Performances From BYU QB Zach Wilson Reminiscent Of Leap Joe Burrow Made At LSU

Oct 9, 2020, 12:54 PM | Updated: Nov 2, 2020, 3:13 pm
Zach Wilson - Joe Burrow...
BYU QB Zach Wilson is making a leap in his game that has drawn parallels to LSU's Joe Burrow in 2019. (Photos: BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey (left); Gregory Shamus/Getty Images (Right)

PROVO, Utah – BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has caught everyone’s attention in the football world with his play through the first three games of the 2020 season. The junior signal-caller has made a huge leap forward in his play compared to his first two seasons at BYU.

Wilson’s leap reminds some of how former LSU star Joe Burrow caught everyone off guard last season.

ESPN’s Anish Shroff is one of those people, and he will be on the call for Wilson and BYU’s next game against UTSA, Saturday on ESPN2.

During his study of BYU and Wilson, Shroff gave high praise to Wilson’s command in BYU’s offense and mentioned the leap being Joe Burrow-like.

Shroff, who called Wilson’s first career start against Hawaii in 2018 and was also on the mic for Wison’s first season-opening start against Utah in 2019, joined me on KSL Sports’ Cougar Tracks to discuss what he has seen from Wilson in his third year in BYU’s offense.

“Well, a couple of things jumped out. One is health. This guy really wasn’t healthy at the start of last year. It seems for the first time; he had an offseason where he was healthy. Then you heard so much about his confidence and swagger and the work ethic. Driving 10 hours to San Diego to work with John Beck, getting mentorship from Drew Brees, putting in that time in the offseason, becoming more of a leader. But I think again, the work ethic has made him into a football player, and it reminds me a lot of Joe Burrow.”

Zach Wilson’s leap in 2020 has parallels to Joe Burrow

Shroff’s mere mention of Wilson and Burrow in the same sentence via social media drew backlash from a few folks. He clarified the intent of his take on Twitter.

“I’m not comparing Wilson to Joe Burrow. I think people misconstrued it. But if you think about how Joe Burrow was viewed going into last season, he was not on anybody’s Heisman list. He was not even a Heisman dark horse. He was not talked about as a first-round pick, not even talked about as a top-three, or first four rounds pick, let alone number one overall. He was viewed as an above-average, comfortably serviceable starting quarterback, which is what Zach Wilson was. What I’m seeing from Wilson now, there was no evidence that he could have been this kind of player from the first two years.”

Through Wilson’s first two seasons, the Corner Canyon product was 8-8 as BYU’s starting quarterback. He became the youngest quarterback in BYU history to start a game but with youth comes growing pains. Not to mention physical pains where Wilson was playing through an injured shoulder in both his freshman and sophomore years. Then an injured thumb interrupted his sophomore campaign.  Now with a clean bill of health, 2020 has been a completely different story. Wilson has passed for 949 yards, six touchdowns, and has a QB efficiency rating of 221.85, lifting BYU to its first 3-0 start in six years.

Wilson leads the nation in completion percentage at 84.5 percent and it’s not just from dink and dunk passes. Thirty-five of Wilson’s 71 attempts have been thrown at least ten yards downfield.

What role does the strength of schedule hold in Wilson’s jump?

Wilson has made huge jumps statistically, similar to what Burrow did, going from a 58 percent passer to a 76 percent completion rate and one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever put together in the history of college football.

“Just turning on the tape, you’re watching off-balance throws, you’re watching unbelievable accuracy. He’s making accurate throws on the run, throwing into tight coverage, putting the ball only where his receivers can get it. And the one big difference, yes, while Joe Burrow faced SEC competition, let’s be honest, Zach Wilson has decent players around him, but he does not have the supporting cast that Joe Burrow had at LSU.

“Wilson does not have a Jamarr Chase, Terrence Marshall, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. It’s just not the same. So in some ways, the leap he’s taken, it reminds you of the leap that Joe Burrow took where a guy, again, who wasn’t even thought of as somebody who would enter the Draft this year and is now potentially being talked about as a first-round pick. I think it’s incredible, and a lot of credit goes to Zach and him being healthy.”

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Wilson in the top five quarterbacks for the class of 2021. CBS Sports also tabbed Wilson as a first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints next April.

One of the benefits for Wilson during his time at BYU is that he has had continuity with the coaching staff. Kalani Sitake stayed committed to Jeff Grimes as the offensive coordinator and it’s paying off for BYU in a big way.

“I don’t think you can underestimate the impact of having continuity at offensive coordinator. That position was a revolving door before Jeff Grimes got there and it seemed there was a new system every other year.”

Wilson and No. 15 BYU look to move to 4-0 for the first time since 2014 when they take on the Roadrunners of UTSA.

You can listen to the entire interview with ESPN’s Anish Shroff below.

No. 15 BYU vs. UTSA

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (MDT)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Performances From BYU QB Zach Wilson Reminiscent Of Leap Joe Burrow Made At LSU