With the NFL Draft upon us and former Cougars Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman hoping to hear their names called in New York, one has to wonder if there is anyone currently on the roster that could make the jump to the NFL next year. Since this is a fairly young team and no one has yet made any Kyle Van Noy like headlines I can't imagine that there will be very many players thinking about taking off early. However Taysom Hill is someone to keep an eye on. Many of you are already rolling your eyes and dismissing this idea as ridiculous. After all when was the last time a player from BYU made the jump to the NFL early?
I'm glad you ask because it actually hasn't been all that long ago. Remember Austin Collie and Harvey Unga? Both of them decided to forgo their senior seasons even though Unga probably would have stayed had he not gotten kicked out of school. Regardless of why he did what he did there has been some precedent set for players leaving BYU early. Luke Staley is other name that comes to mind even though it's been more than a couple years since he was drafted. Despite playing different positions there are several interesting parallels between the former Cougar running back and and Taysom Hill. Both had impressive freshman seasons despite being injured. Both showed significant improvements in year two. And both were poised to put up big numbers in year three. Staley made the most of his opportunities and rode 1,916 total yards and 28 touchdowns into the NFL. Truly some eye popping numbers. Will Hill be able to do the same?
Now I know what you're thinking. Comparing a running back to a quarterback is like comparing apples to oranges, or grapes to bananas depending on your preference. So lets be fair and do a little apples to apples comparison shall we? How do Taysom Hill's numbers stack up against....Marcus Marriotta's for example. In 2013 Marriotta completed 245 of 386 pass attempts for 3665 yards and 31 touchdowns. He also threw four interceptions. That was good enough for a 63.5% completion rate and a QB rating of 167.7. Pretty impressive considering he also ran 96 times for 715 yards and 9 touchdowns. Hill's passing numbers were not quite as good as he only completed 236 of 438 pass attempts for 2938 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also threw 14 picks, which may be the most telling stat. These numbers were good enough for a 53.9% completion rate and a 118.2 passer rating. Rushing wise Hill blew Marriotta away, but he also had to run nearly three times as much to do it. His 1344 yards and 10 touchdowns came on 246 rushing attempts, which is not something you want to put your quarterback through year in and year out. Especially with the amount of depth BYU has at the QB position right now.
Robert Anae has to know all these things. Which is why, in my opinion, he worked so hard in the off season to bring in play makers like Nick Kurtz and Devon Blackmon. I'm also confident that in year two of "Go Fast Go Hard" the offensive line will be leaps and bounds ahead of where it was last year. Take those two things and combine them with an already deep running back core and Hill's completion percentage and touchdown ratio can only go up. Hopefully his number of carries and interceptions will also go down.
Don't be fooled by what you saw at the beginning of last year. Taysom Hill is miles ahead of where he was in the Virginia game. Not only that but with a favorable schedule and plenty of air time he's poised to put up some monster numbers in front of a lot of people. By this time next year I wouldn't be surprised if Hill's numbers eclipse those of Mariotta's. Also, a QB heavy draft this year means that there won't be as much competition next year. Don't be surprised if Hill gives leaving early some thought. Especially if a spread quarterback like Johnny Manziel makes a big impact at the next level. After all you only have so many years to play football and those NFL millions can be mighty tempting.