BYU turns attention to Arizona after fall camp
PROVO, Utah – Following BYU finishing its fall football camp Tuesday, the Cougars will turn their attention to game one against the Arizona Wildcats at Allegiant Stadium on September 4.
The team had several position battles going on during camp, including one to select a new starting quarterback to replace Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick by the New York Jets in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, along with head coach Kalani Sitake, announced sophomore Jaren Hall will start for the Cougars against Arizona after winning the job in camp.
Hall, at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, has played in nine games, including two starts. He has completed 31 of 46 passes for 420 yards and one touchdown to go along with 139 rushing yards and three scores on the ground.
The Spanish Fork, Utah, product started against Utah State in Logan in 2019, jumpstarting BYU to a 42-14 victory with a dynamic mix of passing and running. In one half of play, Hall went 12 of 16 for 214 yards and rushed seven times for 54 yards and two touchdowns to spark the return of the Old Wagon Wheel to Provo.
Roderick also mentioned sophomore Baylor Romney would be the backup for game one, but that all position battles are ongoing throughout the season. Both Hall and Romney have previous starting experience for the Cougars.
Romney, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder from El-Paso, Texas, has played in 11 games with two starts in his career at BYU. He has totaled 1,008 yards passing on 78 of 120 passes with eight touchdowns. Romney helped defeat No. 14 Boise State 28-25 in Provo in his first career start with a 221-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Freshman Jacob Conover was also in the mix pushing Hall and Romney. Conover is a 6-foot-1, 205-pound top recruit out of Chandler, Arizona. The former three-time state champion threw for more than 10,000 yards in high school with 102 touchdowns, including 38 as a senior.
In addition to Hall, Romney and Conover, the Cougars also have four more talented quarterbacks on the roster, including freshman Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters, sophomore Rhett Reilly, Utah transfer Nick Billoups and Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan.
The following quotes are from Wednesday's media availability.
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterback Coach Aaron Roderick (Video)
Jaren Hall is going to start against Arizona. He's had a great camp and earned the job. The other guys played well. It was a great battle. I've never gone that far into camp with equal reps between quarterbacks, but I felt like it was warranted in this case. We did more team 11-on-11 reps than I've ever done in my career and Jaren earned the job. The quarterbacks and I talked about this a week ago. They sort of knew how this was shaping up. This wasn't my decision; it was decided on the field by their play. Jaren deserves this opportunity. I still believe in those other guys, but I'm excited to see Jaren play against Arizona.
On the differences between Jaren's game today and when he last played in 2019
It's like what you've seen before, but he's more of a veteran player now. He's been around a long time, and he really knows our offense better now. The time he has had in the program will serve him well when he gets out there on the field. The same goes for Baylor Romney. He's a veteran player and we have a lot of trust in him as well. What you've seen Jaren do before is what I expect him to do again. I expect him to be a little more efficient, a little more sound at managing situations and understanding the full game.
On the backup quarterback
That competition is ongoing, but if the game was today, Baylor would be second. We'll keep competing all season and that goes for the starter too. Jaren knows he must go play well because there's good players behind him. I expect him to do that though; I have a lot of confidence that he's going to play great. Those guys know that in this program, competition is ongoing all the time at every position. I have a system where I can give reps to both backup quarterbacks during the season. I've been doing that for a couple of years now and I've found a way that I think is effective at keeping the starter ready, but also keeping other guys improving and ready to play in case they're needed. I think that's worked out well during the last two seasons.
On Jaren Hall's health
Jaren's been practicing with us all last spring and all fall camp. He's looking great and we're going to go play. We're not a reckless offense, we want to protect our quarterback. We take care of our quarterbacks as much as we can in pass protection. Everybody knows that our quarterbacks are going to run a little bit every game and that's part of the game. Personally, I think that his past injuries were fluky things. I don't think he's an injury-prone guy. He's a tough kid. He works as hard as anybody in this program. He's in great shape and I expect him to be ready to play just like any other quarterback in this program has played.
On the progress in Jaren's game during fall camp
His command of the overall offense has improved. He looks like he's in control out there. He knows what we're doing with everything from pass-protections to his reads in the passing game. We ask him to do quite a bit in the run game. Our quarterbacks probably do more in the run game than a lot of people realize. He does a lot of good things as far as getting us to the right place. He looks like a veteran player so far in camp and now it's time to go show that he can do that in a game. He took really good care of the ball in fall camp with the fewest turnovers and the most explosive plays. Those are two very important things for a quarterback
Quarterback Jaren Hall (Video)
On how it feels to be named the starting quarterback
It feels good. But, now our work really begins to focus in on Arizona. So, for today, I’ll enjoy it with my wife and family, but we have to go win on Saturday.
On what he did during camp to separate himself
For me, it was really just about taking care of the ball, executing our offense to the best of my abilities, getting the ball into our playmakers' hands, and I feel like I did a good job of doing that. But again, it's easy when you’ve got the guys that we do around us. So, it was a good camp, and I felt like I was able to just go out there, show four years of experience and just play ball the way I know how to.
On his biggest strength against Arizona
I think just time in the offense. I am going on my fourth season here with the same coaches, the same playbook, so I think just understanding the ins and outs and understanding where our strengths are at. So, I think for me it's just that time spent with the playbook.
On how he has improved and changed since 2019
I think early on in my years I relied on my athletic ability outside of when plays would break down, sometimes maybe a little too much. I think today, I am just processing things quicker, understanding the offense, knowing against certain looks when our concepts are going to be good and when they're not. Again, for me it is just the experience and being more comfortable, being in the pocket and understanding where to go and when to use athletic ability on the side to make some things happen.
Head Coach Kalani Sitake (Video)
On how the decision was made to start Jaren Hall
It’s decided on the field. I’m really happy with what I saw from all three of those quarterbacks. I think they elevated their game, all three of them individually, and really made our team a lot better. It was evident that this was the best move for us going forward, not to take anything away from the improvement and great things that we saw from Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover.
On what Hall did to separate himself from the other quarterbacks
Making plays consistently. Everyone had their moments. I saw all three of them being really aggressive trying to take the spot. We made an agreement as a staff to try and get as much 11-on-11 football to try and decide who our starting quarterback would be in a situation where you’re playing real football.
On who made the final decision
The field has the final say. Coach Roderick is very capable of making every decision that’s right for the offense, I’m always going to support him. We have a great line of communication from all of our staff, from our players, so we communicate really well with the whole program. But I want to make sure that everybody understands that the positions are won on the field.
On the reaction from Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover
They responded with class. Those guys are great young men with great character. They were classy. When we told them the breakdown of how we were seeing it, it was an opportunity for them to change our minds. We gave them another few practices to change our minds and they made a really good case for themselves. I was really proud of the way they handled it. They’re guys that are about the team first, so they understand and they know their role. We’re relying on them to be their best selves.