Cougars need to prepare for the future at quarterback

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 19 2012 6:45 p.m. MDT

PROVO — It's time for BYU to prepare for the day Riley Nelson can't get up from a hit.

Again.

Gutsy, inspirational and courageous as they come, history tells us Nelson, by the fierce and daring style of play he deploys, will succumb to the toll he pays every day.

In fact, he's already gone down. And jumped back up.

He played injured against Weber State and during Utah week, and he walked around hurt and still played on game day when ESPN came calling.

This week, it is expected he will once again defy all odds and lead the Cougar offense against Boise State in Bronco Stadium tonight. But the question is, how long will he last.

In his first BYU season, he had a season-ending shoulder injury at Florida State. We learned later he might have injured that shoulder earlier in fall practice when allowed to run around in a scrimmage.

In his second year, after earning the job in a comeback win over Utah State, Nelson was injured in a game against Idaho, missed the next game, a final home game against New Mexico State, then returned to play at Hawaii and in a bowl game against Tulsa.

This year, so far, he's risen to the call. He'll do so today.

But it is time BYU begins to prepare for the day Riley may not get up after one of these hits.

And it's not a simple dilemma.

Either they give senior James Lark more reps as the backup quarterback, or they move up freshman Taysom Hill to No. 2 and expand his role in games right now, starting tonight.

Option one gets tougher as the season goes on because Brandon Doman needs to prepare a quarterback for 2013, one of the toughest schedules in recent history for the Cougars.

Since Lark has been around for years, he is familiar with the system, etc. But other than the game against Weber State, he has not been given quality playing time when it mattered during his career. In other words, he is inexperienced.

Option two? Since Hill may not have been around but spring and fall, he has been on the field. While he doesn't have a lot of experience, BYU coaches have to weigh his inexperience against Lark's inexperience in actual games and determine if they reward the loyal Lark or bring in the future.

If they go with Hill, it would be a real blow to Lark, who has been the good soldier his entire career.

But you can see the problem. BYU needs a viable, long-term solution if their valiant senior Nelson goes down. His playing style almost predicts his hits will add up and chances are, he will miss a game, possibly more.

I think BYU has made a decision. They'll prepare Hill and go with the future.

Sorry, Lark. The future is now.

My humbling misses last week were BYU, USU, Tennessee and ASU. This week's predictions:

Arizona State 24, Utah 17: This isn't the same ASU team that beat Utah a year ago — it is better. And Utah still has issues if John White IV can't play this weekend.

Utah State 34, Colorado State 10: We've seen enough of Utah State to make the case they might be the best in the state. The Aggies had a chance to knock off Wisconsin in Madison and that says a lot.

Notre Dame 24, Michigan 17: This one is in South Bend, and now that disciplinary issues have been taken care of, look for the Irish to get on a roll.

UCLA 28, Oregon State 21: Gotta give the Bruins credit for turning things around. Beating Houston may not be the biggest achievement of all time, but it signals the beach boys aren't all about partying around any more.

Georgia Tech 34, Miami 17: The future opponent for the Cougars is the superior team and the Miami squad seems lost. Easy pickings for the Yellow Jackets.

Boise State 24, BYU 21: The Broncos don't lose very often at home and smart money said this would be the case tonight. BYU is capable, if they can prove to operate in hostile environments. Last week told us that isn't the case with this squad.

Last week: 3-4 Overall: 11-9 (.550)

email: dharmon@desnews.com twitter: harmonwrites

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