BYU quarterback Jaren Hall (3) looks to throw against Baylor during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Waco, Texas. (Ron Jenkins, Associated Press)
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PROVO — The starting quarterback at Brigham Young University did something different than most weeks after the Cougars’ 38-24 home win over former conference rival Wyoming.
Jaren Hall slid into his usual postgame press conference late, took a seat next to breakout running back Miles Davis, and patiently waited his turn to answer questions from the media — and occasionally ribbing the redshirt freshman ball carrier for not crossing the goal line on a particularly electric 70-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys.
But Hall — who is regularly prompt and thoughtful in his postgame responses, even when he’s called upon to address the media after a loss — slipped in the back and waited his turn. His reason for being late?
He just wanted to spend more time with the fans. In the moments after throwing for 337 yards and four touchdowns in his third-straight game without an interception, Hall made the full lap around the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium with his teammates and stopped for every fan that asked him for his time. He was one of the last people to leave the playing surface, as captured by the team’s Instagram account.
The former Maple Mountain High star signed every autograph, took every selfie, and stayed for every fan who wanted a moment for more than 40 minutes after the game ended late on a Saturday night — really, into Sunday morning — the game after he became the 20th BYU quarterback all-time to throw for more than 4,000 yards in his career.
BYU has had a lot of great quarterbacks, dating back to its days as “Quarterback U.” in the 1980s to Hall’s predecessor Zach Wilson, the breakout Corner Canyon High star who set a program record as the No. 2 overall draft pick by the New York Jets in 2021.
But the school has only had one Jaren Hall.
“You look at the things that he does naturally, that’s a young man that doesn’t take anything for granted,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said of his signal caller and offensive captain. “He understands the opportunity to be a leader, to be in charge of the offense, and I think he takes extra care of the football because of that mindset. Then you see him do wonderful things, like spend extra time with fans and with players that are hurting. It’s a joy to have Jaren on our team, as a leader, as a captain, as our quarterback. But it’s the little things that got him here.
“He took advantage of the adversity. … He had his mindset a long time ago.”
Sitake called Hall “the perfect example to watch” of the quarterback in modern college football, from his time as a returned missionary to injury to the past two seasons assuming the starting role of the most important job in Provo.
“He knew his time would come and that he’d have an opportunity to earn a spot,” Sitake said. “He did it, and look what’s happening now.”
And yet, if Hall accomplished anything special or unique Saturday, his mind wasn’t on it. By the time he got off the field and headed toward the locker room, he was locked in on Thursday’s short-week kickoff against in-state rival Utah State (6 p.m. MDT, ESPN).
Not on the 81% completion percentage he had just posted; not on the NFL draft boards he’s rising; not on the lack of interceptions he’s thrown — just one on the year, and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick took the blame for that one due to play-calling in the end zone of the season opener against South Florida.
If Saturday was Hall’s best performance in a BYU uniform, and that could certainly be argued, he wasn’t thinking of any of it.
“I’ll let the coaches decide that,” he added. “For me, there’s always stuff I can get better on. There are a handful of plays I can think of right now where I didn’t put us in great situations. All I’m concerned about is getting better, and how I play. I’ll let the film tell that when we go back and watch it.”
The clear-cut top-3 QBs in 2023 class are CJ Stroud, Bryce Young and Will Levis. Tyler Van Dyke and Anthony Richardson are loaded with traits but have disappointed. Talking to NFL scouts, these QB’s are rising fast: BYU Jaren Hall, UT Hendon Hooker and Fresno St Jake Haener.
— Todd McShay (@McShay13) September 27, 2022
Hall opened the season as a fringe draft prospect but is “rising fast,” according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.
“The clear-cut top-3 QBs in 2023 class are (Ohio State’s) C.J. Stroud, (Alabam’s) Bryce Young and (Kentucky’s) Will Levis,” McShay tweeted. “Tyler Van Dyke and Anthony Richardson are loaded with traits but have disappointed.
“Talking to NFL scouts, these QBs are rising fast: BYU’s Jaren Hall, (Tennessee’s) Hendon Hooker and Fresno (State’s) Jake Haener.”
The redshirt junior who is expected by many to declare for the NFL draft after the season due to age and five years in the program (in addition to a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Roseville, California) has made 612 passes or rushes during his career at BYU, with seven giveaways (six interceptions, one fumble) lost. That’s a giveaway every 87.4 touches, according to data compiled by BYUtv’s Jarom Jordan.
Jordan further elaborated that Hall’s giveaway rate currently exceeds Wilson (58.3), Taysom Hill (40.5), John Beck (39.2) and Jim McMahon (35.1). Each of those quarterbacks had at least a short career in the NFL — and Hall is likely to be the next.
In a season where Gunner Romney hasn’t played and Puka Nacua has just four catches for 22 yards (with another 90 yards and two touchdowns on the ground) in two games, Hall is impressing plenty of people — including the head coach tasked with stopping him Thursday.
Jaren Hall has 612 passes/rushes at BYU (486/126).
7 giveaways (6 INTs, 1 fumble lost)
1 giveaway every 87 throws/rushes.
This dude takes care of the ball. pic.twitter.com/qcEZU0yYnK
— Jarom Jordan (@jaromjordan) September 25, 2022
“He’s been somewhat flawless,” Utah State coach Blake Anderson said. “I know they’ve got a loss on their record, and he may be frustrated about his play, but what he’s done in terms of accuracy, the ability to move the pocket and extend plays, and to reach the wide side of the field so effectively is not something everybody can do.
“They run the ball extremely well, and that takes off a ton of pressure; it doesn’t really matter what running back they put on the field. He can reach every area of the field, and he can hurt you with his feet. He’s the total package. We didn’t see him a year ago, but we’re seeing him up close and personal this year. He’s playing at a very high level.”
Added Wyoming’s Craig Bohl following the Cowboys’ loss in Provo: “He’s poised, he can make all the throws … he’s excellent. He played really well tonight. There’s a lot of good ones out there, but he’s the best one I’ve seen this year.”
Kody Epps is Hall’s most-targeted receiver with 16 catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Keanu Hill (223 yards, three touchdowns) and Chase Roberts (223 yards, one touchdown) the most productive, and breakout stars emerge almost weekly from Brayden Cooper to tight ends Isaac Rex and Masen Wake.
Each of them have one thing in common: QB1.
“Jaren has always been such a calm, confident guy on the field,” Cosper said. “I think this year, it just shows in his preparation and work over the offseason that he’s really confident in where he wants to go with the ball.
“Rarely do you see Jaren get panicked in the pocket and make a bad decision. This year, he sees the coverage well, knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball, and we’re confident that he can make any throw.”