One of the first questions BYU newcomer Gerry Bohanon fielded when spring practices began in late February was how badly he wanted to be the Cougars’ starting quarterback this fall.

With the answer being rather obvious, a couple other reporters chuckled, while Bohanon took a deep breath to compose himself.

“You know you can always get it better. … I had built that strength in my arm up for years, and then it was taken away from me, football was taken away from me. You still have to continue to build and take care of it.”

—  BYU quarterback Gerry Bohanon

Later, Bohanon wondered aloud whether the reporter knew what he had been through the past 16 months. Standing on the BYU practice field that day, however, he delivered a simple reply.

“Oh, very badly,” he said. “We train our entire lives for this. As a kid growing up, you want to be a starting college quarterback and make it to the NFL and be a starting quarterback there. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Since then, Bohanon showed through 15 spring camp practices and scrimmages that his surgically repaired right shoulder is where it needs to be to warrant BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick’s faith in him. Roderick and BYU offensive analyst Matt Mitchell flew to Florida last December to watch Bohanon throw in person, then signed off on giving the former Baylor and South Florida quarterback a chance to compete with incumbent Jake Retzlaff for the starting role this fall.

In one of the final practices of camp, Bohanon uncorked a 60-yard pass that landed a good five yards in front of his intended receiver, a sign that, at least on that day, he had almost fully recovered from the November 2022 surgery.

“It felt good,” he said in a news conference on March 30 after BYU’s final spring practice. “To be honest with you, that was a sign I am back, kind of, but not really. I want to be able to do that with ease, again and again and again, and just continue to be able to do that every day.

“So for me, I have had moments where I am like, ‘OK, I am feeling like myself,’” he continued. “You have those moments where you feel you can make all the throws now. That is a good feeling to know that I can rip a deep ball down the field. But can you do that back to back, and continue to do that throughout a game, throughout a practice?”

Bohanon said at the start of camp his shoulder “got a little sore,” but as he stacked practices and workouts, the soreness decreased to a point where it was hardly noticeable the final couple weeks of March.

“I am at the end, I am good now,” he said of the rehab process. “But you know you can always get it better. … I had built that strength in my arm up for years, and then it was taken away from me, football was taken away from me. You still have to continue to build and take care of it.”

Sustaining the injury and beginning rehab

It was Oct. 15, 2022, and Bohanon’s South Florida team was hosting Tulane on homecoming at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Bohanon was trying to pick up some extra yards with his feet when a Tulane linebacker drove his shoulder into the turf. He knew immediately his season was over. What he didn’t know was that he wouldn’t play at all the next season, 2023, either.

South Florida, which had opened the season with a 50-21 loss to BYU in which Bohanon completed 17 of 30 passes for 172 yards and no touchdowns, with one interception, would finish 1-11 and see its entire coaching staff fired.

Bohanon would see a surgeon’s scalpel — he had the shoulder operated on in November for a torn labrum.

“I didn’t throw a ball for six months. That was difficult. Very, very difficult,” he said. “But I knew I could do it. So when I came back after six months, I started throwing a tennis ball. … I couldn’t throw a tennis ball 10 yards, my first day throwing it.”

South Florida quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) scores against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. | Chris O’Meara, Associated Press

When he was able to throw a football, he could only make 20 or so throws a day before his shoulder got tired and sore.

“I was dying (mentally),” he said. “I remember when I tried to jump up to 40, my shoulder was like, ‘Hold on now, that is quite a bit, now.’ But it is like the more you do it, and the more you do it, you learn you are prepared to do it.”

Bohanon said he’s been throwing daily for five months, all while trusting his doctors’ plan and not overdoing it.”

BYU’s offensive coaches wanted to see for themselves

Roderick told the Deseret News that when the 2023 season ended, he saw the need to add an experienced quarterback to the room, but not for the sake of just getting one. It had to be the right fit. Through friends in the business, such as former Baylor and BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, he knew that Bohanon could fit in at BYU.

Now it was just a matter of seeing if Bohanon could make all the throws necessary in BYU’s offense. He and Mitchell jumped on a plane bound for Florida a day or two after making contact with the former four-star recruit from Arkansas.

“The year before Gerry went to South Florida (from Baylor), we tried to get him to come and be Jaren Hall’s backup,” Roderick said. “He decided on USF, because he knew he would be the starter right away.”

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In Florida, Bohanon says he had been making about 60 throws a week in October, then bumped that to 60 or 70 a day in November, knowing that he’d be doing tryouts for various schools in December. He said Mitchell and Roderick asked him to make a lot of throws, and apparently he did enough to satisfy them, because they made the offer shortly thereafter.

“I feel like I was able to get it together and prove to them that I could do it,” he said.

Let the quarterback battle … continue

Roderick announced on the final day of spring camp that Bohanon and Retzlaff were still neck and neck in the starting quarterback derby, and that Western Michigan transfer Treyson Bourguet had made the biggest strides into locking down the No. 3 spot.

Since then, Nick Billoups and Ryder Burton hit the transfer portal and BYU got a commitment from Utah State transfer McCae Hillstead.

Speaking on March 30, Bohanon said this QB competition has been similar to those he went through at Baylor — with eventual starter Blake Shapen — and South Florida, a job he won in 2022.

“It has been the same — equal reps, ones and twos rotating in, different center, different offensive line,” Bohanon said. “It has been kinda similar to everybody else’s other competition I have been a part of.

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They are making sure they are doing it the right way. We are getting equal reps. Nobody is getting more reps than the other. We are getting the same exact opportunity.”

Bohanon said he’s happy that the competition is going through the summer and into fall camp.

“I am just glad I have been able to continue to compete and show them I am going to continue to make strides of learning the offense and developing as a player,” he said.

His plan the next four months is to continue to get the terminology down pat. The plays are similar to what he ran at Baylor under Grimes — the former BYU OC — but the wording and terminology is different. He also planned to work a lot with former BYU QB John Beck and Beck’s 3DQB academy in Southern California.

“I worked with John once before spring ball,” Bohanon said. “That was it. He is really, really good. I plan to get back with him quite a bit.”

Bohanon begins blending in at BYU

Provo and BYU are a lot different than USF and Tampa, Baylor and Waco, and Earle, Arkansas, where Bohanon grew up. But Bohanon said his first three months in Utah showed him that he made the right decision — on and off the field.


“This is the most welcoming place. If you are part of BYU, you are family. I moved all the way across the country, but I feel comfortable here. I feel safe here. So the important part for me was just getting around everybody,” he said.

“Everybody has been so welcoming and so nice. You go into the store and everybody is waving, saying, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’”

Bohanon said he’s become fast friends with not only Retzlaff, but all the other QBs in the room, as well as receivers Keelan Marion and Darius Lassiter.

“This is a place where the energy in the air is positive,” he said. “You want to do good things. You want to help. Everybody is the same way. It is not like it (changes). Wherever you go — you could be on campus, or in the store, everybody is the same way. That’s the kind of place you want to be.”

BYU transfer quarterback Gerry Bohanon scrambles during spring camp in Provo on March 16, 2024.
BYU transfer quarterback Gerry Bohanon scrambles during spring camp in Provo on March 16, 2024. | Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo
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