despite tearing his Achilles while celebrating toward the end of last year’s BYU alumni game, Hall vows to be back for next Friday’s annual Navy vs. Royal battle at the old Provo High football field (6 p.m., BYUtv).

“The Achilles is feeling good. I’m excited to be there,” Hall said. “I’m definitely not going to be celebrating very much on the sideline this year, but I think it’s going to be good enough for me to stand there and throw the ball around.”

The Navy quarterbacks include Hall, James Lark and Jake Heaps. The Royal throwers feature Brandon Doman, Riley Nelson and Jackson Brown. With LaVell Edwards Stadium getting a new surface installed, the game will be held at the former Provo High location, which BYU purchased several years ago.

“I’m excited to come watch practice and be around the guys a little bit,” Hall said. “That’s one of the things I appreciate about Kalani (Sitake) is he does such a great job with the alumni and making us feel like we are wanted and are comfortable coming around the program.”

Hall vs. Detmer

After three seasons coaching together at American Leadership Academy Queen Creek in Arizona, Hall and former BYU Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer will work opposite of each other this fall.

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ALA leadership, which oversees several high school charter campuses, transferred Detmer as head coach at Queen Creek to take over at Gilbert North, while Hall will continue as offensive coordinator at Queen Creek. The two rivals, separated by a 20-minute drive, will face each other next season.

“It’s gonna be interesting to go from coaching with Ty to coaching against him,” Hall said. “I’ve developed such a good relationship with Ty.”

To become a head coach within the ALA umbrella, Hall needs to finish his college degree, which he plans to do by the end of the summer. Graduating will not only improve his standing on the field in Arizona, but also clear the way for his eventual induction into the BYU Hall of Fame.

BYU quarterback Max Hall looks for an open receiver as BYU and Oklahoma play at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Texas. Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009. | Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News