PROVO — Entering the month of April, the BYU football team was in need of quarterbacks, but in a matter of a month the Cougars were able to satisfy that need with three signal callers, while at the same time prepare for the departure of current starter Jake Heaps a few years down the road.
Each Div. I football program is allowed 85 scholarships, and with 11 positions on each side of the football, so coaches aim to field a four-deep roster of scholarship players at every position. Currently, BYU has that at quarterback with Heaps (sophomore), Riley Nelson (junior), James Lark (junior) and Jason Munns (sophomore.)
Nelson, Lark and Munns have all used their redshirt year, which leaves Nelson and Lark two years of eligibility and Munns three years of play. Short of a season-ending injury, Heaps will never use his redshirt option.
Besides those four, BYU has two scholarship quarterbacks in Alex Kuresa (6-foot, 175 pounds) from Hyrum, Utah, and McCoy Hill (6-5, 225) from South Jordan, Utah, who will enter the program this fall.
While Kuresa will play this season, Hill will grayshirt this year and then compete fully as a walk-on in the spring. Should Hill prove himself on the practice field, he’ll receive a scholarship when he returns from his mission.
Kuresa also plans on leaving for his mission following his first year so he and Hill will return for the 2014 season. Because they'll be fresh off their missions, it is unlikely either will immediately compete for the starting job, but they could in 2015.
BYU started off the month of April by landing Tanner Mangum (6-3, 190) from Boise, Idaho. Mangum is on the same timetable as Kuresa and Hill in realistically competing for the starting job in 2015. However, Mangum plans on leaving for his mission during the summer of 2012 immediately following his high school graduation.
In addition to Kuresa and Hiil, the Cougars landed two more players currently on missions in Taysom Hill (6-2, 210) from Pocatello, Idaho, and Ammon Olsen (6-4, 205) from Draper, Utah.
Taysom Hill signed with Stanford out of high school but never enrolled there because he left for his mission right out of high school. BYU made it clear to him before he signed the Cardinal, that it would have a scholarship for him after his mission if he changed his mind.
Taysom Hill took BYU’s offer and will return from his mission in Sydney, Australia, in time to begin practices next spring. By the time the 2013 season rolls around he should be ready to compete for the starting spot.
Heaps attended the same one-day camp as Taysom Hill and drew most of the attention of the BYU coaches. As a result, Taysom Hill opted for Stanford. When Taysom Hill signed with Stanford in April, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall made the rare admission that they hadn’t recruited him effectively.
"He’s a great athlete, a great leader,” he said. “He’s very, very productive, super smart in terms of a student and we really wanted him. We’d gotten in late in the recruiting process and by then we really hadn’t done a nice job of finding and then building a relationship and so it was a too-little-too-late thing on why he went to Stanford.”
Taysom Hill is the type of athlete that could play a number of different positions. He consistently clocked a sub 4.6 40 during all his camps during high school and should prove to be a Brandon Doman-type quarterback given his abilities in both passing and in running the football.
Olsen will be returning from his mission to Mexico City, Mexico, around the same time Taysom Hill will and he will participate in spring drills.
“Best arm I’ve ever coached,” said Les Hamilton, who coached Olsen in high school. “He has very good accuracy, velocity and touch. He’s very savvy and has great field presence.”
Olsen was named as the Utah Gatorade Payer of the Year in high school during his senior season, in completing 63 percent of his passes for 3,209 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also ran for 860 yards and 11 touchdowns. Olsen signed with Southern Utah University out of high school and played a year there before his mission.
“Ammon is a big, strong athletic quarterback,” said Doman after Olsen signed with BYU. “He was not only an outstanding quarterback in high school, but an exceptional basketball player as well. He helped his teams be very successful and we anticipate him doing the same for us as a Cougar.”
It’s unclear at this point whether or not BYU will be signing another quarterback in 2012. However, the Cougars are looking at several potential signees.