Jaren Hall ready to ride as BYU’s uncontested starting quarterback

Jaren Hall was given a monster task in 2021: How does one go about succeeding an NFL quarterback, let alone a first round draft pick and highest overall selection in program history?

Not only did Hall prove himself as the clear winner of BYU’s preseason quarterback derby, but he established himself as much more than merely Zach Wilson’s replacement, quietly putting together one of the most efficient passing campaigns in the nation.

Now firmly in the driver’s seat as BYU’s starter headed into fall camp with no questions asked, Hall could be primed for an NFL-sized leap of his own in 2022. Just don’t let him hear that.

“I disregard all that stuff, it’s poison,” Hall said of his NFL buzz at BYU’s media day in June. “Playing in the NFL is any college football player’s dream, but right now you just have to play the best you can in your system, follow your coach’s advice and play well as a team. Teams that win games end up getting guys drafted. If we can go play well as a team and then do that through every game on the schedule, that just kind of takes care of all those other details after the season.”

While Hall finds the outside noise poisonous, such “poison” is really quite impressive — he’s been named a watchlist selection for the prestigious Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards in the past few weeks, was proclaimed a possible future first round draft choice by Pro Football Network’s Cam Mellor and was listed as the sixth-best quarterback draft prospect in the loaded 2023 class by Mel Kiper, Jr. of ESPN.

“You’ve got to be mature enough to let it bounce off you, the good stuff and the bad,” Hall said. “None of it can get in your head. You’ve got to stay focused, and for our team collectively with two years of good success, the focus is to keep that chip on our shoulder.”

Hall’s throws are zippy and accurate. His footwork is sound, his decision making is steady and his dual-threat abilities make him capable of extending any play — all traits that professional scouts drool over leading up to draft day. Hall’s size and skillset have earned him comparisons to Pro Bowlers Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott, although Hall admitted to watching more film from Josh Allen, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes in his personal study.

Hall’s most crucial ability, however, will be his durability, which hasn’t always been his friend. He missed three games in 2021 (including BYU’s bummer of an Independence Bowl), all of 2020 and exited both of his 2019 starts early with injuries. While health can always be a wild card, Hall plans to use his mind to his advantage in order to stay intact all season and shed any “injury-prone” labels.

“I think being more mentally in tune and knowing what’s going on is the best equation for me to stay healthy,” Hall said. “I’m an athletic quarterback and I’m always going to do what I have to do to make plays throughout the season, but if I can just limit some of those crunch time plays when you have to put yourself on the line and sacrifice your body, I think that will help.”

Jaren Hall fires a pass in BYU’s win over Utah on Sept. 11, 2021. (BYU photo)

Tossing 20 touchdowns over 10 games in 2021 — with another three scores on the ground at five yards a carry — Hall coughed up a mere five total turnovers in 358 combined passing or rushing attempts for a minuscule 1.4% giveaway rate. Despite losing receivers Neil Pau’u and Samson Nacua along with running back Tyler Allgeier, BYU still returns the nation’s second-most offensive production, allowing Hall the ultra-valuable asset of stability in his offense.

“Everyone’s coming back, so now we get to take time to really get to know each other,” Hall said. “Let’s go in smaller groups, let’s throw, talk through stuff, go out to eat and chill. It’s been great to get to know guys personally, let down my own walls and let them get to know me and it’s been very humbling to see everybody’s experiences, where they come from and I think that builds more trust on the field.”

Such trust goes both ways, as Hall’s incumbent status under center benefits everyone around him both on and off the field. “He’s the type of person that everybody is going to listen to what he has to say, and that has to be the most underrated part of his game,” wide receiver Gunner Romney said.

“It’s good for Jaren to just be the leader of our team,” offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said. “He’s really grown as a leader, our players respect him, the way he played last year, how he carries himself, how he gives credit to his teammates, how he’s always quick to critique himself when he doesn’t do something right, so that’s great from a leadership standpoint.”

Arguably Hall’s most important teammate relationships are those he shares with his offensive line, a unit filled with NFL bodies tasked with protecting the fifth-year junior. When he became the first BYU quarterback to beat Utah in over a decade, Hall’s first order of business was to shout out his linemen on social media and ask to get them an NIL deal. How many other quarterbacks are doing that?

It’s clear that Hall adores his brethren in the trenches, and the feeling is mutual.

“Jaren is a great guy,” offensive lineman Blake Freeland said. “If you pay him a compliment, he shoots it right back at you. He’s always involved. He’s very selfless and a great leader.” 

“It’s a great blessing to have a guy at quarterback as talented as Jaren Hall,” lineman Clark Barrington added.

Hall threw for more than 2,500 yards over 10 games in 2021, throwing at least one touchdown in nine contests and multiple scores in seven. He completed 64% of his passes for a 78.0 adjusted QBR — good for 15th best in the country. BYU’s offense averaged 33.3 points per game with Hall under center, but more importantly the Cougars went 8-2 in Hall’s starts with six Power 5 wins and, of course, beat Utah.

Hall’s 2021 performance may have been overshadowed by Allgeier’s record-breaking campaign, but his numbers quietly stacked up against Provo’s prolific passers, as Hall’s 8.7 yards per attempt and 156.1 passer rating were each 11th best in BYU’s storied history of quarterback excellence. BYU tends to thrive when it returns an experienced quarterback, and the prospect of Hall improving upon the success he’s already had while correcting past hiccups should merit plenty of stoke from fans.

“I think last year was a bit of a slow start offensively,” Hall said. “I think part of that was trying to find out how we played together and then missing a lot of opportunities looking back. Hopefully the cohesiveness going into game one will help us start off a little quicker, but we still have to execute and we still need to do our assignments right, and that’s football.”

Will Jaren Hall be an NFL quarterback? 2022 is the year to find out, but there’s little doubt among his BYU teammates that Hall’s talent can lead the Cougars to a third straight season of national prestige.

“He’s intelligent, but I think the biggest thing is he’s a competitor and wants to win,” running back Lopini Katoa said. “Jaren has that same love for the game that Zach (Wilson) had, so it starts with him and flows to the whole offense, and even into the defense sometimes when they need it. With his skill set, he can do it all.”

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