Back in 1988, the legend of Ty Detmer was born.
Detmer was BYU’s gunslinging redshirt freshman from Texas who was backing up Sean Covey at the quarterback spot. Covey suffered a concussion at Hawaii so Detmer earned his first start the following week against New Mexico at then-Cougar Stadium.
Detmer was spectacular in his debut, completing 24 of 35 for 335 yards and five touchdowns — a quarterback rating of 195.53 — in a 65-0 shutout of the Lobos.
Of course, the following week, Detmer was a miserable 6 of 13 for 45 yards and an interception in a 27-15 loss to San Diego State.
But he recovered nicely, didn’t he?
Redshirt freshman Jaren Hall will make his starting quarterback debut on Saturday at South Florida. Not only is it the first start of Hall’s career but he is the first African American to start at quarterback for BYU.
Expecting numbers as good as Detmer’s is probably setting the bar a little too high, but historically Cougar quarterbacks have performed well in their first start.
Hall will become the tenth quarterback to start a game for BYU since 2010, which is just before the Cougars began independence and playing a front-heavy Power Five schedule. BYU has had just one quarterback complete an entire season since 2010 — ironically, the oft-injured Taysom Hill, who had three of his seasons cut short by injury but played the entire 2013 slate.
Before independence, the Cougars generally kept their quarterbacks upright and healthy. One exception was the 1992 season, when BYU went through four different quarterbacks including Ryan Hancock, John Walsh, Steve Clements and Steve Young’s little brother Tom, who started in the Aloha Bowl against Kansas.
John Beck missed just one start in his college career (2003-06) and Max Hall (2007-2009) didn’t miss any. Beck actually started his first game as a returned missionary freshman in 2003 and was 22 of 45 for 279 yards and one touchdown in an 18-14 loss to Stanford. Hall was 26 of 39 for 288 yards and two scores in his debut against Arizona in 2007, a 20-7 win.
In 2010, Riley Nelson started for BYU against Washington and shared snaps with freshman Jake Heaps. Nelson was 11 of 17 for 131 yards and two touchdowns (a passer rating of 168.26) and also ran for 45 yards on eight carries in a 23-17 win.
Heaps earned his first start a few games later when Nelson was injured, going 24 of 45 for 229 yards (passer rating 96.48) against Nevada in a 27-13 loss.
Hill’s first start came during his freshman season in 2012 and it turned out very well. The Cougars blasted Hawaii 47-0 and Hill was 12 of 21 for 112 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (passer rating 123.85) and also ran 15 times for 143 yards and a score.
That same season — after Hill’s season ended with an injury against Utah State — James Lark made his debut with a fantastic day against New Mexico — 34 of 50 for 384 yards and six touchdowns (passer rating 172.11) and BYU won 50-14.
Christian Stewart took over in 2013 when Hill again went down with a season-ending injury against Utah State. In his first start against Central Florida, Stewart was 22 of 37 for 153 yards, three touchdowns and an interception (passer rating 115.55) and rushed for 52 yards in a 31-24 overtime loss.
In 2015, Tanner Mangum followed up his “Mangum Miracle” against Nebraska with a brilliant performance against Boise State. Mangum was 17 of 28 for 309 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions (passer rating 162.70) and threw the go-ahead scoring pass to Mitch Juergens in the final minute of a 35-24 win.
Injuries forced the first start for Beau Hoge during his sophomore season in 2017. Hoge and the Cougars fell to No. 10 Wisconsin 40-6 with Hoge finishing 11 of 20 for 111 yards and two interceptions (passer rating 81.62).
Later that season freshman Joe Critchlow moved into the starting lineup due to injury and was 14 of 22 for 160 yards and a touchdown (passer rating 139.73) in a 31-21 BYU win at UNLV.
Zach Wilson’s first start was in 2018 — his freshman season — against Hawaii midway through the year. Wilson was 16 of 24 for 194 yards, three touchdowns and an interception (passer rating 167.48) and had a 23-yard scoring run in a 49-23 victory.
Overall, since 2010, BYU quarterbacks in their starting debuts were a combined 6-3.
What to expect from Hall? The 6-foot-1, 205-pound redshirt freshman has received glowing endorsements from his coaches and teammates in the two weeks leading up to Saturday’s game.
Head coach Kalani Sitake and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes both said the offensive scheme won’t change much with Hall at the controls. Hall is an intelligent pocket passer with the athleticism to escape the rush if needed, skills he demonstrated this spring when Wilson was recovering from shoulder surgery.
Sitake said Hall is a much better quarterback now than he was in August when fall camp began.
Saturday’s opponent, South Florida has speed and athleticism and is ranked No. 47 in total defense.
A solid running game would be a nice way for Hall to be effective in play action. The offensive line was pushed around two weeks ago against Toledo and needs a better performance against South Florida.
“Jaren has always been a confident guy, in whatever he does — just like when he’s walking around in the locker room, or walking up to the line of scrimmage to make calls and adjustments,” senior running back Emmanuel Esukpa said. “He has always been ready to do whatever he needs to do to help the team win.”
His teammates say Hall will be ready for his time in the spotlight.
“Jaren has always prepared like he’s the No. 1 quarterback so nothing will be a surprise to him,” BYU senior wide receiver Aleva Hifo said.