Dick Harmon: It's Taysom Hill time on the Eastern Seaboard. Is he ready?
Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
This is Taysom Hill’s time.
The junior BYU quarterback will get his first chance to show it Friday night at Rentschler Field against the UConn Huskies on ESPN.
He’s had iconic moments, like the Texas game last year. Will he have more this year?
Hill suffered his Virginia road disaster in last year's opener, but today that seems a very long time ago. He’s farther down the road with five offensive coaches that were new in 2013. He’s shown impressive leadership in fall camp. He’s improved his accuracy. His last three practices leading up to this opener, by all accounts, were simply outstanding.
His knee injury is ancient history. He’s got a more seasoned, experienced offensive line. In fall camp, he enjoyed an impressive set of imported receivers, and junior Mitch Mathews appears to have found another gear. His offensive coaches have custom-designed plays to score in the red zone, and the plan is to stretch defenses. In theory, that will only open things up for his running ability. His running backs have skill and acumen. He has no excuses, only opportunities.
He’s listed on many Heisman Trophy watch lists.
Now, if there are no further suspensions or injuries before kickoff, Hill just might take advantage of his chance to do big things.
Former Texas coach Mack Brown, who watched Hill tear apart his Longhorn defense last year in LaVell Edwards Stadium, is now an analyst for ESPN. When asked to assess what sets Hill apart from others this week on camera, the veteran coach held nothing back in praise — but also accepted blame for Hill’s spectacle in Provo.
“He's one of the top mobile quarterbacks in the country. He's strong, he can run through tackles,” said Brown. “They're going to run 90‑plus plays a game if they can. So when we're talking about up‑tempo offense, they're one of the fastest in the country and they usually do not change the play. They go and they continue to go. So you have to line up right on defense. You have to be in great shape on defense, and you have to have attention to detail with their option.
“We did a horrible job defending the option last year, and he gained about 8,000 yards, I think, in our game. It was a lot more than we should have let them get. We changed coaches around after the game, but we did a poor job in the game.
“They're big and strong up front. He can throw it. That was a question mark early. He ruined his knee two years ago, but he's back full-speed ahead, and I think he has a chance to be one of the better quarterbacks in the country.”
How much has Hill improved? How much has his supporting cast progressed?
We’ll know in short order.
Here are the first picks of this much-anticipated college football season:
Utah 42, Idaho State 3: Nice scrimmage to get Travis Wilson back in the saddle.
Mississippi 24, Boise State 17: Ole Miss wins this one in the trenches.
Arizona State 45, Weber State 10: Not a true barometer of the Wildcats, just too big a bite out of the chute for the new staff.
Utah State 24, Tennessee 21: Better organization, discipline, QB and playbook, the Aggies capture a nice SEC win in Knoxville.
Wisconsin 24, LSU 17: Gary Andersen takes advantage of neutral site in Houston.
Florida State 28, Oklahoma State 24: Cowboys have some firepower, but FSU has more talent and speed.
USC 34, Fresno State 14: Trojans shake off a weird week of alleged heroism and collar the Bulldogs.
San Diego State 37, Northern Arizona 10: Aztecs flex a little MWC muscle over an outmanned foe.
Nevada 21, SUU 9: It’s a matter of depth and endurance.
Michigan 34, Appalachian State 10: This is exactly what it was designed to be for Brady Hoke and the Wolverines.
Iowa State 28, North Dakota State 21: A Midwest wrestling match where size does matter.
Wyoming 28, Montana 17: The Cowboys are ready for a new era.
Colorado 37, Colorado State 21: Another neutral-site game where the Buffs take care of Pac-12 business.
BYU 31, UConn 14: Experienced QB versus UConn QB Casey Cochran, who is breaking in new coaches and philosophy just like Hill did at Virginia a year ago.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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