PROVO, Utah – BYU football has revamped its quarterback unit entering the 2023 season.
The first year of the Big 12 Conference for BYU will also usher in a new era at QB. After two seasons as the starting quarterback, Jaren Hall is off to the NFL. Hall’s departure left a big void for BYU coaches to ensure they have the personnel necessary to compete in the Big 12.
BYU Quarterback Snapshot for 2023
*= Redshirt year used
All eyes are on Kedon Slovis
BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said he and his staff made Kedon Slovis the number one QB target in the Transfer Portal. And they got him. Slovis comes to BYU after playing four years of Power Five football.
The former USC and Pitt transfer quarterback is familiar with BYU’s offense through interactions with former BYU QBs Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall and 3DQB trainer John Beck. Along with a friendship with current BYU TE Isaac Rex.
Slovis picked BYU over opportunities with Notre Dame and UCLA.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound signal-caller will not be gift wrapped the QB1 position. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake wants competition. But it would take some poor play for Slovis not to be QB1 when BYU takes on Sam Houston on September 2.
After Slovis’ freshman year at USC in 2019, his trajectory was viewed as being a future first-round NFL draft pick. But after three years with numbers trending down and some inconsistencies with deep passes, Slovis is still in college football at his third school in five years.
Slovis’ completion percentage has dipped from a Pac-12 record 71.9% in 2019 down to 58.4% in 2022 at Pitt. How much of that regression was due to coaching and scheme changes? We’ll find out at BYU.
The good news for BYU is that Slovis comes to Provo healthier than he’s been in years.
Big opportunity for Slovis at BYU
Slovis steps into a BYU offense that wants to be aggressive and has a stable of running backs that can allow for complimentary football. Explosive plays have been a calling card for Aaron Roderick’s offenses. Will Slovis show improved accuracy in the deep passing game? If he does, BYU could have their third consecutive NFL draft pick starting at QB.
BYU has never had a graduate transfer start at QB. It will be a unique year with Slovis leading the way, but there’s no better time for him to step in as expectations are low, and his 38 games of experience can potentially lift BYU to being a spoiler in the Big 12 in year one.
Number one QB in JUCO
Roderick wasn’t done retooling the quarterback room after adding Kedon Slovis. In addition, BYU’s staff received a commitment from the number one JUCO QB in 2023, Jake Retzlaff, from Riverside City College.
The last time BYU landed the nation’s number one JUCO QB was Steve Sarkisian in 1995. Like Sarkisian, Retzlaff isn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Retzlaff loved the history and tradition of quarterback play at BYU. Plus, he thought the offensive system Aaron Roderick runs aligned with his skillset as a quarterback.
Retzlaff has good size at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds to go along with eye-popping stats that saw him pass for 4,596 yards, 44 touchdowns, and complete 63% of his 493 passing attempts.
How big of a transition will there be for Retzlaff to level up from a JUCO team to a Power Five program? He seems ready for the challenge.
Intriguing spring for returning lettermen
While a lot of the attention in spring ball will center around the new faces at quarterback, a pair of returning lettermen have an interesting spring ball ahead of them. That would be Cade Fennegan and walk-on Nick Billoups.
Both quarterbacks are entering their third years at BYU. Do they take a leap forward in their game to establish themselves as the No. 2 quarterback behind Slovis? Or will Retzlaff take that role from them? The addition of Retzlaff puts that into focus for Fennegan and Billoups.
Fennegan probably would have been the starter in the New Mexico Bowl against SMU had he not been banged up with ankle injuries. Then Billoups was a player that Roderick believes made a lot of improvement in his quarterback development since transferring in from Utah.
BYU football Young Guns
To go along with Slovis and Retzlaff, BYU welcomes freshman quarterback Ryder Burton from Springville High. Burton enrolled at BYU in January, and before his official enrollment into school, Aaron Roderick said Burton already knows BYU’s playbook.
Burton was around the BYU facility a lot after his commitment to the Cougars to absorb as much as possible in preparation for his first year in the program.
The most significant task in front of Burton is to continue learning Roderick’s offensive system. At Springville, Burton ran an old-school I-formation offense that didn’t cater to Burton’s skills. Burton has an arm and athleticism to make off-platform throws.
His development will be an area to watch throughout spring practices.
Along with Burton, BYU picked up a commitment from former Corner Canyon High star Cole Hagen. Hagen joins BYU as a preferred walk-on. He greyshirted last season after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com 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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