Zach Wilson Focused On Improving Mental Game
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – BYU sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson hasn’t been able to do much with throwing a football until June because of labrum surgery that he had in the off-season.
That didn’t mean that Wilson wasn’t hard at work. He wanted to improve his mental game and grow more confidence leading up to the season that features a very tough schedule to start the 2019 campaign.
“Physically, quarterbacks can all throw a ball,” Wilson said. “It’s the mental game that people lack, the ability to play under pressure. I want to take my game to another level mentally, because I can’t do anything physically, I have made a stand for myself that I really want to approach that two times more than I would have done it before and make sure that I am always on the film, make sure I am always learning and trying to grow my mental game.”
Adjustment From Fan To Starting QB
Growing up, Wilson was a fan of the game, like every college football player, but he has now realized the difference in playing high school football for Corner Canyon to starting at quarterback for BYU.
“It’s like big-time high school football,” Wilson said. “It’s like I moved to Texas or something. All of a sudden, you have all of this hype around the program and you are playing against these big teams. It’s weird being a kid and watching these teams play on ESPN, you are watching Tennessee, Utah, BYU or all of these teams and now all of a sudden you are playing against these teams. It’s a huge shock to you, it’s something I never thought would happen that you see on TV that you are now a part of.”
He started seven games last season for the Cougars as a true freshman. Wilson racked up 1,578 yards, 12 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. His best game was BYU’s last when they beat Western Michigan in the Idaho Potato Bowl, where he went a perfect 18-for-18 passing for 317 yards and 4 touchdowns. That has only given him more confidence heading into the 2019 season.
“Now since I have played in seven games, I have a confidence that I have built up over that amount of time,” he said. “I still have so much I can learn but I know that it is something that I can fulfill for sure. I am just excited to go into this next year with the ability to take that next step.”
Next Step In Growth
Many considered Wilson’s freshman season a success and gave BYU fans excitement for the future with Wilson at quarterback for three seasons. He knows what he needs to do personally to take that step in leading BYU to the next level.
“I just want to take more control of the offense and bring my guys along with me and just be that leader on the team that guys can look up to and know that I will always have their back no matter what it is,” Wilson stated. “I want to be that person that leads this team to having a dominant year, especially offensively and kill some of the best opponents that we will play this year.”
Now that he is the clear-cut starting quarterback, Wilson has to focus on improving every game while also muting all of the outside noise.
“I expect a lot out of myself, I really don’t care what other people think,” he said. “I don’t listen to what other people think, their expectations or any of that stuff. It’s just what I expect out of myself. I expect myself to be able to come back from this [injury] and not only be back to where I was but to be a lot better than I was. Almost be like I never had a surgery and just going from a freshman to a sophomore and making that big transition and be able to be a dominant quarterback this year.”
Wilson is expected to be ready in time for fall camp in August after undergoing surgery to repair a nagging injury from back in high school.
“It’s doing really well, I just started throwing at the beginning of June,” Wilson said. “For having another month and a half until fall camp, I have had amazing progress.”
BYU has a very difficult schedule to start the season, beginning with a home game against Utah on August 29. Then the Cougars will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee to face the Volunteers on September 7 followed by a pair of home games against Pac-12 opponents USC and Washington before travelling to Toledo and USF. They will return home on October 19 to face Boise State and then go to Logan on November 2 to seek revenge against Utah State.
“I am so excited, I just want to stay healthy throughout this year, getting smarter with my body and being able to know when to take a hit and know when not to,” Wilson said. “I know that I need to get healthy first but I am just so excited for the schedule that I know so many teams dream of playing against these big teams and not only these big teams but teams from all around the country. Most people play in a conference and luckily for us, we get to mix it up and play against some cool opponents.”
What is Wilson doing in the film room to improve his game heading into his sophomore season and to be prepared for the tough schedule? He is watching the pros.
“I am watching tons of pro guys, some of my favorite guys like Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, I have watched some of the Jared Goff stuff because he is a young quarterback as well. I don’t want to pick up the stuff that comes when you become a vet or stuff that comes when you are an NFL guy but how they work inside the pocket and the route combinations. I love to see the things they are throwing against certain kind of defenses, how they are manipulating defenders, their pocket presence.”
After holding a big lead in the first half against Utah and losing to the Utes last year at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Wilson has had a lot of time to prepare for Utah.
“Of course, I am watching a ton of Utah film, just going back and trying to find those tiny details that maybe didn’t stand out to me the first time I prepared for only a week,” Wilson mentioned. “I better have the whole thing learned and down by the time that we play them this next time.”
The Draper, Utah native was raised as Utah fans and is now playing at BYU. He never received an offer from the Utes and now he wants to make Utah regret that decision.
“There is no hate to our family,” Wilson said. “I look at it like it’s Utah’s loss [for not offering him a scholarship]. It was a good decision for BYU and I hope to take full advantage of this opportunity that BYU has given me. I know that not a lot of kids get this opportunity to play at the college level. If someone is willing to take a chance on me, I will give them everything I have. I just look at it like we are going to make Utah pay, not necessarily because they didn’t recruit me but just because I am on this side of the ball now.”