It helps a ton to have experienced guys (at quarterback) because they’ve been around football and they understand concepts. —BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer
PROVO — In their own ways, BYU quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum are in a class by themselves.
While Hill, a senior, may be the best athlete ever to play quarterback at BYU, Mangum, a sophomore, just completed the most successful freshman season at QB in school history — just months after returning from an LDS mission.
Eventually, both may go down as two of the best quarterbacks ever to play at BYU. And they’re coached by another great in Ty Detmer, the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner who is now the offensive coordinator.
What everybody is wondering is, will Hill or Mangum start when the Cougars face Arizona in the season opener on Sept. 3?
That question could remain unanswered until the BYU offense takes the field for the first time at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
For Detmer, having two experienced, talented quarterbacks is a nice problem to have.
During spring practices, BYU wide receiver Mitchell Juergens loved catching passes from Hill and Mangum.
“As a kid, you dream of stuff like this. You watch the greats like Ty Detmer throwing the ball around and you dream of playing with a guy like that and we’ve got two of them,” Juergens said. “It’s awesome. You count your blessings every day and you do your best to learn from them both. They’re both experienced and amazing leaders that we all look up to. It’s comfortable being out there with them knowing that they’re the two that will lead us. We have full confidence in them.”
Former BYU quarterback Max Hall, the winningest QB in school history, attended Alumni Day festivities on the final day of spring ball. He said Detmer has an interesting choice to make when it comes to the quarterbacks.
“We’re not going to see what Taysom looks like until fall camp, but we know what Taysom is. He’s a veteran guy. He’s been around,” Hall said. “He’s a fantastic athlete and he has improved throwing the football throughout his career. What you get with that is a veteran, experienced leader. Tanner throws an amazing ball and he’s talented. But he’s young. He’s still learning. He got away last year with chucking up the deep ball. He’s got so much potential. I think Ty’s got a tough decision. The decision to let them compete and battle is the right decision. If you had to pick a starter today, I don’t know what he'd do, with Taysom coming back from his injury. The nice thing is, we’ve got two really good quarterbacks and one of them is really young. We’re going to have some good quarterbacks for the next few years.”
As the Cougars enter the offseason, does Mangum, who replaced an injured Hill last year, consider himself the starter?
“Every player prepares that way. In the spring you’re not necessarily worried about that,” Mangum said. “We’re competing against ourselves as an offense to get better and learn the offense. Come fall camp, then they’ll make decisions about starting positions and all that. I’m not worried about that. You just have to continue to prepare every day like you are going to play. Just like I did last summer. Obviously, I knew Taysom was the starter, but I still prepared like I was going to play. That helped me once I stepped in."
Detmer said both Hill and Mangum have been effective at picking up the new, pro-style offensive scheme.
“It helps a ton to have experienced guys (at quarterback) because they’ve been around football and they understand concepts,” Detmer said. “The terminology may be different but the concepts are similar. Having those guys there allows us to do a little more in the run game.”
Detmer downplayed the competition between Hill and Mangum during the spring.
“You see them out there, they’re talking through plays together. They’re not competing against each other, they’re competing against themselves,” he said. “They want to be the best players they can be, not just better than the next guy. If you’re really trying to get to the next level, that’s the way it should be. The coaches decide the rest after that.”