“It’s a very easy thing to say, ‘Go get a backup quarterback.’ Now tell me where to get them. You just can’t dial them up. — Bill Parcells
Backup quarterbacks — good ones — are difficult to find (and keep) in the college game and never more than now in the era of the transfer portal. No position flocks to the portal more than quarterbacks, largely because there is only one starting position per team, which means there are only 128 FBS-level jobs in the country and thousands of candidates.
In the TV series “Blue Mountain State,” the Alex Moran character says, “Backup quarterback is the best position in sports. … It’s like being a real quarterback but without all the pain.” But of course that isn’t true. Backup quarterbacks see a lot of playing time, especially with the rise of the passing game, which exposes them to more hits.
BYU, Utah State and Utah all had to play their backup quarterbacks in last month’s bowl games. Utah State’s Logan Bonner left the LA Bowl with an injury in the first quarter. Because backup Andrew Peasley was nursing an old injury, the team turned to third-string Cooper Legas. On his first play, he threw the first pass of his collegiate career — for a 62-yard touchdown, and the Aggies won the game.
With 10 minutes left in the Rose Bowl and the game tied at 38, Utah lost starter Cam Rising to an injury. Backup Bryson Barnes proceeded to throw the first two passes of his college career, the second one for a touchdown. The Utes eventually lost 48-45.
Which brings us here: Romney announced recently that he is entering his name into the transfer portal. That’s a big loss. Romney wasn’t so much the second-string quarterback as he was the 1 ½-string quarterback. He played often in his role as the No. 2 and even No. 3 quarterback, and he played exceptionally well.
Romney was beaten out for the starting job in 2020 by Zach Wilson, and we know how that turned out. Then he lost out to Hall for the job in 2021. The surprise is that he stuck around this long. It should not be difficult to find a taker for his services.
Romney is a good quarterback — as good as starter Hall and probably a better pure passer. Romney played in 14 games in three seasons, starting six of them in place of the injured starter. He completed 134 of 200 passes (67%) for 1,787 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions, while averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. That’s a pass efficiency rating of 162.2. If he had played all 14 of those games this season, he would’ve ranked 11th in the nation in pass efficiency.
Romney won five of his six starts, the lone loss coming in the Independence Bowl, which BYU probably would’ve won if a long pass completion by Romney late in the game had not been fumbled. In five games this season, Romney threw six TD passes and zero interceptions.
Hall, who ranks 22nd in pass efficiency this season, also has played well during his collegiate career. In 17 games, he has completed 64% of his passes for 3,003 yards, 8.8 yards per attempt, 21 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 155.4 rating. Hall’s problem is he can’t stay on the field. Due to injuries, he missed three games this season and missed significant playing time earlier in his career, including all of the 2020 season and a number of games in 2019.
But that is not unusual. Starting quarterbacks are prone to injury, which is why Romney and backups in general are so valuable.
Max Hall remarkably started 39 games in three seasons (2007-09) and never missed a start. Only twice in the 12 years since then has the opening-day starter at BYU started every game — Taysom Hill in 2013 and Wilson in 2020. During three of those seasons, three different quarterbacks were employed because of injuries — 2019 (Wilson, Romney, Hall), 2017 (Tanner Mangum, Beau Hoge, Joe Critchlow), 2012 (Hill, Riley Nelson, James Lark).
During that 12-year span, backup quarterbacks started 68 of the team’s 155 games (44%), all but 14 of them because of injuries to the starter.
No one can blame Romney for wanting to find an opportunity to play more. The Cougars will miss him.