CEDAR CITY — The last time a BYU quarterback left Provo for Southern Utah, he ended up being drafted by the NFL’s San Diego Chargers in 2013.
Folks at SUU are hoping for a repeat of Brad Sorensen in the embodiment of Ammon Olsen, who transferred here after BYU’s bowl game in San Francisco last winter.
Olsen, who signed with SUU out of Alta High before serving an LDS mission, is back to his original choice. He is battling Mike Sharp and Aaron Cantu for the Thunderbirds' starting QB job.
If practice this past week is any indication, Olsen could be on his way.
For instance, there’s one of the first plays he made during an 11-on-11 competition last Thursday.
Before wideout C.J. Morgan made his cut, Olsen made his throw. He didn’t have more than 1 square-foot of this moving target to deliver the football to, but he did it perfectly and Morgan, a senior transfer from Wyoming, took the pass the distance.
“It was cover-zero, we called a slant, and C.J. made a nice catch,” said Olsen. “That’s just what happens in cover-zero. All our receivers are quick. If they can get a step on a DB, we’re out of the gate.
“Mike and Aaron played here last year and it's good to work things out with them,” said Olsen. “Right now we’re just competing and I’m trying to make sure I’m doing my best, focus on what I’m doing, limiting mistakes, getting to know the guys and just enjoy it.”
How would he grade himself right now on a scale of one to 10? “Probably a six," he said. "I feel I need to get to the end of my progressions better. The offensive line is doing better and that’s allowing us to get to our third and fourth reads and I think I did better today.”
Olsen is a strong-armed thrower who is accurate. He also has mobility, maturity and a good head for the game. His departure hurt BYU’s QB depth, which established junior-to-be Taysom Hill as the starter in 2013.
Tutoring Olsen is new coordinator Gary Crowton, whose presence in Cedar City has players excited.
“Ammon is a good passer,” said Crowton. “He’s a good learner. He’s mobile, relates well with the team, and he’s really battling Aaron, who started last year. I’m really happy Ammon is here.”
SUU coach Ed Lamb said an early concern he had about Olsen was that he was originally at SUU out of high school as the school’s biggest signee, the Deseret News 5A MVP and Gatorade Player of the Year.
“One concern I had is that he’d come back with the attitude like, 'BYU hosed me and I never got my shot,' and our guys didn’t need to hear that," said Lamb. "Our players can play anywhere in the country and they should believe that and they don’t want to hear the story of the guy who got misused at BYU or Oregon or anywhere else.
“But from Day 1, Ammon came in here and said he should never have left. He’s been excited about being here, been positive and said, ‘Hey, guys, lets get going.’”
Lamb said Olsen will need to compete. He has been given no guarantees. “He’s everything he was when we recruited him out of high school. I worried when he got his release that he may have some shoulder blowout or something, but no, he’s as we remember. He has a real lively NFL-caliber arm.”
Ammon, Lamb says, knows the story of Sorensen transferring from BYU to SUU and getting drafted, but Sorensen’s success came because of a lot of hard work. “Ammon knows he has to be his own man.”
Lamb said his T-Birds have almost everyone returning on defense and expects to field the best D in the Big Sky Conference. With Crowton on board and the weapons he has at his disposal, Lamb sees SUU’s offense being far more dynamic than a year ago. In 2013, SUU’s big game was Washington State. This year, it is Fresno State.
“All the makings are in place. If the head coach doesn’t mess it up, we’ll be all right,” said Lamb.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at [email protected].