Five former BYU quarterbacks could start at other programs when the 2014 college football season kicks off next week.
It’s part of the tradition for a school that has been showcasing this position over the last five decades. QB transfers from Provo have included Jeff Duva (Hawaii), Gym Kimball (USU), Ralph Martini (San Jose State), Brian Vye (San Jose State) and Drew Miller (Montana) — to mention a few.
It hasn’t changed in the Bronco Mendenhall era, starting when Jacob Bower left after six months back in 2006.
“I hold no grudges,” said Bower this week when asked to chronicle a journey that took him from Provo to Bakersfield, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Here’s a glimpse at a few QBs that departed from Provo during Mendenhall’s tenure.
At Weber State, Cougar transfer Billy Green is battling Jadrian Clark for the starting spot for the Wildcats against Arizona State. Green signed with BYU out of Woodway, Washington, worked on the scout team in 2013, and made an appearance against Idaho State. Earlier in camp when Clark battled a hamstring pull, Green was No. 1, immediately eligible after his transfer.
At SUU, Ammon Olsen, BYU's 2013 backup to Taysom Hill, is battling 2013 Thunderbird starter Aaron Cantu for the starting job. Head coach Ed Lamb said Olsen has elevated his game during the challenge and both are playing at a high level under new coordinator and QBs coach Gary Crowton.
At UNLV, coach Bobby Hauck has named Blake Decker his starter. Decker, who came out of the same program that produced John Beck and Max Hall at Mountain View High in Arizona, walked on at BYU in 2009, then transferred to Scottsdale Community College, where he threw for 4,200 yards and 47 touchdowns.
At Snow College, former BYU scholarship recruit Alex Kuresa is expected to start at quarterback for the Badgers. Kuresa played scout quarterback and wide receiver at BYU before going on an LDS mission, returning early, and moving to Ephraim in 2014.
At the University of Miami, Jake Heaps, who left BYU after losing the starting job to Riley Nelson in 2011, is vying for the starting job at Miami after initially transferring to Kansas. The former five-star recruit is battling a true freshman during the Hurricane's fall camp.
It’s only been a few years since BYU scout team quarterback Brad Sorensen took off for Cedar City and SUU during the Heaps/Nelson era. Sorensen set SUU passing records and earned All-Great West Conference Player of the Year honors. The San Diego Chargers drafted Sorensen 221st overall as a seventh-round pick in 2013, and he remains on the NFL roster today.
The first Cougar QB in the Mendenhall era to transfer was Bower, a 6-foot-3, 242-pound star from Meridian, Idaho, who threw for more than 7,000 yards in his prep career.
Bower signed with BYU under then coach Gary Crowton and went on an LDS mission. When he returned to Provo in 2006, Crowton had just been fired and BYU had brought in Max Hall, James Lark and Sam Doman behind John Beck. He transferred to Bakersfield Community College, where he led that team to a 12-1 record in 2007. He became a JC All-American and California Community College Player of the Year before transferring to Tulsa. At Tulsa, he was a backup quarterback the rest of his career, playing for current Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and ASU’s Todd Graham.
He married a college volleyball player, earned a master’s degree, and has been working as a chiropractor for Boise State's football program. He hopes to open his own practice in October, specializing in sports-related treatment.
“I have no hard feelings. I have nothing but respect for BYU football and I respect the job Bronco Mendenhall has done. He’s a character guy. He is a man who has proved successful and has been inspirational to many,” said Bower.
“I just wanted to play and find somewhere I could play.”
Bower’s father Wayne played at BYU and his brothers Danny and Ricky played basketball for the Cougars.
Bower, 29, said current BYU quarterbacks coach Jason Beck was his roommate at BYU. He maintains today that Beck taught him more about football than anyone and compares his personality and style to Malzahn.
“He’s extremely smart and extremely patient. He has that California cool personality where nothing really fazes him. He’s a rarity in college football. He reminds me of Malzahn. A lot of coaches aren’t willing to slow it down and take time to teach you. He’s just got that personality where he can break it down for you, explaining complicated things in a way you can understand it.”
Bower, who named his sons Bubba and Wayland from his time in the South, said he’s grateful for what football has given him — a career and family.
“But if I had it to do over again, I think I’d play basketball," he said.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at [email protected].