PROVO — What should BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum be doing this winter, spring and summer to make the most of Ty Detmer's offense this fall?
It’s the same thing any quarterback should do. Get practice time, seven-on-seven reps and whiteboard work. Although, with Detmer’s pro-set philosophy, there’s far more to digest and get done.
BYU’s most successful seasons have come when a smart, finesse-style QB is able to make plays and put points on the board, not just by using a system, but mastering its nuances.
This BYU thing has to be a little different than other places, not just because of its history, but also because of the design and execution of an offense each season. A BYU quarterback can’t afford an ineffective offseason. Traditionally, BYU faces quicker, more athletic opponents. So brains must come into play.
New San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch recently told a Bay Area radio station that current college QBs have “an increasingly steep learning curve at the next level” because of a “proliferation of spread offenses that don’t have huddles, direct snaps from center or the complexity of pro-style offenses.”
Lynch said many high school and college QBs are “playing a different style of football. I don’t think it’s great for the game.”
What Detmer is trying to establish is a break from the read-option and spread formation fads. He’ll use more under-center snaps and require a different mindset from his QBs.
And what would that be? I queried those who are well-versed in the QB position at BYU, including an NFL veteran, and this was their recipe.
Here’s what Mangum needs to assimilate over the next six months.
Mangum will get reps he didn’t get last year. He must maximize that familiarity with his targets, and to do that, he must have thousands of repetitions. He has to get on-field visuals, not from the standpoint of watching film or looking at a whiteboard, but from experience with his teammates.
He’ll need to gain greater knowledge of how Detmer wants him to work through his progressions. Everything happens in a sequential order as it fires through his brain to his muscles, say BYU veterans. In the beginning, he has to think his way through the progressions. There’s a difference between thinking and playing through the progressions. The thinking converts to playing without getting stuck. Mangum didn’t get much of doing that backing up Taysom Hill.
As Mangum does this, he’ll start seeing multiple defensive looks. He may have the same offensive play called, but he’ll begin to see multiple options. This is what veterans describe as the game slowing down in his mind. He’ll understand the maximum number of options to be made against those defenses. He’ll have more answers in his memory bank.
Dustin Smith, who has partnered with Detmer in QB camps for years, believes Detmer will work to get Mangum making pre-snap reads rather than revert to what he’s done, making reads in the pocket after the snap. "He'll learn to take what the defense gives him and not depend so much on the home-run ball."
Next, Detmer will require Mangum to do shape passes, something PGA Tour golfers do with the ball. With underneath coverage, he’ll have to learn to “layer” the ball where other throws without underneath coverage, he can fire it in.
It’s polish, polish, polish.
He’ll need to kill it on third downs, work to get third-and-short where his entire offense is available, limiting what defense can do.
And he’ll have to quickly excel in his new role. Hill had the mantle a year ago. Mangum needs to establish command, get offensive players used to the way he does things, and exude confidence in the way he acts on and off the field.
Said a former NFL Cougar, a team's offense takes on the persona of the guy calling the plays or the guy that’s running the show. With a young QB, the offense takes after the play caller, a coach. With a veteran, the offense takes on the personality of the quarterback because he’ll essentially transpose himself so he can say, “this is my offense."
A seasoned coach will recognize when the time is right for a young QB to take on that role and he’ll shift the reins. Mangum must work to convince Detmer he is a veteran to be trusted and that comes through consistency, acute decision-making and success, first in practice, then in games. Detmer wants Mangum immersed in that mindset.
Folks say Detmer will ask Mangum to master recognizing defensive fronts, coverages and prove he has the brains to see what’s in front of him. He’ll need to tell linemen where to adjust blocking, how receivers can more fully attack, and inspire his backs with tips, hints and confidence.
So many college offenses these days simplify their offenses because players simply don’t have enough time to digest what is needed. It’s dumbed down. They make terminology simpler, they make reads simpler.
In a pro-set offense, a QB needs to get more and give more. In the NFL, an offense can’t be dumbed down because it makes it too easy for a defense to attack it. Mangum and Detmer must find a happy medium.
So, what will Mangum need to do in the offseason? Take whatever QB skills he has and work harder than he did yesterday.