PROVO BYU quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman hardly paused when asked if Max Hall reminded him of himself.
"No," Doman deadpanned. "He's not that good."
If anyone can answer the question about Hall's ability and potential, it's Doman, who was 14-2 as a fiery starter for BYU from 2000-01. Asked to compare Hall to the litany of great quarterbacks in school history, Doman offered lavish praise for his junior QB, who completed 34-of-41 passes for 486 yards in last Saturday's victory over Northern Iowa.
"I think he could be as good as anybody that this school's ever had. I think his mentality is a lot like Jim McMahon," Doman said. "He plays a lot like him, which is a huge compliment because I think Jim McMahon is one of the most fierce competitors that has ever played this game.
"That's where Max fits in, kind of that mold, as a fierce competitor. He's just really efficient and sound in his passing game.
"We're looking forward to a fun season," Doman said.
One game into his junior campaign, Hall is making a case for comparisons both statistically and artistically to the likes of McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer and other BYU QB legends.
At the end of his sophomore campaign, Hall ranked fourth in BYU history in passing yardage (3,848 yards in 2007) behind Detmer, Steve Sarkisian and Robbie Bosco through their first 13 career starts. In fact, if Hall simply matches last year's passing total, he'll eclipse the career yardage marks of Gifford Nielsen (5,833), Sarkisian (7,464) and Marc Wilson (7,637) and climb to No. 7 on the all-time passing charts with one more season to play.
If Hall equals that same yardage total as a senior, he'll climb past his predecessor, John Beck (11,021), who stands No. 2 on the list behind Detmer (15,031).
For now, though, Hall's most impressive stat is that he is 12-2 as a starter.
Despite Hall's glossy stats in the season-opener, Hall and Doman aren't satisfied. Hall graded out at a "B."
"I thought I did a lot of really good things and made a lot of really good throws, but at the same time, I missed some things," Hall said. "I expect perfection out of myself. I need to see the pre-snap stuff quicker. For the most part, I need to be sharper.
"It was a good first game for me, but I definitely have a lot I can improve on. That's a good thing to know there's stuff I can get better at."
Doman also sees plenty of room for improvement for Hall.
"I know he had a great game as far as statistics were concerned, but it was about a first-game performance for him," Doman said. "He had some things I'd like to see him to do better. There were a couple of throws that he shouldn't have thrown. A couple of decisions, pre-snap, that he made that weren't in alignment with what he should have been doing.
"Now, he missed what, seven throws? Seven throws out of 41. Maybe I'm being a little picky, but he knows exactly what I'm talking about," Doman continued. "Some of those decisions were fairly simple ones. Sometimes he gets outside the box, which at times makes him really good. At times, it could hurt him if he's not careful. Fortunately, it didn't hurt us on Saturday.
"But, goodness gracious, for the statistics, he was outstanding. We're fortunate he's our quarterback."
And the Cougars are praying that Hall remains the quarterback all year long. After the blind-side shot he took in the end zone last Saturday, those concerns surfaced again.
"We don't ever want him to take a hit like that," Doman said. "He came off the field and we called a timeout because he looked a little woozy."
Hall went to the sidelines and Doman called him from the press box. "I said, 'Are you all right? What the heck happened?' Max said, 'Man, coach, I needed that.' It just goes to show the type of guy he is," Doman said.
"He's a tough competitor. Adversity makes this guy play better. Everybody in the nation wants a quarterback who plays better under adversity because you're going to face it in every game. That's what makes him who he is right now."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall says Hall's fearlessness makes him vulnerable to injury, but he's going to allow Hall to play his way.
"Max will stand in (the pocket) a second late rather than deliver the ball a second early. That's what makes him really good," Mendenhall said. "It's a trade-off right now we're willing to take."I'm not sure we're going to address it with Max other than to just let him play. I don't want to take away his confidence nor his poise or courage standing in the pocket. That might seem like ill-advised judgment, but he makes a lot of plays by standing in a hair longer. Over the long haul, that will benefit us."