PROVO — The way BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall sees it, there's nobody better at coaching quarterbacks than one of his assistants, Brandon Doman.
"I think Brandon is the best quarterbacks coach in the country," Mendenhall said. "I would say that to any head coach or any quarterback coach if they were standing here as well."
Doman was instrumental in the development of quarterbacks John Beck and Max Hall, who led the Cougars to conference championships and are now in the NFL. This season, Doman has tutored true freshman Jake Heaps.
"When you consider the body of what he's done when you look at John Beck and Max Hall and now our quarterback, Jake, he's just what's consistent, and what they all have in common — he's their coach. I don't intervene, nor does anyone else. He's their coach and he's responsible, and he does a fantastic job, not only in the on-the-field component, which is exceptional, but any parent that would send their young man here and have him mentor him, they're pretty lucky."
Not long after Mendenhall took the helm of the program in December 2004, Doman was hired onto the staff despite not having any previous coaching experience.
QB BATTLE: Though Heaps has been impressive the last month of the season, Mendenhall has said the quarterback job will be open when the Cougars convene for spring ball in March.
That means Heaps and Riley Nelson, who missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, will compete for the starting job. Mendenhall said Heaps will have the edge based on his performance this season.
"Jake will certainly have the lead going into it, but to say there won't be others that'll have a chance to compete for it, I can't say that because we have good players," Mendenhall said, when asked Friday about that scenario. "I think the job right now, coming out of the season, Jake would certainly be ahead and have the first shot going into spring."
FINAL EXAMS: It's a busy time of the year for BYU's players. With the New Mexico Bowl being the first bowl game of the year, the Cougars are not only squeezing in practice sessions, they are also studying and taking final exams before leaving Wednesday for the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque.
Mendenhall said BYU administrators let professors on campus know what the team's schedule is and encouraged them to accommodate that.
Senior safety Andrew Rich acknowledged that completing academic work prior to the bowl game is a challenge.
"It's harder (than last year). You're in more of a time crunch," he said. "Being used to going to the Las Vegas Bowl, you had an extra four days. So we're trying to get everything in and get our academics taken care of so we can focus on the game. It's a little bit bigger challenge this year than in years past. But I think guys will do fine."
New Mexico Bowl
BYU (6-6) vs. UTEP (6-6)
Dec. 18, noon
University Stadium, Albuquerque
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM