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Provo • A year ago at this time, Taysom Hill entered spring camp at BYU with so much uncertainty piled on his shoulders that he acknowledged it was hard to sleep at night.
The rugged, athletically gifted 6-foot-2 quarterback from Pocatello, Idaho, had yet to really test a surgically repaired knee, figured he was the odds-on favorite to win the starting job but wasn't entirely sure, and wondered whether he would ever completely grasp new offensive coordinator Robert Anae's newfangled, up-tempo attack.
"There were times when my head was spinning," he recalled midway through the 2013 season.
Fast forward to earlier this week, when camp began with Hill not only the unquestioned leader of the 2014 Cougars, but some offseason accolades already having been hefted upon his doorstep.
The junior was named one of the top 25 college football players to watch in the 2014 season by The Sporting News, landing at No. 15. The Touchdown Club of Columbus (Ohio) put him on its 12-player watch list for its Player of the Year award and hosted him and 11 others the first week of February at its annual banquet.
"Yeah, I am much more comfortable," Hill said after Monday's first spring practice. "It is night and day difference from where I was last year, simply because last year I was learning an entire new offense. This year, we've added a few new concepts. But for Day I, I knew everything on the script. I feel really comfortable, really confident now."
Coaches say Hill didn't sit back and rest on his laurels after rushing for 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns and passing for 2,938 yards and 19 scores in 2013. He barely fell short of becoming the seventh player in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and throw for more than 3,000 in the same season.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae said Hill looked good and was crisp with his passes on Monday, the improvement apparent.
"Yeah, much better, much quicker, a lot more confident. I am really pleased," Anae said.
Hill's running ability has never been questioned, but his passing accuracy needed work after he completed just 53.9 percent of his passes in 2013, down from the 59.2 percent he completed his freshman season before it ended after six games with a major knee injury.
To get better, he reached out to former BYU quarterback John Beck, who put him in touch with throwing guru Dr. Tom House. BYU quarterbacks coach Jason Beck also provided one-on-one instruction, when NCAA rules allowed it.
"So I have been doing a few things mechanically to increase my ability to throw and constantly improve," Hill said. "I would say that has been my focus this offseason. I will continue to carry that over into spring ball and then into summer."
All the while, Anae said, continuing to work on chiseling his body, a body that ran a whopping 1,111 plays last year, the most in school history. Consider BYU ran just 1,004 plays in 1996 when it played 15 games.
"He got stronger, and I believe he got faster and in better shape," Anae said.
In addition to joining his teammates for 6 a.m. workouts, Hill threw passes to receivers two or three times a week. He got together with junior college transfer Nick Kurtz every Saturday morning to work on chemistry and routes.
"I got Mike Davis out there, too, and primarily with those guys I was able to build chemistry, get them used to the offense and the routes and concepts," Hill said. "That carried over a little bit today."
Mendenhall said the Becks have helped Hill with his warmup routines, his anticipation, delivering the ball at the right time and to the right place, so he can be more proficient.
Taysom Hill's sophomore season
Attempts Gain Loss Net TDs Long Avg/G
246 1,595 251 1,344 10 68 103.4
Comps. Atts. Yards Pct. Ints TDs Avg/G
236 438 2,938 53.9 14 19 226.0
Hill's 2013 season highlights
• Rushed for 259 yards vs. Texas, the second-most rushing yards in a game in BYU history.
• One of seven players in NCAA history to throw for more than 400 yards and run for 100+ in the same game (vs. Houston).
• Rushed for 1,344 yards, third-most in BYU history in a single season.