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BYU’s Identity On Offense Will Never Come Without Stability At QB

BYU Photo & Deseret News

Editor’s note: Third of a three-part series exploring the issues with BYU football’s offense in the last decade.

PROVO, Utah – Two things usually dictate the success of a college football team in any given year. One, the difficulty of a team’s schedule, and two, quality of the quarterback.

If you have a favorable schedule and a talented quarterback that can play an entire season, you’re usually going to win a lot of football games in college football.

BYU knows this as well as anyone in this sport. For years, the Cougars feasted on a Western Athletic Conference that had opponents that were nowhere near the level of BYU. On top of that, BYU always had the best quarterbacks in the league. It wasn’t a surprise that the 80s were filled with Cougar dominance.

From 2006-2009 BYU won 43 games and had stability at quarterback. John Beck was a second-round NFL Draft pick and Max Hall became the winningest quarterback in BYU’s storied history.

Since Hall graduated, the Cougars have had no stability at quarterback and it’s the biggest reason their offense hasn’t taken off and provided an identity in the past decade.

The Numbers

When Jaren Hall likely takes the first snap against South Florida this Saturday, Hall will be the 10th quarterback to start a game for BYU since the 2010 season. Tenth!

Only one season has BYU went from start to finish each week with the same starting quarterback. That was the 2013 season. Sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill was still working on his accuracy as a passer that season, but he could run with anyone that season.

Here are the 10 quarterbacks that have started at least one game for BYU since 2010.

  • Riley Nelson
  • Jake Heaps
  • Taysom Hill
  • James Lark
  • Christian Stewart
  • Tanner Mangum
  • Beau Hoge
  • Joe Critchlow
  • Zach Wilson
  • Jaren Hall (Projected)

In 2013, BYU posted an 8-5 record in the first year of the Go Fast, Go Hard offense under Robert Anae. It’s not a coincidence that by having the same starting quarterback throughout the entire season, BYU was able to average over 500 yards per game on offense against Power 5’s and Group of 5 rivals.

I’m convinced a healthy Taysom Hill in either 2014 or 2015 leads BYU to a 10 or 11-win season in one of those years. With the uptempo attack under Anae, Hill thrived and he would have led BYU to their best season as an FBS Independent. But it didn’t happen and because of Hill’s injuries, the Cougar offense had setbacks against Group of 5 teams such as Nevada and underwhelming showings against a distracted Missouri squad. 

Highlighting what could have been if there wasn’t a change at QB.

Kalani Sitake era

This is Sitake’s fourth year as head coach at BYU, and it’s the fourth season where multiple quarterbacks have had to start games.

In 2016, Hill suffered yet another season-ending injury on Senior Night against Utah State. In 2017, Tanner Mangum injured his ankle on the last play of the game against Utah, Beau Hoge had concussions and ankle injuries, and then Mangum had a season-ending Achilles injury.

Last season, BYU decided to make a change from Mangum, the senior, to true freshman Zach Wilson due to the struggles of BYU’s offense against Washington and Utah State. Two teams that ended up in the final AP Top 25 poll a season ago.

This year, BYU turns to Jaren Hall after Zach Wilson suffered an injury to the thumb on his throwing hand after attempting to tackle a Toledo defender on an interception return.

We shouldn’t be surprised that through 44 games, Sitake sits at 22-22 record when you consider how many changes at quarterback he and his program have had to endure since he took over.

Through five games this season, Wilson was averaging 274 yards per game and had BYU in the top 40 in passing offense nationally. Just as he was starting to find his groove and comfort within the offense.

Now BYU will once again turn to a new face at quarterback in redshirt freshman Jaren Hall. There’s no denying the redshirt freshman from Maple Mountain is talented, but as BYU has already grown accustomed to the past decade, any quarterback change doesn’t bring immediate results.

First Starts

The nine previous quarterbacks to start a game since 2010 have posted a 6-3 record in their first starts.

The three losses were against a ranked Nevada team in 2010 (Heaps), UCF in 2014 (Stewart), and top-10 Wisconsin in 2017 (Hoge).

Of the six victories, only two have come away from Provo and those were from James Lark in 2012 against New Mexico State and Joe Critchlow’s debut against UNLV in 2017.

*****

As BYU prepares for another week with a new starting quarterback, it’s hard to ignore that lack of stability at the most important position on the field has been the biggest reason for BYU’s shortcomings on offense.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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