Dick Harmon: Will BYU quarterback Taysom Hill develop into an accurate passer?
The mission thing is real. Until Brandon Doman led BYU to a MWC title in 2001, no BYU quarterback who had served an LDS mission had ever led the Cougars to a conference title. That adjustment alone is something neither Utah nor Utah State currently has to deal with. They have QBs who are continuing to play football immediately out of Texas and California high schools.
It sounds like an excuse, but it is a challenge.
Hill reminds me of Steve Young, a high school athlete I first interviewed out of Greenwich, Conn. He was an option quarterback recruited by Army and others. He never served a mission. Young spent time behind Jim McMahon and was three years into his college career before he became a starter. He went on to become an inductee into the College and NFL Halls of Fame.
Young, like Hill, is a tremendous competitor and hard worker. During his early days in Provo, Young couldn’t throw a lick.
In high school, passing was the last thing Young’s high school coach Mike Ornato wanted Young to do.
“Hey, if I threw the football in high school, it wasn’t in public,” said Young. His biggest recruiting look came from North Carolina, where coach Dick Crum wanted him for his running ability.
When Young got to BYU his freshman year, he turned the heads of nobody — not even assistant coach Doug Scovil, who wanted to make him a safety. His passes were wobbly, off target, and his throwing motion was awkward. He had no footwork and no clue. Even assistant Ted Tollner, who was in Young’s corner, patiently watched him work up the ranks behind starter McMahon and backups Royce Bybee, Eric Krzmarzick, Mark Haugo, Gym Kimball and Mike Jones.
All-America tight end Gordon Hudson watched Young back-peddle, trip and fall down and asked, “Is this guy a walk-on?”
Unlike Hill’s freshman appearances against Hawaii and Utah State, Young never played as a freshman but started three games as a sophomore when McMahon got injured at Colorado.
In Young’s three games as a sophomore, he was 4 of 10 for 63 yards at Colorado; 21 of 40 against USU; and 21 of 40 against UNLV. Playing behind a great offensive line, a legendary coaching staff, and having McMahon as a tutor, his completion percentage was 51.1 percent.
In time, with a lot of hard work, Young watched his challengers fall away: Krzmarzick transferred to Florida; Kimball took off for USU; Jones left for Cal-Lutheran; and Haugo transferred to San Diego State.
Meanwhile, Young became a passer, one of the most accurate BYU’s had. By the end of his NFL career, his 112.8 rating was the highest efficiency rating in recorded NFL history.
No, I’m not saying Taysom Hill is Steve Young.
But they are similar athletes. Young was a 4.43 sprinter in the 40-yard dash. Hill has similar speed — only he’s bigger and stronger than Young.
As frustrating as it is to see Hill complete just 37 percent of his passes in three games, he’s been thrown a pretty big challenge early, coming off an injury and that two-year absence.
He’ll need a lot of hard work — thousands of reps. He must create timing with his strength and fine-tune his fast-twitch muscle fiber. It takes time.
Question is, will BYU’s coaching staff give him time? Or do they put him on a short leash and prepare Olsen?
Young wasn’t allowed to even dress for BYU’s first two home games his freshman year in Provo. He didn’t make the traveling squad. His had a first year of waiting, watching and working — with little rewards at all.
Hill? His time came quick and on the run.
Something Steve Young never had to do.
Is Hill ready to be a 60 percent passer?
But Anae and Co. can make it easier by scripting throws that enable him to succeed, perfect those routes and nail down the timing.
As Beck said, Hill must find comfort in what he’s doing, how he stands, how he makes reads, how he delivers the ball with touch, and how he believes in his protection so he can concentrate on just throwing.
I haven’t seen that comfort yet.
And who’s to say Olsen will feel that comfort, even if he has better touch, if he is not given the time that an enhanced offensive line performance would bring?
Until then, like we’ve seen the past two seasons at BYU, at least Hill can run out of trouble.
And that’s something.
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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