Patrick Kinahan: BYU, Utah coaches insist they have great QB options

BYU’s quarterbacks Jacob Conover (17), Cade Fennegan (11), Jaren Hall (3) and Baylor Romney (16) leave practice in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

BYU’s quarterbacks Jacob Conover (17), Cade Fennegan (11), Jaren Hall (3) and Baylor Romney (16) leave practice in Provo on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The BYU and Utah football teams are in similar situations relative to their quarterbacks, with both using much of this month's training camp to determine a starter.

In many cases, needing time to sort out the quarterback position is a negative for a program. As the adage goes, a team that has two quarterbacks often really doesn't have one player good enough to seize the position.

Going into this season, coaches for both programs insist the competition is a positive for them. The Cougars and Utes, they say, are deciding from strength rather than a weakness.

Then again, in virtually all quarterback battles in every program, the coaches really are forced to say the same thing. Obviously, no coach intent on remaining employed could possibly admit otherwise.

Imagine a coach going along the lines of a presidential election, when voters often decide between their perceived lesser of two evils. Never going to happen, even if the coaches have little confidence in any of the contenders.

Good thing is, for all the tap dancing, the actual games provide all the evidence necessary if the decisions are correct.

BYU is in the unusual position of choosing a starter from among three players — Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover. While none of them can reasonably expect to duplicate the outstanding accomplishments of Zach Wilson, now starting for the New York Jets as a rookie, the BYU leadership believes any of the three is good enough to have success against a considerably more difficult schedule.

After last Saturday's scrimmage, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick indicated the staff was on the verge of naming a starter. Coach Kalani Sitake echoed the sentiment, going with Roderick's timeline to name a starter no later than Wednesday.

"All three have elevated their game and we are starting to see how this is going to shape up," Sitake said. "We just want to confirm it all with the film and communicate with the quarterbacks themselves and away we go."

Although the race was close, Hall is the favorite to start the first game on Sept. 4 against Arizona in Las Vegas. The former baseball player, who started in relief of an injured Wilson two years ago before suffering a concussion, sat out last season to focus on regaining his health.

Romney, who replaced Hall as a starter two years ago and served as Wilson's backup last season, offers a steady option without Hall's diverse big-play capability. On the team last season during the pandemic, Conover is progressing and time as the starter will come.

Senior quarterback Charlie Brewer (12) prepares to throw a pass during practice on Aug. 10, 2021.
Senior quarterback Charlie Brewer (12) prepares to throw a pass during practice on Aug. 10, 2021. (Photo: Utah Athletics)

As he sometimes does in these situations, coach Kyle Whittingham remains coy on Utah's starter until releasing the depth chart on Thursday. The players were told of the winner between Charlie Brewer and Cam Rising, who were both off limits to reporters on Monday, but were instructed to keep it quiet.

Multiple outlets reported Brewer, the longtime starter at Baylor before transferring in the offseason, won the job but Whittingham stuck to his original statement. He likely was more concerned about any potential leaks in his program rather than the news going public before the first game against Weber State.

"We'll have a depth chart on Thursday," Whittingham said. "That's how we're going to handle it. I guess somebody said that somebody made some predictions or think they know what's up. I guess they have a 50-50 shot."

Rising, who beat out transfer Jake Bentley last season before suffering a serious shoulder injury in the second series of the first game, was voted captain, but Whittingham said the selection did not offer any clues. Bentley, who stayed at Utah one season after transferring from South Carolina, was also voted a captain last season.

Siding with the experience factor, Brewer is the likely starter to begin the season. Having lost in the Pac-12 championship game in 2018 and 2019, the Utes are counting on Brewer to make the difference in winning their first conference title.

About the Author: Patrick Kinahan

Patrick Kinahan is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. To read more of his articles, visit Patrick's author page.

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