We’re treating Ammon just like he could be the starter in one play because Taysom’s going to have to make great decisions on the field in terms of contact as well. —Bronco Mendenhall
PROVO — Sophomore Taysom Hill was named BYU’s starting quarterback after spring drills, but sophomore backup Ammon Olsen is also taking a lot of reps in fall camp.
The Cougars are working to get both quarterbacks ready to play this season.
After Monday night’s practice, coach Bronco Mendenhall said “there’s not a huge difference” between Hill and Olsen.
Olsen threw a 40-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Ross Apo during Monday’s practice session.
“We’re treating Ammon just like he could be the starter in one play because Taysom’s going to have to make great decisions on the field in terms of contact as well,” Mendenhall said.
The Cougars saw both Hill and Riley Nelson suffer injuries last season that forced them to be sidelined for multiple games.
“We know what happens because we’ve lived that already,” Mendenhall said. “We’re working hard to help (Hill) make those decisions, but also have Ammon be ready.”
First-year quarterbacks coach Jason Beck said both Hill and Olsen are competing hard, and that the competition has been good for them.
“Ammon wants to be the guy. He shows up and approaches it that way,” Beck said. “Taysom is a self-driven guy anyways. But you can’t help but feel that pressure and that push from Ammon. It only helps.”
Beck was pleased with the way both QBs prepared during the offseason.
“They look good. You can tell from where we left off in the spring they’ve been working hard this summer,” Beck said. “They’re a little further ahead in some things than they were in the spring. They’ve had a good summer; they’ve worked hard; they’re in good shape; and they’ve picked up more of the offense.”
While Hill started two games for the Cougars last season before sustaining a season-ending knee injury, Olsen redshirted and quarterbacked the scout team.
Beck said both Hill and Olsen possess plenty of strengths.
“They’re both really hard workers. They work every day and they go hard. For the team, and for the offense, that helps set the tone and the tempo of what we want to do. They are both knowledgeable. They’re smart guys who put in a lot of time studying and preparing. They can help their teammates that way. Taysom brings some speed and athleticism. Ammon can throw the ball around, but he can do pretty well running around, extending plays himself. They both have strengths we want to utilize to help the team.”
What does Beck want to see from his quarterbacks over the next few weeks leading up to the season opener at Virginia on Aug. 31?
“The biggest thing is being consistent,” Beck said. “They’ll do something a couple of times right, then one time not. It’s being consistent, then being a little more urgent, especially in the passing game when it comes to getting rid of the ball, avoiding taking sacks, making correct decisions, getting the ball to the guy that’s open and pushing the tempo.”
Beck likes what he has at his disposal at the quarterback position.
“That’s what you expect here at BYU — to have good quarterback play — and we have talented guys to work with,” Beck said.
Behind Hill and Olsen, the other quarterbacks on BYU's roster are senior Jason Munns, junior Christian Stewart and freshman Billy Green. Freshman Tanner Mangum left for a mission over the summer.
As a former BYU quarterback, Beck has experiences that he can share with his players.
“Both from the approach of being ready to start a game, as well as the approach of having to prepare as if you’re the starter, even though you’re not, you never know how things are going to happen,” Beck said. “I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Ammon just got married and I’ve been through that when I was here playing. It helps me to relate to those experiences and identify with them and help them any way you can.”