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Jake Retzlaff Makes BYU More Diverse On and Off the Field

Jake Retzlaff is set to make his first career start for BYU against West Virginia. He adds a wrinkle to the offense on the field and a unique perspective off of it.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 BYU at TCU Photo by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

News broke on Thursday that Jake Retzlaff is getting the start at quarterback for BYU when it takes on West Virginia on Saturday.

Kedon Slovis has been dealing with various injuries since the Arkansas game and the coaching staff felt the need to rest him. The timing is optimal for Retzlaff, who, if needed, could play the rest of this season including the bowl game, and still not burn his redshirt.

Retzlaff is seen as the future at quarterback for BYU for next season and maybe even into 2025.

For now, he is also the present.

After throwing for a video-game-like 4,596 yards and 44 touchdowns for Riverside Community College (CA) last season, he was the No. 1 JUCO quarterback recruit seeking FBS offers.

The 6-foot-2 gunslinger also can move much better than Slovis. The former baseball shortstop can throw on the run and improvise a bit more than his predecessor. He also ran for 515 yards and six touchdowns in 2022 for Riverside CC.

He impressed during camp, winning the backup job under Slovis despite being the least experienced.

His athleticism could allow offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick to open up the playbook to make it look much like it did with the likes of Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall.

This is not to say Retzlaff will instantly look like an NFL draft pick, as he is making his first ever start above the junior college ranks. However, the scheming and playcalling may look different than earlier this season.

Slovis is the prototypical pocket passer, with veteran poise to make the tough throws when facing pressure. However, Slovis is limited by lack of speed and less athleticism that the previous two BYU signal callers, who are both now starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

Retzlaff certainly does not have that kind of experience yet, and it may show at times on Saturday. But that doesn’t mean the offense will suffer. Read options, run-pass options, rollouts, and bootlegs will be more at Roderick’s disposal with the JUCO slinger than they ever were with Slovis. Especially since we now know Slovis was playing hurt for over a month.

This will do more than get Retzlaff to participate in the run game. It will open up running lanes for Aidan Robbins and LJ Martin (if healthy). It will allow the passing game to have more lanes in the intermediate, as linebackers have to account for a running quarterback and can’t just blindly drop into coverage.

This is certainly best-case scenario. Let’s not forget Retzlaff has not even played quarterback at the FCS level, much less in a Power 5 conference game.

However, that is not all Retzlaff brings to the table.

No. 12 spoke with the media in April during spring ball about his faith.

“I have started a little trademark on the nickname “B-Y-Jew” — which I think is pretty funny,” Retzlaff told Jay Drew of Deseret News.

Retzlaff is Reform Jewish. He is set to become the first Jewish quarterback to start for BYU. This, just a few years after BYU also saw their first Black starting quarterback in Jaren Hall. BYU also had their first Polynesian starting QB in Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters for the New Mexico Bowl against SMU.

Retzlaff is the latest of a recent run of diverse quarterbacks to start under center at BYU, which is directly affiliated with the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is unique and extraordinary to have Retzlaff start for BYU, despite being in an extreme minority at the university.

A heroic performance against West Virginia would make him an instant fan favorite around campus and among the worldwide fanbase.

The hope is that Retzlaff can be a spark for the stale, anemic offense against West Virginia. It will be a tall task on the road in Morgantown.

Retzlaff is used to standing out from the crowd. Hopefully, Saturday will be more of the same.