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Ken Driggs: Taysom Hill is on track for rare BYU sophomore QB breakout year

By Ken Driggs

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10 2013 4:40 p.m. MDT

BYU's Taysom Hill as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Provo.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

BYU quarterbacks have had a great legacy, but relatively few had breakout seasons in their sophomore years.

There are a variety of reasons, including playing behind an All-American QB, less than stellar team performances and limited playing time. But Taysom Hill is on track to be one of those select few with breakout soph seasons. The following is a recap of BYU QB performances since the mid-1960s.

The first true star QB at BYU was my contemporary and friend Virgil Carter. His soph season was good, but the team only won three games. He led the Cougars to their first conference championship in 1965, and the next year broke the NCAA record for total offense in a game with 599 yards against Texas Western. In 1967 Marc Lyons, current BYU football commentator, led the Cougars to a 6-4 season with some pretty good stats. Gary Schiede lit up the stat sheets in 1973 and 1974, but he came to BYU his junior year as a transfer.

Gifford Nielsen had a breakout year in 1975, but had to come off the bench for a win against New Mexico in the fourth game of the year to begin his storied career. He was headed for a Heisman-caliber year in 1977 until a knee injury against Oregon State in the fourth game ended his college career. The injury allowed a future All-American Marc Wilson to excell during his sophomore season. Wilson threw seven touchdown passes in his first start in a blowout win at Colorado State. Wilson then shared time the next year with another future All-American, Jim McMahon, but it wasn't until McMahon survived a redshirt year that he would explode upon the college football scene with a record-setting 1980 junior season, culminated by the "Miracle Bowl" pass to Clay Brown to defeat SMU and its "Pony Express" backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James.

Another in the string of All-American QBs was Steve Young, who as a sophomore played behind McMahon in 1981. Young proceeded to light up the scoreboard in his last two years and was second in the Heisman voting in 1983. Young's backup, Robbie Bosco, had his breakout year in 1984, his junior year, when he led the Cougars to their only footbal national championship.

Each of the All-American QBs had to wait his turn, and the succession did wonders for the success of the program from the mid-70s through the mid-80s. Steve Lindsley, Bob Jensen and Sean Covey manned the QB position for the next few years, but it wasn't until the young Texan Ty Detmer exploded on the scene his sophomore year in 1989 did we have another breakout season early in a career. Detmer produced prolific numbers as a portent for his 1990 Heisman Trophy season, his junior year, highlighted by a stirring triumph over then No. 1 ranked Miami.

Third stringer Ryan Hancock was elevated to the starting QB position in 1992 because of injuries to John Walsh and Steve Clements, and had a promising sophomore year. His season was cut short by an injury in the Utah game, and Young's brother Tom was the QB for the bowl game against Kansas. Walsh got his soph season back in 1993 and had some good games and stats, but the team only went 6-6. Current Washington coach Steve Sarkisian was a junior when he came to BYU in 1995, but his 1996 season was a memorable one, culminating with a Cotton Bowl win over Kansas St. and a No. 5 final ranking.

Kevin Fetierick beat out Paul Shoemaker in 1997 to start as a sophomore, but injuries to Feterick and others left the Cougars with a mediocre 6-5 season. After Feterick's last year in 1999, there was a merry-go-round of QBs, with Bret Engemann, Charlie Peterson and Brandon Doman taking turns, until Doman broke out late in his junior year to win two straight games, the first a win over New Mexico on the night President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the naming of LaVell Edwards Stadium, and the next a dramatic win over Utah in Edwards' last game. Doman proceeded to lead the Cougars to 12 consecutive wins in an exciting 2001 year.

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