Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO, Utah — Near the end of BYU's final fall scrimmage, Taysom Hill showcased his knack for making big plays.
One drive featured Hill ripping off a long sprint to set up an easy touchdown. The sophomore quarterback then delivered a pass covering 56 yards to tight end Brett Thompson to set up another score.
BYU has promised to roll out a faster-paced offense this season that will regularly light up scoreboards like the Cougars did in their glory days. Hill is eager to prove he is the right quarterback to be at the controls of this revived attack.
"I feel really comfortable in the offense," Hill said. "We've had a lot of time to (practice) these plays we've been doing. I had all of spring ball and now through all of fall camp. I know the ins and the outs. I know it all. I'm comfortable with the guys around me and the guys in front of me."
Hill, a former Stanford recruit who committed to the Cardinal when former coach Jim Harbaugh was still with the program, showed a glimpse of his game-changing abilities as a freshman a year ago. He played in six games, starting in two, before a torn knee ligament in the final minute of a 6-3 victory over Utah State ended his season.
Before the injury, Hill demonstrated he could be a true dual-threat quarterback. He completed 42 of 71 passes for 425 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 336 yards and four more scores on 55 carries.
Hill said he feels completely healthy after undergoing an intense rehabilitation process to get ready for spring ball.
"My knee feels great," Hill said. "I honestly feel 100 percent. I'm honestly trying to get out of this knee brace, but I don't think my doctor and trainers are going to go for it."
Inconsistent quarterback play has been an issue for BYU for the past three seasons. It came to a head last year when the Cougars featured a defense that ranked in the top five nationally. But the offense had trouble moving the ball and putting points on the board.
Hill's teammates are feeling confident it will be a different story in 2013.
"Honestly, I felt like in the past couple of years we really haven't had an aerial attack," junior receiver Ross Apo said. "We scored touchdowns through the air. But I feel like this year will be a lot different than the past two or three years."
Hill took the lead over the summer in gathering his receivers together to practice plays in the new up-tempo offense installed by BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae. He worked to get everyone on the same page in the weight room, in team meetings and on the practice field.
It helped Hill and his teammates build positive chemistry going into fall camp. They respect his work ethic.
"That dude is built like a horse," Apo said. "A lot of people look up to him. He works very hard. Obviously, he's our starter and he worked to get the job."
Hill's evolution as a leader has not escaped the attention of the coaching staff either. He is giving them reason to believe he can command all the respect he needs in the huddle — even as a sophomore.
"He started as a really nice leader and now he's just having the chance to have that influence daily rather than as a backup," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "The starting role gives him more of an opportunity to do it."
Hill understands the pros and cons that come with being a starting quarterback at BYU. It is never easy to follow in the footsteps of players like Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco and Ty Detmer. But he chooses to focus on the smaller details he can control rather than the big picture that is out of his hands.
"I worry about being my best self," Hill said. "That's all I really can do."
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