PROVO — Jason Beck has had little time to worry about anything but his new job as BYU’s quarterback coach the past seven days.
He’s worked with offensive coordinator Robert Anae and three other offensive coaches in scripting the first days of spring football practices, which begin March 4. So far they’ve detailed work for the first three sessions.
It will be interesting to see what BYU does with a full-time, 100 percent dedicated coach to the quarterback position. The Cougars haven’t had this for two seasons when then-QB coach Brandon Doman accepted dual responsibilities as offensive coordinator.
In fact, since Robbie Bosco left BYU’s staff in 2003 and head coach Gary Crowton worked as both offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, the Cougars have played 114 games, and only 64 of them with a full-time QB coach.
That means there have been 50 games BYU worked without a full-time QB coach. Interesting enough, the last 39 of those games were transitional years in which Max Hall graduated and the Cougars tried variations of Jake Heaps, Riley Nelson, Taysom Hill and James Lark as starters. BYU went 7-6, 10-3 and 8-5.
And they’re still in transition.
This is why Beck’s job is so important, to put one guy's full attention on this storied position in Provo.
Beck said BYU’s offense under Anae is a work in progress and will utilize BYU’s traditional offense with parts of what Anae brings from his time at Arizona.
So, why Beck as QB coach?
“That’s probably a better question for Bronco Mendenhall and Anae,” said Beck. “I think from my time here as a player and graduate assistant, I have familiarity with the program, Mendenhall’s vision and goals for the program and the entire BYU experience. I am familiar with Anae’s offense and what he wants and I think they are both confident I can align the quarterbacks with the goals of the program.”
Beck most recently took a quarterback at Simon Fraser who had averaged 140 yards passing a game before he came and got him to pass for more than 300 a game this past season. If Beck were to point to one single reason for that improvement, he’d say it was getting consistency in execution and decision-making.
He says his experience with veteran coach Ron McBride at Weber State was very beneficial. “He is a great coach and he taught me how to get along with players and he made me accountable for how we were playing.”
When Beck worked with LSU offensive coordinator Crowton, he picked up a lot of nuances of QB training. “Obviously, I had a chance to play for him at BYU but when I worked for him and coached with him, I picked up a lot of things. He is very bright and smart and he knows how to coach quarterbacks. That was a great opportunity."
This spring, if Beck were to be cornered into listing the five main things he wants to accomplish with BYU’s quarterbacks this April, they’d go as follows:
First, establish the will and effort of all the quarterbacks to give 100 percent effort and their very best. “My impression from the first week on the job is we have guys who have fully bought in, are fully committed and are doing just that.”
Second is doing what Anae wants, getting the quarterbacks to play hard and fast. “It will be about tempo, establishing how fast we must play. The challenge with a quarterback is you have so much to process very quickly, so we will focus on processing.”
Third is enhancing the overall decision-making ability within the offense. “This means knowing the keys, key reads, key defenders, how to decide where the play needs to go and working through progressions.”
Fourth is position mastery. “This includes taking into account on each and every play what their assignment is and what is the detail of their job, so they can clearly understand and execute their position mastery on every play (footwork, throwing motion, looking off and not locking in a receiver, using protection).
Fifth is leadership. “A quarterback has to be a leader. He has to effectively make everyone around him elevate their level of play, to bring the offense together as a unit and operate at a higher level of production and execution.”
Beck had other opportunities to go other places after a season at Simon Fraser. He could have stayed and received a pay raise, say his friends. But he chose to come back to the same place he picked as a recruited JC All-American out of College of the Canyons.
He is, as one would say, a guy who drinks the BYU Kool-Aid.
“I really am,” said Beck.
“I was that way as a player when recruited here. I wanted to be here and I’ve felt the same way ever since. I love this place and what it represents and coach Mendenhall’s vision and expectations for this program. I think it’s really exciting and unique and a special opportunity to be a part of.”
Beck follows in a long line of interesting folks at this QB coach position. People like Doug Scovil, Mike Holmgren, Norm Chow, Bosco, Crowton and Doman.
It is a chance to carve out a nitch he hopes for the good.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at [email protected].