This whole spring has been crazy different. Being in high school three months ago, some of the seniors on the team have really taken me under their wing and shown me around and it’s made practicing a lot easier. —Zach Wilson
PROVO — For weeks, freshman quarterback Zach Wilson has turned in impressive performances during BYU’s spring practices with his strong arm and his ability to make plays with his feet.
On Wednesday, Wilson spoke to the media for the first time. As per BYU policy, newcomers aren’t allowed to grant interviews until after an acclimatization period.
Wilson originally committed to Boise State but ended up signing with the Cougars last December, after BYU hired offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes. Wilson graduated early from Corner Canyon High and enrolled at BYU in January so he could participate in spring ball.
“This whole spring has been crazy different,” he said. “Being in high school three months ago, some of the seniors on the team have really taken me under their wing and shown me around and it’s made practicing a lot easier. You feel more comfortable. It doesn’t feel a ton different, kind of like I expected it to be.”
Wilson is one of six active quarterbacks on the roster. He, junior Beau Hoge and sophomore Joe Critchlow are splitting the live reps in practices.
“You kind of expect with this many quarterbacks, everyone just gets a fair shot,” Wilson said. “It’s taking the most out of every opportunity that you can get. If you can do well, you can keep taking more reps.”
As a senior last season, Wilson helped guide Corner Canyon to an 11-1 record and a berth in the 5A semifinals. In October, he was sidelined for two games due to a left ankle injury. Wilson ended up throwing for 2,976 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for 719 yards and eight scores.
He's feeling healthy now.
“It’s the first time my ankle’s never bothered me before,” he said. “Besides that, I feel great.”
As far as the new offense goes, Wilson is accustomed to taking snaps out of the shotgun, but said he feels comfortable running a pro-style offense, too.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment. My sophomore and junior year, I was on a pro-style team. It feels like I’ve been there, done that before,” he said. “I like the spread/shotgun stuff better to a point. But I think the play-action kills defenses. If that’s what our team wants to do and that’s what’s going to work, I’m totally cool with it.”
Where does Wilson stand on the depth chart?
“I’m not sure,” he said. “We’re rotating every quarterback. What I’m worrying about right now is just myself. When coach tells me to go in, I’m going to take full advantage of every opportunity I have to get our team down the field to score and then go from there.”
During the spring, coaches have allowed quarterbacks to take hits.
“I think it’s great,” Wilson said. “Everybody’s bigger and stronger. You learn quickly to slide. It shows something if you can stand there and take a hit.”
Wilson said he has forged a friendship with Hoge and mentioned him as one who has helped him acclimate to BYU. He also credited the receivers for helping him feel comfortable.
Wilson likes Grimes’ demeanor and his desire to push players to be the best they can be. He also enjoys working with new quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick. Wilson grew up a Utah fan and Roderick spent a decade coaching the Utes.
“I’ve known him for maybe the last 10 years,” Wilson said of Roderick. “Me and A-Rod have a pretty good connection. I think he’s a great coach and he’s super knowledgeable. I’m glad that I can come here and play with him, too, because I think we connect really well.”
After Monday’s practice, Roderick said Wilson had “hit the wall a little bit. He got a little greedy. He’s trying to do too much sometimes. He’s a talented guy and he can make some plays. That’s part of being a young player. It’s learning when to take chances and when to be smart. But his upside is really high. He’s got a lot of talent.”
BYU’s offense had its way with the defense Wednesday.
“I think we’re just executing better. We had a rough scrimmage last Friday,” Wilson said. “Today, the main thing was to execute, keep our energy high and be able to stay poised in the pocket. We did a better job of that today.”
Between now and the spring game on April 7, Wilson knows what he needs to do.
“Every single day, just work,” he said. “Go to the film room and find my mistakes and the next day completely fix those mistakes. Every day improve, that’s it.”