CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — BYU sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill has waited 10 long months to play football again.
That day has arrived. The wait is over.
It’s a new season, and Hill is eager to engineer offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s go-fast, go-hard offense Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPNU) at Virginia.
“It’s our first game and we’re going to come out hyped,” said Hill, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last fall. “I expect everybody to play as hard as they possibly can. That’s my whole mentality, is to get the guys to go as hard as they can. If they do that, we’re going to have a good chance to win and put points on the board. I think we’re ready. We’ve had a lot of practices. As far as us knowing our offense and going hard and going fast, we are ready.”
Anae is confident that he has the right triggerman for his up-tempo offensive attack.
“I can’t think of a quarterback I’ve been involved with that fits this type of deal. He’s fast; he’s quick; he’s accurate; and he’s smart,” Anae said. “Those are good qualities to have. Everybody’s looking for those qualities in a quarterback. Is he going to be perfect? Shoot, no. Nobody’s perfect, especially a sophomore at the quarterback spot. But the tools, all of the tangibles are there. I’m looking forward to a very exciting season.”
Anae is pleased with the way Hill, and the offense in general, has assimilated the new offense since last spring.
“Much better handle on the offense. Much more chemistry with his teammates,” Anae said of Hill. “He’s not the only one who’s grown leaps and bounds since spring. They’ve all done a nice job.”
Sophomore running back Jamaal Williams can’t wait to see what the offense can do.
“We’re getting better. We’re going faster,” he said. “I feel like we’re getting better every day. I just can’t wait for what we’re going to do in the game and see how everybody executes.”
Certainly, Hill has captured the attention of the Virginia defense.
“You know, in this new style that we think we may see, obviously a quarterback and being able to run is something that's significant,” said Cavaliers coach Mike London. “You see some athleticism and you're definitely concerned about not only the spread-read play where the quarterback pulls it but any play-action play where the quarterback can get on the perimeter. ... I know he's had the injury situation. We're playing everybody like they're 1,000 percent, and I think that with that in mind, he's definitely one that we've identified as being a guy that we've got to know where he's at all times.”
Part of Hill’s job as starting quarterback is making sure that his team limits turnovers and mistakes in a hostile environment.
“It’s huge. Last year the games we were a part of, at Utah and at Boise State, were really loud,” Hill said. “We had some big mishaps, some snaps that cost us. We can’t afford to have mistakes like that. The way our offense is structured it should allow us to minimize the mistakes that the fans and the loud noise cause.”
A key to the offense being successful is the play of the inexperienced offensive line. The Cougars plan to rotate as many as 11 O-linemen Saturday.
“With how fast and how hard we are going, that’s the reality of it,” Hill said. “I don’t know exactly how that rotation is going to be, but I trust (offensive line) coach (Garett) Tujague and Coach Anae to work out what’s going to be best for our team. I know those guys are going to compete and we’ll do our best to get it done.”
Left tackle Ryker Mathews said Tujague has instilled some confidence and swagger on the offensive line.
“We’re definitely starting to be feared a little bit among the other players on offense and defense,” he said. “That’s exactly what he wants. We need to be the dirty, grimy guys down in the trenches, doing everything that no one else wants to do. We’re getting there.”
While there’s plenty of optimism going into the season opener, it’s way too soon to know how the year will turn out, said senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
“It’s always too early to judge. You can judge a team three games into the season. You never want to judge off game one or after fall camp. It’s going to take awhile to figure our identity on both sides of the ball and go from there.”
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