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November 6, 2013

Taysom Versus the Back-Shoulder

Last month in BYU's win over Middle Tennessee State, Taysom Hill threw a side-line pass that settled into the hands of a falling away Mitch Mathews for a perfect back shoulder toss.  Late in a dead game the pass had no effect on the outcome, but I was so wowed by the throw that I immediately turned to my buddies and proclaimed, "That was an amazing pass ... well, you know, assuming he did that on purpose." Those words sound like a slam on Taysom but it actually was just my way of addressing reality, for so bad had been the BYU QB through the first few games of the season that such an impressive throw seemed more likely the product of chance than talent.  Sadly three straight games of below 50% passing will generate skepticism in even the most hardy of believers.11. For the record, I was a believer in Taysom being better than he showed in the first 3 games of the season. But 400 yards through the air and 100 on the ground good? No way. That was shocking. 

But now, after having seen Taysom drop a similar back shoulder beauty in each of the last three games, it's apparent that the pass in question was no fluke and, more importantly, that BYU's young QB may have a new favorite weapon.

Last month Sports Illustrated ran an article on the back shoulder throw, calling it the 'undefendable pass'. Matt Hasselbeck -- you know, the guy who is the brother of that guy who married that girl from the second season of Survivor who starred on The View? Yeah, him -- says of the throw, "If it’s properly executed, the defender can’t be right.”  Even Joe Flacco took a break from looking for his lost mighty wings to contribute to the piece.  His take: "The back-shoulder throw has really redefined what open and covered mean."

That redefining was on exhibit during BYU's game-winning touchdown pass Saturday against Houston.  The target of Taysom Hill's final throw was senior Skyler Ridley.  Watch this 7-second clip and decide for yourself if Ridley was even remotely open during the play.

Replay the video a couple of times and you'll see the Houston defender had tight enough coverage to have his arm draped on Ridley from the 5-yard line all the way up to the catch in the endzone.  At max the defender is, what, one maybe two feet away from Ridley at any point while the ball is in the air?  This is just one example: the back-shoulder throw can be unstoppable, even against a perfect defense.

What exactly is a back-shoulder throw?  I'm not entirely sure I have the vocab to explain it. YouTube is here to help if you're that interested, but I doubt you are.  It's different from an out route and it's not quite a hook. The receiver, rather than redirecting his path towards the middle of the field or the sideline, twists his body away from the defender back towards the QB without changing his overall directional momentum.  That's my best shot at a definition.  Maybe a couple more examples will help.

Here's the first back-shoulder pass I saw Taysom complete this season:

Here was the one against Middle Tennessee that got me rolling on this train in the first place:

And here is one final example from one of Taysom's touchdown tosses to Mitch Mathews during the Utah State game.  It was this pass that first got me thinking that maybe Taysom was starting to get comfortable with the back-shoulder thing. Saturday's game-winner more than confirmed it.

I don't know what's in store for Taysom's future.  I'd like to say I'm great at predicting quarterback success stories, but I'm still rebounding from hoping Heaps would be Ty Detmer II.  This I know: when thrown as well as Saturday's ball was, the back-shoulder pass is nigh unstoppable.  Combine it with Taysom's prodigious speed and BYU might have something special on its hands.

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