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BYU football: Riley Nelson has not yet secured starting QB job

Published: Friday, Oct. 21 2011 11:54 a.m. MDT

BYU quarterback Riley Nelson (13) runs with the ball during the first quarter of a football game against San Jose State at the Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Oct. 8, 2011. BYU won 29-16.

Kristen Murphy, Deseret News archives

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PROVO — Even though BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said this week that Riley Nelson will start against Idaho State, he added that Nelson has not secured the starting QB job.

"Riley will start against Idaho State, but it will still be week-to-week," Mendenhall said. "But the way he's currently playing, I'm impressed with. He's making a lot of good plays. I think he will continue to battle and compete. But that doesn't mean tenure or all of the sudden the starting job becomes his regardless of how he plays. It's week-to-week."

Mendenhall said that sophomore Jake Heaps, who started the first five games of the season, "could go into any game. It just depends. He could have gone into either of our last ones. If Riley's leading the team effectively, I'll let him continue. If he's not, then Jake will get a great opportunity, whenever that is."

Heaps has been preparing in practice for a chance to play.

"The biggest thing is to be ready. At any moment I could be called onto the field and asked to perform at my best. The biggest thing I can do for my team is to prepare like crazy and do the best I can at practice and in the film room," Heaps said. "I feel like whenever I've gotten my opportunities (in practice) I've performed well. It's helped with my mindset and how I approach the game. It's helped me go back to the end of last year and the mindset I had coming into the season. I'm just getting ready for my next opportunity."

Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman suggested Heaps could have benefitted significantly by playing behind Nelson last season. Nelson suffered season-ending shoulder surgery early in 2010 and Heaps took over as the starter for the rest of the year.

"The spectators can see that even the styles of play are entirely different between Jake and Riley," Doman said. "But the level of maturity is different. Riley has been in college football for four years. He's been around Max (Hall), he's been around Jake. He's been around all the things you can think of. There's just a level of different maturity. Jake hasn't had that chance to mature yet into years and volumes of experience."

ISU VS. FBS: Idaho State is 0-15 all-time against Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The last time the Bengals beat a Division I-A opponent was a 27-24 win at Utah State in 2000.

One of the differences between FCS teams and those from the FBS is that FCS programs are limited to 63 scholarships, compared to 85 for FBS programs. Mendenhall spent some time during his coaching career at Northern Arizona, an FCS team. He said the starters for such teams can compete with FBS programs, but there's a drop-off from there.

"The first 11 on either side are very capable. It's the depth that really becomes problematic," he said. "But in terms of the players that are out there to begin the game, they're good enough players to play at a lot of places."

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME: BYU is playing Idaho State for the first time since 1951, a span of 60 years. It marks the second-longest time period between games against an opponent since going 61 years between meetings against Nevada (1940-2001).

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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