The two quarterbacks receiving the most reps throughout spring and fall camp are Taysom Hill and Ammon Olsen. Both have continued the battle during fall camp despite Hill being named the starter.
A big reason why Hill's the number one quarterback in fall camp is because of his athleticism. Hill is the most athletic quarterback to ever play the position at BYU. Yes, even more athletic than Steve Young. But what makes Hill so good is how he'll fit within an offense designed for quarterbacks just like him.
"With Taysom Hill, the thing that really jumps out to you is his athleticism and his ability to make plays with his feet. He can run around and extend plays with his feet," said Coach Beck. "When it comes to his throwing ability, he can throw the ball accurate with good touch. He has good feet and good fundamentals.
"He gets that bad rap that he's just an athletic guy that makes you think he can't throw it, but he can throw it just fine. He can throw the ball really well. When you talk about the hardest throws – the outs, the comebacks – he can make them. He just needs to make them on time."
There is no question Hill's athleticism is outstanding, but in reality he's still a freshman in terms of experience going into this season. He's only started two games (Hawaii and Utah State) and has played in a total of six games, completing 42 of 71 passes. It’s important Hill receives as much practice experience as he can to aid him in his development.
"He's been getting all the reps to get as much experience as possible before we hit that first game," said Coach Beck. "We want him to make quick decisions with the football."
The game has to slow down – an added difficulty in a go-fast, go-hard offense – in the mind of a quarterback so he can read the defense more effectively and make the throws.
"He actually throws it really well with good touch, especially on the deep balls. He can put some touch on those," said Coach Beck. "The biggest thing you can tell he worked on over the summer was the stuff out in the flats, the out passes, the 10-yard outs, the five-yard outs. In the spring he was a little inaccurate on some of those. You can tell he had a good summer and worked hard because he's been hitting those consistently.
In addition, if Hill is to advance as a quarterback at BYU, he has to master the mental side of the position. It's the difference between being an athlete at the quarterback position or becoming a true athletic field general.
"Then where he's really improved on is his general understanding of what everybody's doing instead of just the primary guys," said Beck. "He has a better grasp of what the fourth and fifth guys are doing in the progression. He's understands the whole concept now. Kind of how it works from a progression standpoint is when you first put in plays in an offensive system, a quarterback picks up on the main stuff first. You know, the first or second option or the curl, flat guy. But now he's picking up the whole concept based on what the coverage is doing. You know, how the offense is supposed to react to it. That's where he's made the most progression from spring along with the consistency of his throws."
Last spring camp, Olsen's performance put him on the front lines of quarterback controversy talk. The naming of Hill as the starter going into summer dispelled the foundation of debate.
"Ammon Olsen had a really good spring, and he can really throw the ball," Coach Beck said. "He has a strong arm and can make all the throws. He can make some really good throws while even being off balance."
Olsen's arm strength and athleticism propelled him to challenge Hill on the starting front line. That challenge has continued over fall camp with reports of Olsen's performance.
"There were a couple of times when he was being rushed or blitzed and couldn't really get his feet set, so before getting his feet set he just slung it out there," Coach Beck said. "He's just got a really strong arm and that allows him to make those throws.
"He also has some really good athleticism to do some of the things that Taysom does in the offense, which is nice because we don't have to totally change it when gets in there. We just keep doing the same things and let him run it that way, and he's competitive and he feels he should be the guy that should be starting. He's working hard to kind of prove himself and push Taysom as much as he can."
A slight difference between the two is that Olsen's timing isn’t quite as sharp as Hill’s.
"Ammon has a big-time arm but he's a little later in making those throws," said Coach Beck. "Taysom can make the throws. It's just a matter of having his feet good and being on time with them."
Of all the quarterbacks at BYU, Olsen possesses the greatest arm strength. This strength has both served and hindered Olsen.
"With Ammon Olsen, his biggest thing was his footwork. For him it was about improving his footwork and being consistent with his footwork on all the plays," said Coach Beck. "He has such a strong arm that he got comfortable with, 'Hey, I can make all the throws,' that his footwork suffered. When he gets his feet into them, then he's much more accurate and gets more on his throws. That's what he's improved upon over the summer."
The effectiveness in which a quarterback gathers information and processes it in a fast-paced scheme is vital to the success of the offense.
"Then the other thing Ammon has improved upon was the speed aspect of getting the snap off. The offense would be set, lined up, and ready to go and he would process things a second or two longer before he would snap it. Right now he's sped that up a little bit, so when everyone else is ready to go he's already processed what he's doing and is ready to snap it. Before, say guys were set at 12 seconds, he would take another two seconds with his decision making in his mind, thinking, 'Okay, who am I going to key in and what have I got going?' That's where we ended in spring and now that's faster for him now in fall camp. When everyone is ready to go, he's already processed that information and ready to go."
While Hill was ahead of Olsen in this key area, both have continued making strides in how quickly they process information.
"When you're going fast it's just a matter of processing and operating at that speed," said Beck. "They've both done a pretty nice job adapting and adjusting and getting more comfortable, and of course that's happening every day, though we're not quite there yet. I feel good with where we're at a few weeks out here."