BYU Football Quarterback Position Analysis For 2023 Season

May 9, 2023, 8:00 AM | Updated: May 18, 2023, 1:02 pm

PROVO, Utah – When you bring up BYU football, the quarterback position will soon follow. After all of these years, since LaVell Edwards once roamed the sidelines, BYU still prides itself on excellent quarterback play.

The Cougars are now experiencing a revival of the storied quarterback factory.

BYU has produced back-to-back starting quarterbacks as NFL draft picks. The last time that happened was in the early 1990s when Ty Detmer and John Walsh were late-round picks.

You have to go back even further to find the last time three consecutive starting QBs at BYU were selected in the draft. That stretch was during the heyday of BYU’s quarterback factory under Edwards in the late 70s and 80s.

Former USC and Pitt QB Kedon Slovis will look to achieve that as he leads BYU into its first season as a Power Five team.

Personnel snapshot

Gone from the 2022 roster: Jaren Hall (NFL, Minnesota Vikings), Jacob Conover (Arizona State)

Returning: Cade Fennegan (RS-Soph.), Nick Billoups (RS-Soph.)

Position change: Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters (RB)

2023 Newcomers: Kedon Slovis (Pitt/USC), Jake Retzlaff (JUCO), Ryder Burton (Fr.), Cole Hagen (Fr.)

Kedon Slovis is BYU’s first QB1 in the Big 12 era

The leader of BYU’s quarterback position in year one as a Big 12 team is former USC and Pitt signal-caller Kedon Slovis. Slovis comes to BYU after turning down opportunities at Notre Dame, UCLA, and at least two SEC programs.

He steps in for Jaren Hall, who left for the NFL and was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2023 draft.

Slovis was officially named BYU’s starting quarterback at the end of spring practices in April. Slovis is the first non-LDS QB1 at BYU since Kevin Feterik in the late 1990s.

During spring practices, Slovis’ teammates raved about his leadership and his play during practice. Slovis has stated that he feels the BYU offense led by offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has been easy for him to learn.

Roderick was impressed with what he saw from Slovis during the 15 practices in spring.

“Just his decision-making, his efficiency, things I expected, but he is what I expected him to be,” Roderick said after spring practice concluded. “Just calm demeanor, under control out there. He runs the show.”

Slovis will look to improve on his TD-INT ratio, which was 10-9 last season at Pitt. BYU quarterbacks during the previous three seasons have only thrown 14 interceptions.

Slovis was comfortable in his decision-making during spring practices. An area of focus for Slovis this fall will be to improve his accuracy on deep passes. BYU quarterbacks under Roderick have excelled in making big plays through the air.

In a perfect world for Slovis, this season results in him being selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. Once viewed as a lock to be a first-round pick, Slovis has had his fair share of ups and downs since his freshman year at USC.

What helps Slovis’ cause for a potential bounce-back in 2023 is that he’s healthy now. In addition, the coaches and personnel committed to working with him at BYU this year are still here. That was something he didn’t have at Pitt a season ago.

BYU QB unit for the 2023 season

Behind Slovis is where things get interesting. Former No. 1 JUCO QB Jake Retzlaff looks to be the favorite to back up Slovis this fall. After being sidelined for the first two weeks of spring due to tonsil surgery, Retzlaff came on strong in the final weeks of spring ball. He earned all of the second-team reps during BYU’s public spring scrimmage on March 31.

Retzlaff has unconventional throwing angles, but he has a knack for making plays off-script. He’s a gamer and a player that BYU football coaches believe can run the offense in a game if called into action at any point this fall.

Competing with Retzlaff is former Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan. While Retzlaff was out due to surgery, Fennegan saw the second-team reps during the first two weeks of spring practice. He showed well, earning praise from BYU OC Aaron Roderick. But he might be staring down the third quarterback spot this fall.

Rounding out the quarterback unit are preferred walk-on Nick Billoups and true freshman Ryder Burton.

During spring practices, Billoups put together some good film showcasing his running ability. However, as far as passing goes, there isn’t enough to evaluate what he is as a passer yet.

Then there’s true freshman Ryder Burton from Springville High. Burton had some struggles in his first week of college practices. But throughout spring, he just kept getting better. Nearly all his snaps came against BYU’s third-team defense, but he showed excellent arm strength. Roderick has praised Burton in the past for being a player that knows the playbook already. But has also cautioned that early in Burton’s career is a focus on development as he played in an old-school I-formation offense in high school.

BYU football also has preferred walk-on Cole Hagen in the mix. Hagen, the older brother to BYU signee Cody Hagen, committed initially to Yale out of Corner Canyon High and ended up at BYU after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Projected Depth Chart at QB for BYU Football

Kedon Slovis* (Already announced as the starter)

Jake Retzlaff

Cade Fennegan

Ryder Burton

Nick Billoups

Cole Hagen

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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.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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