BYU fans were excited to see starting quarterback Taysom Hill play in BYU’s second practice open to the public. However, a different man in a green jersey made the big passing plays during BYU’s first practice in full pads.
Backup QB Christian Stewart.
Stewart had three touchdown passes during BYU’s two team scrimmage sessions on Wednesday. One was a pass to Jamaal Williams in the backfield that Williams took to the house, but the other two were 40-yard or longer bombs to junior college transfer Devon Blackmon.
No need for Cougar fans to be worried about Stewart’s arm strength.
Meanwhile, Hill didn’t have a touchdown pass during the team scrimmage. Hill did just fine in practice, and he was able to throw the ball both from the pocket and on the run. Also, the BYU coaches had the offense turn around every time it got inside the defense’s 10-yard line. Plus, Hill threw some nice touchdown passes in 7-on-7 drills at the end of practice.
While Hill isn’t in danger of Stewart stealing his starting position, Stewart did steal the show in practice.
Of course, there’s a big difference between what happens in practice, even in full pads, than what happens during a game. Stewart has precious little experience as, he’s played in only one game at BYU, and that was against Idaho State of the FCS. Stewart went 0-2 passing and was sacked for a 5-yard loss against the Bengals. Stewart was a star while at Snow College, finishing second in the nation with 39 touchdowns, but there’s quite a difference between junior college and the FBS.
Some fans were understandably concerned when Ammon Olsen, last year’s backup to Hill, transferred to SUU. That said, Stewart has progressed nicely since spring practice, and it shows.
Perhaps the most reassuring thing about Stewart is he’s confortable in BYU’s new “go fast, go hard” offense. Stewart is pretty mobile in his own right, and he showed off his speed running to the edge a few times this fall. The Cougar offense wouldn’t need to change its entire offensive scheme if Hill can’t play.
What also helps is that BYU has a lot of talented receivers this year. That talent was on full display as Blackmon, Mitch Mathews, Jordan Leslie, Ross Apo and Mitch Juergens all made nice plays.
Stewart didn’t have a perfect day by any means however. DB Michael Shelton intercepted a pass during the scrimmage, and Stewart would have been sacked a few times if this had been a live game.
That said, Stewart was able to throw the ball well for most of the practice.
BYU fans hope that Hill will stay healthy and Stewart will only play late in blowouts. However, it appears in practice that Stewart has progressed enough as a passer to be a solid backup to Hill.
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.