Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
PROVO - This was supposed to be the year Ben Olson finally donned a BYU uniform. But the All-Everything quarterback is nowhere to be found at the Cougars' spring practices.
The most prized recruit in BYU football history a USA Today and Parade All-America out of southern California was supposed to be tossing spirals into the Provo sky this spring after returning from an LDS mission. Cougar fans were anxiously anticipating his debut.
Instead, Big Ben and his big arm are enrolled at UCLA.
When Olson signed with BYU in 2002, it was considered a major coup for the program. However, Olson, who was supposed to be the Cougars' next great quarterback, never played a down while redshirting at BYU in 2002, then he returned from his mission and transferred to a Pac-10 school.
Used to be that the Cougars produced All-America quarterback candidates on a regular basis. But nobody refers to BYU as "Quarterback U." anymore. The last Cougar first-team All-Conference performer at that position was Brandon Doman, who is now BYU's quarterbacks coach. In fact, Doman, who led the Cougars to a 12-2 mark in 2001, is the last quarterback to lead BYU to a conference championship. Heck, he's the last quarterback to lead BYU to a winning season.
The way Doman and first-year offensive coordinator Robert Anae see it, it's time for BYU to go back to the future. That means it's time for the Cougars to return to a tried-and-true scheme and return to developing quarterbacks who put up big numbers, and above all else win games.
"This offense is very similar to what BYU did in the past. Goodness, for 30 years they ran the same offense, and it's very similar to what we used to do," Doman says. "It's just a little bit more spread out and there are more variations, kind of a Texas Tech mixture in there. But it's pretty much the same offense. It's basic. We'll keep it simple. We'll try to be the best in the country at those things that are simple, and that's what BYU did in the past. That's what we're trying to get back to. We want to win, period."
While Olson has departed, Doman sees a lot of potential in the group of quarterbacks he is working with now, including returning starter John Beck, who earned second-team All-Mountain West Conference honors last season; and seniors Matt Berry and Jason Beck. The competition is wide open and Beck, Berry and Beck are the three frontrunners for the starting job in the fall, Doman says. Others vying for playing time are seniors Jackson Brown and Greg Mortensen and sophomore Mike Affleck, who signed with Arizona State out of Timpview High before transferring to BYU. He sat out last year.
After Doman graduated in 2001, former coach Gary Crowton created a dubious quarterback situation by frequently rotating quarterbacks, sometimes series-by-series and sometimes play-by-play. Injuries played a factor in that scenario as well. What's more, at times different coaches took turns calling the plays. For the quarterbacks, the instability didn't exactly engender confidence in themselves or in their coach.
Don't expect that to be the case under first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Coach Mendenhall is so constant, never changing. These players see that," Doman says. "They need to have a coach who's constant. As they gain confidence and trust in the scheme we're giving them, hopefully they'll be empowered and molded into leaders out on the field. That's the mindset of Coach Mendenhall."
Doman believes that Beck, Beck and Berry have the talent to get the job done. The key, he says, is for them to be confident.
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