Way-Too-Early Analysis Of BYU Football’s Quarterbacks In 2023
PROVO, Utah – BYU football has a long overdue bye week. The break comes close to the conclusion of the regular season. This means Transfer Portal and recruiting seasons are just around the corner.
To prepare for the upcoming off-season shuffling, I thought it would be an excellent time to take a way-too-early look at BYU’s position groups for the 2023 season. The first year with BYU as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) August 16, 2022
First up is the quarterback spot.
The big question is Jaren Hall. Hall has a COVID year available to come back to BYU if he wants to, but the 2022 season marks his fifth year with the program. Then you add that he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; he’s an older NFL draft prospect.
Until the official word comes from Hall, we will put him in the way-too-early look at quarterbacks in 2023. But I’m operating under the thought that BYU will need a new QB1 in 2023.
BYU football quarterback snapshot for 2023
Here’s a snapshot of what the 2023 quarterbacks look like for BYU, which is subject to change.
* = Redshirt year used
|Ryder Burton||Sol-Jay Maiava*||Jaren Hall*|
|Cole Hagen||Jacob Conover*|
|Micah Fe’a||Cade Fennegan*|
Is Jacob Conover the next signal-caller at BYU?
If Hall leaves, is BYU’s next star signal-caller already in the building? In a perfect world, the answer is a resounding yes. The ideal scenario would center around Jacob Conover.
Conover was part of the three-man quarterback competition with veterans Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney before the 2021 season. During that battle, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick compared Conover to a young Zach Wilson when he was first at BYU in how they both were aggressive in their decision-making early in their careers.
View this post on Instagram
Being a starting quarterback at BYU has been a dream for Conover since he was a young kid. The knock on Conover is that there isn’t much game film to evaluate him. Coaches have not turned to him in games where the outcome was out of reach this season, whether in favor of BYU or the opponent was pulling away.
When Conover arrived at BYU in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he learned the playbook before the season concluded. Along with being a quick study of the playbook, he has the voice of a leader.
During a camp hosted by BYU football players through a NIL agreement with All Poly, Conover spoke to campers about the importance of “doing the little things every day” and “finding ways to get better.” Everyone was tuned in along with his BYU teammates. Part of being a starting quarterback is having a presence; Conover seems to have that. But he lacks the game reps to hand the keys over to him without question.
Moving into a Power Five conference requires BYU to elevate everything in the program. Kalani Sitake has always been leery of just handing over a position to anyone without earning the spot.
If Hall is gone, BYU will have to explore the transfer portal market to add a quarterback, or possibly two. They reportedly looked at the transfer portal market this past off-season.
The rest of the contenders
Back in the spring, Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters was singled out by Aaron Roderick as one of the most improved quarterbacks in his room. Maiava has been on the sidelines at times this season holding play-call boards. However, during the win at Boise State, he was suited up if called upon, with Cade Fennegan dealing with an injury. Maiava took over the No. 5 uniform that was previously worn by former tight end Dallin Holker.
#BYU OC Aaron Roderick said third string QB Cade Fennegan (seen in background on crutches) is out with a sprained ankle injury.
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) November 2, 2022
Speaking of Fennegan, the former Boise State transfer was limited last spring. So we didn’t see much of him during media observation windows. He was one of the standouts on the scout team last season, but does that equal future QB1 in the Big 12 era? Fennegan hasn’t appeared in a game yet at BYU.
Preferred walk-on Nick Billoups has worked hard in his development as a quarterback. He arrived at BYU from Utah as an athlete. But he’s stuck around in the QB room. So it’s noteworthy that BYU didn’t suddenly switch him to another position.
This past off-season, he was part of some workouts with South Carolina signal-caller Spencer Rattler. During the Boise State game, based on pregame warmups, it looked like Billoups was the No. 3 QB after Hall and Conover. But that competition for third-string is a daily deal.
Potential newcomers in 2023
As of this writing, three newcomers could join the QB room next season. The most notable one is Springville High’s Ryder Burton. Burton committed to BYU this past spring. He finished his senior year with the Red Devils, passing for 1,972 yards, 21 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
— Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper) May 7, 2022
Burton has worked closely with former BYU great John Beck at 3DQB, which was the same path as Zach Wilson and Hall. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Burton is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Serving a two-year mission could be possible, but those plans have not been announced yet.
The other newcomers include a pair of preferred walk-ons in former Corner Canyon QB Cole Hagen and Orem High’s Micah Fe’a.
Hagen is the older brother of BYU WR signee Cody Hagen. Hagen is grey-shirting this year. He was at a fall camp practice back in August. Fe’a is a 6-foot-4, 210-pound signal-caller currently serving a Latter-day Saint mission. He could be a greyshirt candidate like many Latter-day Saint RMs tend to be in Kalani Sitake’s BYU program these days.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow his coverage of BYU athletics and their transition into the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
BYU Cougars Scoreboard
BYU Cougars Team Leaders
BYU Cougars Standings