We're about a month out from National Signing Day, and BYU is looking to put the finishing touches on what should be a small, but very interesting recruiting class, featuring some uncommonly strong talent at the top. But the most intriguing name that BYU could be recruiting won't show up on the 247 Crystal Ball or in their recruiting rankings. That's because he's already on the roster.
BYU QB Taysom Hill could become one of the most sought after players in the country. He's shown that he is one of the more exciting playmakers in the country when he's totally healthy, but his heath status over his career, coaching turnover at BYU, and the emergence of QB Tanner Mangum over the 2015 season, would complicate matters significantly. A few days ago, these tweets from Dick Harmon launched Hill speculation into hyperdrive.
Virginia's new staff have offered Cougar senior @T_Hill4 Taysom Hill and have told BYU walkon LB Scott Huntsman he could start for the Cavs.— Dick Harmon (@Harmonwrites) December 30, 2015
Taysom Hill has plenty of options. Offers are only proposals. Nobody knows when hell be cleared to practice.— Dick Harmon (@Harmonwrites) December 30, 2015
So, what happens next? Let's break it down.
Wait, offers? How are other schools allowed to recruit Hill?
Normally, they wouldn't. Schools can't go after scholarship athletes at other schools. But Hill isn't like other athletes. Hill has already graduated from BYU, allowing him to take advantage of a NCAA rule that allows players to transfer, with immediate eligibility, and pursue graduate coursework. Hill would be eligible for only one more season at his new institution. Hypothetically, if Hill decided to graduate transfer to another institution, BYU would not be able to stop him.
Why would Virginia make sense as a possible destination for Hill?
Well, his old coach, Bronco Mendenhall, is now the coach at Virginia, and he brought practically the entire staff from BYU over to Charlottesville with him, so Hill wouldn't have to learn a new offense or anything. The Cavaliers could potentially use a new quarterback as well. Last year's starter Matt Johns returns, but he threw 17 interceptions, and a holdover QB until Mendenhall is able to recruit one that fits his system a little better could be attractive.
Also, and we'll touch on this more in a little bit, but Virginia has an outstanding business school. If you are going to get a year of graduate coursework for free, UVA could be a very good academic fit.
Harmon said offers, plural. Are there other schools that have offered, or are expected to?
I am unaware of any hard reports of other schools that have done so, but graduate transfers tend to be even more nebulous than the high school recruiting process. There are two programs that are brought up pretty much every time Hill transfers are discussed though, and if Hill is interested in playing college football elsewhere, they will probably be factors.
The first is Michigan. I wrote about this a little bit back in September, and on paper, whatever could make Michigan appealing back then would seem even more so now. Hill has a strong relationship with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, dating back to when Harbaugh was at Stanford. The Wolverines are losing their QB, and while they have John O'Korn waiting in the wings before some of their freshmen are ready, a healthy Hill would represent a big upgrade. Michigan returns many important pieces from a 10-3 team this year, and with Hill (or another grad QB), they're probably the Big Ten favorites, and should certainly compete for a playoff bid. That hurts to type, but it's true.
Michigan, of course, also has an excellent business school and would provide many opportunities for professional advancement.
The second is Stanford. Hill, if you remember, previously committed to Stanford back in high school, and many of the same reasons why Michigan could be enticing apply to the Cardinal. Stanford is replacing a QB, and while they have plenty of highly rated youngsters to chose from, giving them all one more year to season could be appealing. With Hill and Christian McCaffery, the Cardinal could have the most terrifying backfield in the country, and would certainly be in the conversation for a Pac-12 title and playoff berth. Stanford also has even more elite academics than Michigan, and is a little bit closer to home. Stanford probably doesn't need a transfer QB as badly as Michigan does, but them getting involved for Hill would certainly make sense.
Yeah, but we've heard about those schools already. Could there be others?
Well, sure. We're certainly diving into the waters of speculation at this point, but that's fine. Other than Texas Tech QB Davis Webb, Hill is probably the best transfer QB that is both hypothetically on the market and eligible to play next season. Anybody who needs a QB should make a call. Texas A&M had roughly a gazillion quarterbacks transfer out of the program, and they could badly use some reinforcements. Boston College has an academically competitive environment, an offense that could amplify Hill's strengths, and a desperate need for playmakers anywhere. But I'm just shootin' from the hip here...I'm not saying any of those schools have reached out.
Wait, did you say "hypothetically" available?
I did. Hill hasn't actually *said* he wants to play in 2016, or that he's leaving BYU, or much of anything. Unlike just about any other high profile potential transfer, Hill has a few options that have nothing to do with playing college football next season.
For example, nothing. Hill could walk away from football, keep his health, and compete for a six-figure financial services job, like, tomorrow. The reason we keep mentioning academics (and specifically, business schools), is because it's clear that Hill has a really bright future outside of football.
Could Hill decide to go pro instead?
Anything is possible, but this feels very unlikely. Because of his age, injury history and concerns about how his game translates to the NFL, Hill was a marginal NFL QB prospect even before missing all of this season. Given that he'll be 26 before the start of the next NFL season, it seems pretty unlikely Hill would get drafted as a QB, or even if he decided to try a different position, although it's possible he could still make an NFL roster.
Could Hill stay at BYU?
Sure, he could. Maybe he loves the new coaching staff and wants to stick around. Maybe he's okay with being a backup or change of pace QB, or wants to learn a new position to improve his chances of sticking around in professional football. Maybe he thinks he can beat out Mangum and keep his starting job. Maybe he just really loves BYU and doesn't want to leave. Maybe there are other reasons as well.
I don't personally think this is the most likely scenario (or even the best one for BYU, to be honest), but sure, it's possible.
What do you think is the most likely scenario?
I think the only thing I'm really confident about is that Hill won't be playing QB at BYU next season. A few months ago, I thought that "not playing college football" was the most likely outcome, and I guess I'll stick with that, followed by a transfer to Michigan as the most likely. But things change fast here, and lots of other outcomes are certainly possible.