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BYU football: All eyes on QB Jaren Hall as Cougars open preseason camp

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall says he doesn’t have any goals or checklists for himself in what will almost surely be his final season in Cougar blue before he pursues his dream of playing in the National Football League.

His expectations for the team as a whole? Now that’s another story.

“I believe the sky is the limit,” Hall said Thursday after BYU logged its first practice of 2022 preseason training camp. “We have the potential to have a really good season, as a team.”

Showing more personality and enthusiasm than perhaps at any point in his five years in Provo, a relaxed, confident Hall made the rounds with reporters in the 95-degree heat at the outdoor practice facility and joked about everything from his golf game, to giving coach and recent fourth-time father Kalani Sitake tips on child care, to his decision to wear a long-sleeved undershirt in practice to hide his muscular arms.

“I believe the sky is the limit. We have the potential to have a really good season, as a team.” —BYU quarterback Jaren Hall

Of course, Hall is not only the unquestioned starting quarterback in 2022, he’s also the face of the program, the leader and the alpha dog among players. Last August, when he was locked in a battle to be the starter with four-star prospect Jacob Conover and Baylor Romney, he wasn’t as relaxed and easy going as he was Thursday.

This is his team, and he knows it, even if he’s too humble and self-deprecating to express that outright.

“Just another year of experience under my belt, that’s it,” he said, when asked if camp this year is different knowing he’s the man. “Just a little more confidence. The game is a little slower. I have a little more understanding of things. I am just trying to keep everything simple, as always.”

Praised for how good the passing game looked in the 20 or so minutes of practice that the media was allowed to view Thursday, Hall put the glory on others.

“Our O-line (stood out),” he said. “And how clean the pocket is, how well we ran the ball today. We don’t even have pads on, but they are moving dudes. It is no secret (the O-line) is the strength of our team, as always.”

Actually, it could be argued that Hall is the strength of the team, after he went 8-2 as a starter last season in the 10 games in which he played, throwing for 2,583 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He’s emerged as an NFL draft prospect, another reason why this season is almost certainly his last, even if he does technically have two years of eligibility remaining.

Hall said he and top-three receivers Puka Nacua, Gunner Romney and Keanu Hill are already in sync, having spent countless hours in the offseason honing that chemistry, in addition to what they accomplished last year. Now it is a matter of getting other receivers like Kody Epps, Chase Roberts, Terence Fall and Brayden Cosper on the same page.

BYU starting quarterback Jaren Hall scrambles — in jersey, shorts and helmet — during first practice session of training camp Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Provo.

“Spring ball always feels a little smoother right out of the gate because it is only two months (after the season),” he said. “But then fall camp is four, four-and-a-half months from spring ball, so it is a much longer break. Just finding your synchronization with receivers (is a priority). Today, with all the experienced guys we have, everyone was where they were supposed to be. Now it is a matter of doing everything a little bit quicker, just sync everything up.”

Sitake said Hall looks “a lot more comfortable going into this year” because he’s focused entirely on improving the offense, and not winning a quarterback derby. He said offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has done a masterful job bringing Hall along, just as Roderick did with Zach Wilson when he was the QBs coach and Jeff Grimes was the OC in 2019 and 2020.

“I gave (Roderick) the opportunity to just teach him, and put out the standards he has for him, and the expectations he had for him to accomplish this summer,” Sitake said. “And he did it. We will see what happens in fall camp. In Day 1, Jaren did a great job, as did the other quarterbacks when they were on the field.”

Romney said he’s been working with Hall the entire offseason, almost from the day he decided to return for a final season. Training camp will be used to hone in on specific play concepts and what will work against specific defenses, Romney said.

Did Hall add anything new to his repertoire?

“I mean, no. It is Jaren. We know what to expect from him. He’s a baller,” Romney said. “It is fun seeing him pick apart a defense again, going up against some DBs with the 11-on-11 (sessions). I am excited to watch him play in a full game again.”

Hall said he put on “maybe five pounds” of weight in the offseason and feels “really good” with where he is physically right now after missing the bowl game with an ankle injury.

Obviously, he knows he’s got to take a lot of precautions to stay healthy this season, after failing to finish the 2019 and 2021 seasons due to concussions in 2019 and the aforementioned in 2021. He sat out the entire 2020 season when Wilson was rising to stardom with a hip injury.

“I just have to get the ball out a lot quicker, and understand what is going on,” Hall said. “You can prepare your body, eat right and sleep right. But at the end of the day, if you don’t know what is going on, you can’t protect yourself, so you have to be mentally locked in and know the game better than anyone else.”

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