Former Boise State commit Zach Wilson getting an opportunity at BYU
Both Zach Wilson and Boise State coaches say that there is still mutual admiration for one another, even after what could have been a nasty split less than a year ago.
Wilson, a 3-star quarterback from Draper, Utah, committed to the Broncos in June 2017 and for six months appeared to be in contention to be the heir apparent to four-year starter Brett Rypien. But he decommitted from the Broncos less than a week before the early signing day in December, and eventually signed with BYU.
In Provo, Wilson has taken over the starting quarterback position, replacing Eagle High graduate Tanner Mangum in October. He gets his third start of the season this week, in a stadium where he nearly called home.
BYU (4-4) travels to Boise on Saturday to take on the Broncos (6-2) at Albertsons Stadium. The game is scheduled for an 8:15 p.m. kickoff on ESPN2.
“You pretty much prepare like another game, but thinking about it, it’s a pretty cool opportunity,” said Wilson, who has played in four games this season, throwing for 466 yards and four touchdowns. “I think Boise’s a great school and I know they’re a well-coached program. I was super close with their staff, I know how they run things over there and I know they’re a great team. I’m just excited for this opportunity.”
Wilson insists the move had more to do with factors away from football as opposed to anything Boise State coaches did or said. Ultimately, he said, the decision was more around his life after football.
“I was hard core, 100 percent Boise State, no desire in my mind to change,” Wilson said. “It was kind of just a reality check how my future in life would play out when football’s over. I thought with the opportunity football presented here at BYU, it was nice, but at the same time I thought my life and future would be better at a school like BYU with the education and things like that.
“It was an extremely tough decision to decommit. I loved the coaching staff, I loved the offense, the skill talent and players they have over there. That was really hard for me to pull off on something like that.”
Boise State was preparing to face Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl when news of Wilson’s decommitment reached them. Despite it coming so close to signing day, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said this week that there wasn’t any hard feelings that developed from the situation, noting that similar situations happen frequently in college football.
“That’s just part of recruiting,” Harsin said. “There’s guys we played against that we recruited I wouldn’t say every game, but quite a few teams. That’s just part of the process. It works both ways.”
Wilson isn’t the only former Boise State commit who plays for the Cougars. BYU running back Squally Canada committed to the Broncos in 2013, but signed with Washington State. After one year at Washington State, he transferred to BYU.
Wilson has taken over the Cougars offense as a true freshman, starting in games against Hawaii and Northern Illinois. The two games were polar opposites of one another, with Wilson throwing for 194 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-23 win against Hawaii. He had a 208-yard passing performance against the Huskies last week, but didn’t lead the Cougars to any offensive drives as BYU fell 7-6.
“We knew they they were a challenge for us, but we didn’t think it was anything we couldn’t handle,” Wilson said about Northern Illinois. “I thought we did well on some drives, but we need to do better in the red zone and on third downs. That’s just something you put in your week of preparation, and I think we’ll find our identity on offense soon.”
BYU coach Kelani Sitake said in order for the BYU offense to be successful, it’s going to have to start giving its quarterback better protection. Sitake didn’t diminish anything the true freshman has done the past two games, but said that too often he was forced to use his feet to make plays after pass protection broke down.
“I appreciate him making great highlights and jumping over people and getting first downs,” Sitake told media in Provo this week. “But we’re not going to do well putting him in that type of situation. He’s a gunslinger, let him sling the ball. It’s hard to do that when you’re running for your life.”
For Wilson, he’s just soaking in the opportunity to make a difference on the team so soon. And he couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out.
“I can’t ask for anymore, playing as a freshman at BYU,” said Wilson. “It’s such a cool opportunity and I just hope to take advantage of it. I’m happy with how we’re doing. I wish, of course, we could be winning more games at this point, but I think there’s a turning point and we still got a lot of time.”