PROVO BYU wide receiver Austin Collie said he was "a little shocked" when coaches pulled him aside Wednesday and asked him to take on an additional role: backup quarterback.
On Friday, Collie attended the quarterbacks meeting, and he spent most of practice taking reps with the quarterbacks. BYU coaches have not been impressed of late with the performances of backup quarterbacks Brenden Gaskins and Kurt McEuen, so now they've turned to Collie, who has been sidelined during fall camp with a stress fracture in his leg.
"We intend to use him any way possible to help our team," coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Collie. "His first priority is getting back at full speed at receiver. But we also know that, as was demonstrated in (Wednesday's) scrimmage, there's quite a drop-off if Max Hall were to go down. So that gives a chance also to protect ourselves and possibly leverage not only if Max is down, but possibly not down for him to get his hands on the ball in a few other different ways."
Collie said he has not played quarterback since he was 10 years old.
"It's been a while," he said. "I wasn't half-bad. But we did run a lot of option. I was never tested with my arm.
"There's a lot of stuff to think about and a lot of stuff going through my head. But wherever the coaches need me, I'm there. My main concern right now is helping the team at wide receiver. I'm getting as many reps as I can there."
Starting quarterback Max Hall was also surprised by the decision to give Collie some quarterback experience but said he supports it.
"Austin's a good enough athlete to where he could (play quarterback)," Hall said. "You give him a few months and he could learn it. He's got a decent arm. I call it a pea-shooter. But he thinks he has a pretty good arm, and he does.
"He's a good athlete. He's a guy who can make plays. Once he picks up a few simple plays and how to read them, we'll see what happens. He's going to be in the mix, and those other QBs need to step it up. They've got to take it as motivation."
Collie said learning the new position has helped him appreciate what the quarterbacks do.
"I always gave Max a hard time. I told him, 'It's not that hard. Just throw the ball,'" Collie said. "But there's a lot to think about, a lot of adjustments. It's a whole new world. But it's definitely going to help me as a wide receiver to read the defense and know where I'm going as a wideout.
"I don't want to let this get in the way of my wideout skills," Collie added. "That's my main priority. I do need to learn the offense and I do need to learn some things about quarterbacks in case something happens to Max, we could step in there and have something going."
"He's still my receiver. He's still my guy," Hall said. "He's going to learn a little about being a quarterback and find out how hard it is and appreciate me a little more. The best thing about it is sitting next to him in the film room. It will make him a better receiver."
As far as the status of his leg, Collie says he's about "95 to 100" percent healthy.
"I'm ready to go," he said. After practice, he ran a variety of routes and caught passes from Hall.
"I think he's right there," Hall said of Collie. "He's a little out of shape. But a little out of shape for Austin Collie is about the same for everybody else. It will take him a couple days to get back. By the time (next) Saturday comes around, he's going to be like he hasn't missed any practices at all. It's going to be exciting for me to have him back."
The Cougars open the season next Saturday against Northern Iowa.
THOUGHTS WITH THE LATUS: Backup running back Wayne Latu was not at practice Friday so he could deal with a family emergency. Latu's wife gave birth earlier this week to a baby with life-threatening complications. The baby is being treated at Primary Children's Hospital.
"It's difficult to manage practice and then spend enough time or consideration to what's going on with Wayne," Mendenhall said. "It's affecting more of our players than probably anyone's letting on to."
Latu's wife is the sister of linebacker Michael Alisa.
NORTHERN IOWA PREP: Friday marked BYU's first practice with the focus on Northern Iowa. Mendenhall announced the scout teams for the offense and defense and they simulated what the coaches expect they'll see from the Panthers a week from today.
"We have a very good idea of what they do and their personnel," Mendenhall said. "I can learn a lot from their program. They were 12-1 last year. Their consistency and execution and the way they're coached and the way they're using their talent, I'm very impressed with. They're a very good football team and a good program."
On Friday, Northern Iowa senior running back Corey Lewis was named to the preseason Championship Subdivision first-team All-America team by The Sports Network.
DENNEY SECURES SPOT: BYU defensive end Brett Denney has taken over Ian Dulan's starting job. Mendenhall likes the way Denney has performed during fall camp."(Dulan) very well could earn his spot back at some point," Mendenhall said. "But Brett is playing too well and his consistency in working every day is a lesson that can't be lost through this. My job is to develop young men as well. Sometimes that means through accountability, which is what Ian will have."
E-mail: [email protected]