PROVO — Entering the season, BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman had an intriguing dilemma.
With two senior quarterbacks, starter Riley Nelson and backup James Lark, at the top of the depth chart, Doman had to consider the few QBs behind them with no collegiate experience. With Nelson and Lark gone at season's end, how would he prepare for the future at that position?
Certainly, it's important that a quarterback be groomed for next season considering the murderer's row of opponents the independent Cougars will be facing in 2013, with the likes of Texas, Boise State, Utah, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and Notre Dame on the slate.
In BYU's season-opening 30-6 drubbing of Washington State last Thursday, Doman, in a way, merged the future with the present.
Freshman third-stringer Taysom Hill was inserted into the game as the "wildcat" quarterback when BYU was sitting in the red zone early in the second quarter. Hill calmly surveyed the defense, called an audible, rolled out right, and threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kaneakua Friel.
Of course, Doman loves having a senior quarterback in Nelson. Doman's top priority is winning now, and the athletic Hill can help in that effort. That's how Doman is looking at Hill at this point, as a situational quarterback that can bolster the offense, not necessarily as Nelson's heir apparent. Doman feels comfortable enough with Hill to put him on the field in certain situations.
"Riley's our quarterback and he's doing a heckuva job," Doman said. "I just think as that package that Taysom is in gets better and shows value, that role can expand if it's helping our team and if it's a weapon for us. In regards to prepping for the future, if we have an opportunity to put quarterbacks in at the end of the game, we might at that point make some decisions in relation to letting younger quarterbacks play.
"But if Riley goes down, James will go in. If we have a chance to put a quarterback in at the end of a game because of a lead, then we'll probably put the younger guys in — Jason Munns and Taysom Hill — let them play and see how they do."
That could be the case Saturday (1 p.m. MT, BYUtv) when the Cougars host Weber State.
Hill, who signed with Stanford out of high school, then enrolled at BYU in January after completing a mission to Australia, enjoys his role.
"Right now, my role is clear as far as the 'wildcat' stuff and what you saw against Washington State," said Hill. "Those things are definitely still in and we'll continue to build off that as we continue to execute that the way that we have been. Hopefully, it's not over, and my role will continue to be designed and be more clear as the season goes on.
"I know there's a lot of things that we can do with this 'wildcat' stuff, but we just need to continue to execute it the way we did against Washington State and, as we do, that role will continue to increase, I think."
For Hill, last Thursday was an ideal debut. He figured he would see playing time in the opener, he just didn't know when.
"It was a great experience. The play that we ran was designed and we executed extremely well," Hill said. "I couldn't have asked for a better way to start my collegiate career — throwing a touchdown pass. I was joking around that I should just hang up my cleats right now — I'm one-for-one with a touchdown."
Doman was thrilled with Hill's TD pass.
"There was only one time in the (press) box that I made a fool of myself, and it was after that touchdown. I think I was throwing uppercuts against the air, or something like that," he said, chuckling. "It was a lot of fun. We put a lot of energy and time into that and it was fun to see it work. It was his call. He made the right decision at the line of scrimmage. To see him do all that and throw his first pass and get a touchdown is pretty cool."
Hill said he was prepared for that situation during fall camp.
"That goes to show the kind of coaching staff we have," he said. "Coach Doman and the other coaches got me ready. They gave me different looks in practice so that when we got to the game, I was comfortable with changing the play and calling an audible, and executing it the way we did. I couldn't have drawn it up any better. We saw it, made a decision, and it worked out, luckily."
The season-opener marked Hill's first football game in three years, since he finished his career at Highland High in Pocatello, Idaho.16 comments on this story
"It's been a long time coming," he said. "It was a great way to start a college career."
Right now, Hill is focused on the present, not the future.
"Ultimately, the more I learn, the more I'll help the team. I'm not looking into 2013," he said. "I'm looking at how I can help the team this year. Right now, with this 'wildcat' stuff, that's what I need to do and be comfortable with that. Besides that, I need to learn to be the best quarterback I possibly can."
Cougars, Wildcats on the air
Weber State (0-1) at BYU (1-0)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MT
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM