PROVO — BYU quarterback Zach Wilson wasn’t participating in Saturday’s open practice and spring scrimmage.
The sophomore-to-be who seized the starting role midway through his freshman season had offseason shoulder surgery, so he was relegated to watching, learning and hamming it up with former BYU quarterback Max Hall on the sidelines.
But his eyes were on the field — and for good reason.
The Cougar signal caller was intently watching his backups — and one in particular who put on an offensive show, proving that if Wilson goes down during the year, or even needs a replacement, he’ll be more than capable of picking up the slack.
Jaren Hall, who redshirted a year ago after returning from a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, completed 12-of-14 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars concluded the 2019 spring practice season Saturday afternoon at the former Provo High School field.
He doesn’t have any predilections of pushing out Wilson or starting in BYU’s season opener Aug. 29 against rival Utah. But Hall has been enjoying his increased minutes in the spring when he’s also been multi-tasking with the BYU baseball team.
“The added reps compared to last fall have been great,” said Hall, who also ran for 59 yards and led four touchdown drives. “I’m able to get comfortable, get used to the game, and to get used to the receivers. It’s been fun to get used to the offense and to get comfortable again, as I start to get used to the offense under my belt.”
He even took off the green jersey, designating Hall as a contact-eligible player while the Cougars put in a few series of live work and added a 25-play, non-tackle session, as well.
“You saw Jaren run around. That’s why we had to make him live: you think you have him, but you really don’t,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “He extends plays, and I was really pleased with the way he led the offense when he was on the field.”
Joe Critchlow also saw time at quarterback for BYU, completing eight passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, and Baylor Romney threw for 69 yards and a score.
Presumed starting running back Lopini Katoa did not participate in the live scrimmage. But redshirt freshman Tyler Allgeier picked up the load with 53 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, while former Kearns High standout Sione Finau added 20 yards on three carries and caught two passes for 34 yards.
BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes says the Cougars are still looking to add another running back, either a graduate transfer or other recruit. But Allgeier and Finau, along with fullback Darius McFarland, showed glimpses of what they can do if given the chance.
In the passing game, Gunner Romney led all receivers with 109 yards and a touchdown, and Dax Milne caught passes for 38 yards and a score.
AJ Lolohea and Hirkley Latu were each whistled with touch sacks on defense, and Mitchell Price had the defense’s lone interception.
But the day belonged to Hall, from the fan-friendly kids clinic in the morning to the alumni flag football game to Saturday’s spring finale.
“Really, it’s a pretty amazing combination of a guy who can run and throw,” Grimes said of Hall. “I’m not surprised at all, because we see it every day in practice.”
BYU will finish spring camp with three more practices before the coaches hit the recruiting trail and practices shift to player-run options through the summer.