Last week Sportingnews.com ranked their Top 25 players in college football for 2014. The list featured Marcus Mariota as the #1 player for the upcoming season, followed by Jameis Winston and others. BYU's very own quarterback made the list at number 15.
So the question is: How good is Taysom Hill? Can he led the Cougars on a championship run? Could he set even more records for BYU in his upcoming season? At times he seems unstoppable and could make a run at the Heisman, while at other times he seems dazed and confused which in turn lead to costly turnovers.
Before we dig into what he could do, and possibly the future of the team, let's focus on what he has already accomplished with his short tenure with the Cougars thus far.
2012 - Freshman Year
Taysom Hill started two games for the Cougars his freshman year as he took over for the incumbent Riley Nelson. He led the Cougars to a 2-0 record over Hawaii and in state rival Utah State. Before injuring his knee against Utah State, Hill threw for 425 yards and 4 touchdowns while completing 59.2% of his passes. Hill also rushed 55 times for 336 yards (6.1 average) and scored 4 touchdowns. However, he also turned the ball over five times with four interceptions and one fumble.
Most people remember Taysom Hill from when he scored the only touchdown against Boise St. and almost led the Cougars to victory in Boise. The season looked bright before Taysom injured his knee with 1:06 left in the game against Utah State. The Cougars would finish the season with Riley Nelson at Quarterback, going 3-3 in the regular season, and Beating San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl.
2013- Sophomore Season
Anyone who paid attention to college football last season knows that Taysom Hill can run. He came out sprinting against Texas as he racked up over 250 rushing yards. Hill rushed for over 100 yards 6 times this season, and finished 3rd in BYU history for most rushing yards in one season with 1,344 yards.
Despite rushing for an average of 5.5 yards this season Taysom had some struggles sitting in the pocket and delivering good passes. In the first three games of the season (Virginia, Texas and Utah) he had only completed an average of 34.8% of his passes. However, he quickly learned how to sit in the pocket and increased his season average to 53.9%. His most successful game as a passer came against Houston where he completed 65.9% of his passes, throwing for over 400 yards and 4 TDs, as well as running for 128 yards in the win. He became one of only seven players in NCAA history to throw for 400+ and run for 100+ in a game.
Taysom finished the season rushing for 133 yards against Washington making him the all time rushing leader for quarterbacks in school history.
2014 and Beyond
It's obvious that Taysom has great potential as a signal call for the Cougars. Since the moment he took the starting role at quarterback he has done nothing but win. Now that he has had a successful season, and more importantly a healthy one, what can we expect in the future?
Here are some key factors that must take place for Taysom Hill in order to have success in the future:
Replacing Cody Hoffman
The all-time leading receiver for the Cougars is off to the NFL and leaves a big hole for the Cougars to fill. Last year Hoffman accounted for 30% of the passing attack and was Hill's favorite target.
This next season will be very important for Hill now that his favorite receiver is gone. The quarterback must find a new favorite target and get some chemistry going quickly. Hoffman accounted for over a quarter of the teams receiving touchdowns last year. In fact, Taysom is going to lose his three favorite targets all together with the departure of Hoffman, Skyler Ridley and JD Falslev.
Look for Ross Apo and Nick Kurtz to step up as the main receivers, and returned missionaries Matt Sumsion and Colby Jorgensen to play key roles at tight end. Sumsion (6-8) and Jorgensen (6-7) can give Taysom big targets that were obviously missing last year.
As mentioned before, the first three games of the season Taysom averaged less than 38% passing and started the season going 1-2. After those three games his passing accuracy rose to an average 62.3% and finished the season with a 53.9% completion percentage. Not too shabby but lets dig into these numbers a little bit more. . .
His worst passing games of the season came against big opponents like Texas (34.6%), Utah (37.5%), Wisconsin (46.3%) and Washington (52.1%). In big games this season Taysom's numbers are not that impressive: throwing 4 interceptions to only 2 touchdowns. You can make the argument that he makes up for this drawback with his legs, (which is partially true) but if he is going to win big games he needs to learn how to stay in the pocket and make more accurate and smarter throws. He only threw five more touchdowns (19) than interceptions (14).
All this leads into the most important thing that Taysom can do next season
Win Big Games
Well of course winning is always the most important but this is something that Taysom struggled with last season. Yes, that win over Texas was big and something that he can build on. Besides that, the Cougars next biggest win was over a Boise State team that went 8-5 and never played a top 25 team.
The Cougars lost some of their marquee games this last season including games against Wisconsin, Notre Dame and their bowl game against Washington. Not to mention the loss to Utah.
BYUs 2014 season is not all that impressive compared to 2013 but it could be key for Hill to gain some confidence leading into the more difficult 2015 season. If Hill can lead the Cougars into Texas and Boise State and come out with a win then it shows us that he can win big games on the road which will be huge in the 2015 season.
Taysom's senior year is BYUs next big shot at winning a big time bowl game. The season includes tough matchups on the road against Nebraska and Michigan. They will also have some tough matchups at home against Boise State, Cincinnati and Fresno State, who all made bowl games this past season.
If we see Taysom Hill build a connection with his receivers, improve on his passing accuracy, make smarter decisions and win a big game or two, we can expect a whole lot out of him his senior season. He could be the next quarterback to lead BYU to a prime-time bowl game and possibly even crash the Heisman party as a dark horse.
As for now we just have to wait and see what he does in his junior season. The biggest concern is to keep his knee healthy and win a bowl game. If he does this, get ready for a fun and exciting 2015 season.