Dick Harmon: Sophomore QBs will be huge in BYU-Utah showdown
Hill, however, missed an opportunity to win a game at Virginia after an interception with just less than three minutes to play with BYU leading the Cavaliers. Then, he had a breakout highlight performance against then 15th-ranked Texas in which he ran the football at will and looked spectacular.
One could say Hill, whose accuracy has been questioned, has more to prove than Wilson, who was a top-10 pass efficiency passer last week. But is he capable of making big plays come Saturday — with his arm and legs?
Hill’s speed, size and athleticism is a factor. Like Wilson, Hill has the ability to run for touchdowns at any time.
Bronco Mendenhall, who has watched Hill run the ball 28 times for 316 yards in two games, said last week that that kind of run frequency is “not sustainable” for Hill for an entire season. “He can’t keep up that pace, it’s not reasonable. I’d like it if he could,” said BYU’s coach.
There is a question as to whether either one of these quarterbacks can run as much as they have against the defenses they will face come Saturday.
So, the onus is on Hill to be a passer, like Wilson.
“Taysom has a strong arm and he is accurate, I’ve seen it when working out with him,” said Beck, who now lives in San Diego. “I think it's just a matter of him getting more comfortable doing the things he’s doing.”
But according to Beck, when Hill takes to the run, it isn’t a skill set that anyone should take lightly.
“He is so strong and so fast and with his size, there aren’t too many people on the planet like him. You really can’t knock the guy for taking off because he’s so electric running the ball. I’d say don’t have him be the guy sitting back there, doing all the reads and checking down because his feet are just as good as a top receiver.”
I asked Beck how important QB play is in this rivalry game.
Beck said the fact the Utah-BYU game is this early in the season makes a huge difference over the tradition of playing this rivalry in November.
“Back when I played and Max played, you take an entire season’s experience and used it in that game. The BYU-Utah game was the culmination of everything you’d done and learned and it was like: now, we need your very best.” Beck pointed to the fact in 2006 neither BYU or Utah had a turnover in that game — it was the best.
Wilson and Hill don’t have the luxury of a full season of seasoning behind them.
Another factor of playing this early is a lack of game film and tendencies for Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham to pick apart.
“Kyle always did a great job of having new wrinkles. So you could watch a ton of tape from the season of his team but it was like he saved certain things for the BYU game because there were always little wrinkles here and there. Also, his team would play off a lot of things they saw us do during the season. We put so much down on tape for them.
“My senior year, at one point in the game, they were playing off our hand signals. They had seen so much tape, they knew the majority of our hand signals and we had to change them in the middle of the game,” Beck said.
Beck wonders how big of an impact this will have come Saturday, that both Mendenhall and Whittingham have just two or three games to scout, and how much has been held back.
“I still maintain Hill is an accurate thrower. I’ve seen him do it. He has the skill set to do it. If Utah plays off the fact he’s had a few games of not being accurate, I think it will help BYU because they don’t really know what they’re playing against. If you have 11 games to look at, you know exactly what you have. And that goes for BYU looking at Utah and Wilson.”
Beck says the mystery of what Wilson and Hill still have in their respective bags could be the difference in the game.
They both run. One has proven he can throw. People claim the one that can't really can.
One certainty: The QB that comes closest to his team's version of Johnny Football will have the biggest impact on the outcome.The sad thing about these two guys is Saturday is their only shot at each other. A two-year shelving of the rivalry means this is the only one both will play.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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