PROVO — Taysom Hill entered spring practices as the assumed heir apparent to Riley Nelson by most and has done little to dispel such assumptions. With three weeks of practices behind him, Hill is proving himself not only by his play, but also by his leadership capabilities.
Leadership is a trait head coach Bronco Mendenhall values in all his players, but perhaps even more in his quarterbacks. It was the leadership qualities possessed by Riley Nelson that separated himself at quarterback and coaches are seeing those same qualities in Hill.
“Not necessarily by performance, but more so by leadership,” Mendenhall said of Hill’s early lead in the quarterback competition. “Taysom (Hill), because of his experience a year ago, (has) existing command of the team because of past experience, but he and Ammon (Olsen) are fairly close in production.”
The best leaders are often those who don’t make a concerted effort to be as much, but just rise naturally to the role. It’s something Hill has accomplished in his relatively short time within the program.
“He’s a natural leader who speaks up and does it by example — by working hard,” said quarterback coach Jason Beck. “The guys really listen to him and respond. It’s something that’s not out of his element or anything he’s trying to do special. It’s just part of his character and who he is and it’s a great trait to have.”
Hill is not only impressing coaches with his leadership abilities but with his natural abilities to play the position effectively. Last year saw him put his superior speed and running prowess on display, but this spring it’s been all about his arm.
“He looks good. He looks healthy and he’s making good progress every day he’s out there,” Beck said. “Right now it’s a matter of the footwork and the timing on the throws. He really throws it well down the field, but the main focus is the out-routes and the timing things right now.”
As mentioned, Ammon Olsen is competing hard with Hill for the starting spot and has seen his share of first-team reps, as a result. After spending a year running the scout team Olsen has shown great strides this spring.
“Ammon Olsen has really played well lately, so we‘re splitting a lot of the first-team reps with him and Taysom,” Beck said. “He’s really pushing Taysom, which is a big plus for us, and he can do a lot of the same things that Taysom does although he doesn’t have quite the same speed, but he moves very well for a quarterback.”
Beck had positive things to say about all his quarterbacks, including Jason Munns, who hasn’t been able to compete the last two weeks due to a concussion sustained during practices.
“Jason was really solid his first two practices, but obviously hasn’t been able to be out here since,” Beck said. “It’s been frustrating for him, but also for us because of what he showed early on. Hopefully he can come back soon — hopefully next week.”
Beck has also been pleased with both Christian Stewart and Tanner Mangum as they continue to progress. The newest quarterback on the block is true freshman Billy Green, who graduated early from high school to join the program in January.
“We sprinkle Billy in every so often,” Beck said. “With trying to get guys ready it’s tough because there are so many guys out there. When he gets his chance though he does well with it. The other day he had a touchdown on a nice fade route. His reps are limited, but he’s doing the most with them.”
Hanging with Harbaugh
Taysom Hill signed with Stanford and then-head coach Jim Harbaugh out of high school before deciding to transfer to BYU following his LDS mission service. Harbaugh, who now coaches the San Francisco 49ers, was in town this week on a speaking engagement and made a point to meet up with former signee.
“We still have a great relationship and we had a great relationship when he was recruiting me,” Hill said. “We got close and it’s a relationship that will last from here on out. He didn’t blame me for (transferring) even though he was aware of everything that transpired — I think he wanted to see me at Stanford, however.”