‘Ready no matter what’ – BYU quarterback Jacob Conover prepares for backup position
BYU quarterback Jacob Conover was the third-stringer behind Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney for most of his freshman season, but is now preparing for whatever comes his way as the Cougars look ahead to the 2022 season.
Backup quarterback is one of the most unheralded, yet important positions in all of sports. The starting quarterback’s job is to be in complete control of the offense, like the conductor of an orchestra. The backup quarterback’s job, on the other hand, is to simply be ready at a moment’s notice.
Backup quarterbacks have been called upon in crucial situations at all levels, even in the NFL, and many have seized the opportunity to make their mark. Nick Foles filled in for Carson Wentz and led the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Kurt Warner’s first year as a starter he won MVP and led the Rams to a Super Bowl. Even the “GOAT,” Tom Brady, started as a backup quarterback.
BYU has no shortage of all-time great quarterbacks in its history. Almost as importantly, however, BYU has had a plethora of great backup quarterbacks who have helped save the day when needed most. From Blaine Fowler stepping up in the 1984 Holiday Bowl to help win a national championship to Tanner Mangum’s Hail Mary at Nebraska in 2015, backup quarterbacks have always delivered for BYU.
Baylor Romney, BYU’s backup quarterback the last three seasons, announced on Dec. 31, 2021, that he would be moving on from the BYU football program, leaving the door open for Conover to presumably fill the backup quarterback spot in 2022 behind Hall.
Conover, a highly recruited four-star prospect out of Chandler, Arizona, helped lead Chandler High School to three Arizona state championships while amassing over 10,000 career passing yards and 100 passing touchdowns in his high school career.
As a member of BYU’s 2019 recruiting class, Conover turned down offers from Arizona State, Ole Miss, Washington State and, most notably Alabama, to come to Provo. Conover is entering his third season in the BYU football program but because of a redshirt year and a COVID-19 year, he is still just a freshman.
He joined the BYU football team during the 2020 season after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asuncion, Paraguay. In 2020, Conover was able to sit behind and learn from future second overall NFL draft pick and current New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.
“Just getting to soak it all up and learn was awesome,” Conover said. “(Wilson) was the second overall pick. I was just so blessed to be a part of that team.”
Going into the 2021 season, Conover competed with Hall and Romney during fall camp to be the starting quarterback, with Hall ultimately winning the starting job.
“You never want to watch someone else do your job, but that’s a part of how football is,” Conover said. “It taught me how to face adversity and you never know when you are going to get your shot.”
There are challenges that come with having to wait your turn, but the importance of having a healthy quarterback room is the highest priority for Conover.
“You can never have a toxic quarterback room,” Conover said. “You have to focus on yourself and not compare yourself to the other quarterbacks. Focusing on myself and my own potential helped keep me grounded.”
Conover was able to get his first shot this past season. With Hall sidelined because of a rib injury against Utah State, Romney was sprung into action. But late in the second quarter Romney took a hit to the head and had to sit the remainder of the game with a concussion.
Conover came in and helped BYU hold on to its double-digit halftime lead against the Aggies in a 34-20 victory in Logan. He wasn’t asked to do much, but he did enough to get the win while going 5-of-9 on passing for 45 yards.
“I was ready for that,” Conover said in regards to stepping up against Utah State. “I wasn’t in the mindset, ‘Oh this sucks, I’m not playing right now.’ The coaches helped me understand that I was right there and I was ready.”
The second half against Utah State gave Conover the only meaningful snaps he played in 2021, but that hasn’t stopped him from working hard to be ready when his number is called again.
“I take hard work very personally,” Conover said. “Whether I am the starting quarterback or not, I will be the hardest working person, in the weight room and on the field, and that’s how I try to earn the respect of my teammates.”
Recent BYU football history tells us that Conover will need to be ready to step in at some point this season. Since 2014, BYU has had the same starting quarterback for every game in only one season: 2020 with Wilson. Romney was pushed into being the starter three times for BYU in 2021 because of injuries to Hall.
Conover is very aware of the importance of the backup quarterback and with the departure of Romney, it might have just pushed up how quickly his number could be called.
“You never know when you are going to get your shot,” Conover said. “My number is going to get called soon. Whenever that is, whether this year or next year, I’m going to be ready no matter what.”