BYU football: Grading Taysom Hill through five games

(Jeff Swinger-USA Today Sports)
(Jeff Swinger-USA Today Sports) /

BYU football’s Taysom Hill has been criticized all season for some lackluster play, but has he really been that bad? Let’s do some grading of the BYU signal caller.

I’ve spent most of the BYU football season heaping criticism on Taysom Hill and I haven’t minced any words when it comes to him.

Back in December I said I hoped he went to Michigan or Stanford, so he could win and BYU could roll with Tanner Mangum.

After his return I said that Mangum should be the Chris Leak to Hill’s Tim Tebow.

After he was named the starter I groaned.

It’s not what I wanted.

But, then again, I’m no ball coach. But Kalani Sitake is. And he’s a good one. So let’s trust coach.

Still, it’s fair to say Hill hasn’t been great for BYU this season. He’s certainly a far cry from his former, Longhorn hurdling self. But he’s unquestionably the leader of this team and hasn’t always had the most help.

So let’s take a look at Hill’s season, game by game, and do some grading.

Game One: BYU vs Arizona

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports /

Hill was mostly a game manager against the Wildcats, and I thought it was a role he played quite well. He looked sharp and completed 21 of 29 passes for 201 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He only ran for 37 yards, but Ty Detmer kept him in the pocket by design.

Trailing with just under 90 seconds remaining, Hill looked calm, cool and collected as he drove the Cougars down the length of the field for a game-winning field goal.

Game Grade: B

Game Two: BYU at Utah

Hill struggled mightily against the Utes in Salt Lake City. Hill completed 21 of 38 passes for just 176 yards. He also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. However, he found some success on the ground, rushing for 90 yards and two scores.

He again manufactured a late-game drive, scoring a touchdown with 18 seconds left to bring the Cougars within one. Detmer called a quarterback draw on the two-point conversion, which I think was a bad call. But Hill has no control over that.

I think this game was particularly frustrating because he’s played so poorly against the Utes in his career. In two games, he’s completed 39 of 86 passes for 436 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Game Grade: C-

Game Three: UCLA at BYU

BYU football's Taysom Hill.
(Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /

The BYU offense struggled all night against the Bruins. Receivers couldn’t get off press coverage, the offensive line couldn’t sustain blocks, and Hill simply wasn’t accurate. The Cougars scored once with a major assist from UCLA penalties and again in garbage time.

It wasn’t a good night.

Hill completed 26 of 48 passes for 250 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He also finished with negative rushing yards for the first time in his career.

The BYU football running game also struggled mightily against UCLA, so it’s tough to put too much blame on Hill. Still, it wasn’t a strong performance.

Game Grade: C-

Game Four: BYU vs West Virginia

The BYU football team finally started to figure things out offensively in this game. Receivers didn’t drop passes (as much), the offensive line held up and Hill did a fairly nice job of moving through his progressions. He even tried to channel is old self, hurdling a pair a WVU defenders.

But this game is a tough one to breakdown. Because while Hill had his best game of the season, it also wasn’t a particularly strong game.

Hill completed 23 of 35 passes for 241 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Turnovers are always bad, but these three were particularly backbreaking. He threw a pick six, then threw two questionable passes that were picked off and ended the Cougars’ comeback hopes. Plus, the Mountaineer defense isn’t necessarily a ball-hawking one.

On the plus side, he put together his strongest game on the ground since the 2015 season opener. He took 17 carries for 105 yards and was explosive and shifty.

Still, the interceptions are tough to overlook.

Game Grade: D+

Game Five: Toledo at BYU

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

This game kind of made me see the light.

Hill started off with a bang, connecting on a 75-yard touchdown pass to Jonah Trinnaman on the first play of the game.

I thought he’d turned a corner. But then Hill went on to complete just two of his next 10 passes for 22 yards. Ouch. That’s really bad. Especially considering the Toledo defense didn’t exactly light the world on fire.

All the while, Jamaal Williams was in the midst of setting the BYU single-game rushing record. So it doesn’t seem unrealistic to assume that the Cougars should have been able to throw the ball.

Everything changed in the second half and Hill completed 8 of 10 passes and drove the Cougars the length of the field for another game-winning field goal.

When the game was over, Hill completed 11 of 21 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown. He added three yards rushing and didn’t turn the ball over.

Game Grade: C+


He’s averaging 223 passing yards per game, and has a less-than-ideal 5:6 touchdown to interception ratio. But, he is completing 60 percent of his passes. It’s also worth noting that the majority of his interceptions have come on tipped balls. That’s not to say he shouldn’t receive some of the blame (his timing has been off, there hasn’t always been enough touch on the passes, he hasn’t always been accurate, etc.), but it’s not all on him.

He’s also averaging 46 yards per game on the ground, which is mostly by design. Detmer and Sitake don’t want Hill running. Granted, that means taking away Hill’s best asset, but it also means it’s fair to expect a bit of a learning curve.

Overall, I think Hill has been a far cry from what he once was. But he’s 26-years old, has bionic legs and is working with a BYU football coaching staff that doesn’t want him running.

Hill was at his best when his athleticism opened up the passing game. Without it, he may struggle at times this season. But, he hasn’t been quite as bad as many (myself included) have thought.

A rough average of the game grades comes out to about a “C,” which I think is accurate. I don’t think Hill is a superstar type quarterback anymore, but he certainly isn’t terrible. All he has to do is manage the game and let Williams run wild, and BYU football should be able to pick up four or five more wins. I think it’s safe to say I’ve been too hard on him.

Hill and the Cougars take on Michigan State on Saturday. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. on ABC.