Beyond Retzlaff and Bohanon, BYU football quietly piling up quarterbacks

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CEDAR HILLS — While Jake Retzlaff and Gerry Bohanon remain locked in a quarterback duel to be named the starting signal caller of the BYU football team this fall, off the field they are about as friendly as can be.

That includes Retzlaff taking Bohanon golfing on some of the first rounds of his life, and the duo were both swinging clubs Monday when the program hosted local media and a handful of corporate sponsors in a four-man scramble at Cedar Hills Golf Club that unofficially kicks off BYU's 100th season in program history.

It also means poking a little fun at one another, which Retzlaff likes to do with his dry wit and Bohanon absorbs with the humility and aplomb of a 24-year-old college football veteran grateful to be given one final year of eligibility after missing the entire 2023 season with a shoulder injury.

"Being around the guy is so fun. I think this is his 32nd year of college football, and so we're just excited to be part of that third decade," the incumbent Retzlaff told one TV reporter with a sly grin. "But seriously, he's a veteran and I'm excited to be around him. He can be really great to bounce ideas off him. He's super real; he's not going to front you, he's not going to be shady, and I just want to give that same energy back.

"To compete with a guy like that, we're both just trying to help this offense take steps towards another level."

Between Retzlaff and Bohanon, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick didn't plan to take a quarterback from the transfer portal following spring practices. But, of course, life doesn't always go as planned.

When former Skyridge High star McCae Hillstead entered the transfer portal after missing out on Utah State's starting quarterback job to Iowa transfer Spencer Petras, Roderick called the transfer the day his name hit his computer.

The Cougars "passed" on Hillstead in high school — and plenty of schools did, with Nevada, FIU and Washington State being the more serious suitors before the 5-foot-11 6A state champion with 1,327 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions in 14 games as a senior ultimately signed with the Aggies.

BYU wasn't going to make that mistake again.

"As soon as he was in (the portal)," Roderick said, "we called him and he came down and spent a day with us."

Again, the Cougars didn't need a quarterback, and bringing Hillstead in — even as a walk-on, for the moment — likely played a role in former Springville High star Ryder Burton transferring to West Virginia.

But you can never have too many quarterbacks, the 20-year veteran of an offensive coach was quick to point out. And with Hillstead coming in with four starts in eight games played as a true freshman at Utah State, as well as a redshirt available, Roderick likes how the depth of his quarterback group lines up — even beyond Retzlaff and Bohanon, who have yet to settle QB1 on the practice field, with Hillstead, Treyson Bourguet and true freshman Noah Lugo among a depth chart that runs as many as nine deep, with walk-ons.

"I like how our room is spaced out right now," Roderick said. "Gerry has one year, Jake has two years, Bourguet has three years, McCae has four years to play three, and Noah Lugo has his full clock. It's actually spaced out where you never know how it's going to play out. But there's hope for everyone that they can move forward."

Some of that sorting out may involve classes and scholarships, as well. Bourguet is a walk-on, for example, but both Roderick and head coach Kalani Sitake said the Western Michigan transfer from Tucson, Arizona, is on the fast track toward earning a scholarship after enrolling at BYU on his own and eventually becoming one of the major surprises of spring practices.

"We like to be around five scholarship quarterbacks, but I don't mind six or seven," Sitake said. "Everybody knows that is the most important position in football. We have to get that one right, we have to load it with talent, and then we have to have them buy into their role and develop. If people stay in the system and keep working, then things work out."

Roderick said the Cougars don't plan on adding another transfer quarterback, or any other offensive player — again, the ever-present transfer portal, the nature of recruiting and other circumstances make that decision a constant risky plan to put forward — with BYU at its full scholarship allotment on offense.

But each quarterback on the roster will have "an opportunity" to earn playing time, at least early in fall camp, Sitake said.

"If someone makes a huge jump from (spring practices) until now, then what am I going to do? I've got to play the best," Sitake said. "I'm not really worried. The problem is, there are only so many reps to give out early. But if they are going to show they made a huge jump in improvement, it needs to be shown at the get-go of fall camp.

"I don't know any other way than to play the best guys. That's always how it's going to be at BYU."

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