PROVO — And then there were seven.
BYU opened spring football practices last week with eight quarterbacks on the roster.
Monday, coach Kalani Sitake confirmed that redshirt freshman Kody Wilstead has requested a release and will transfer.
That leaves Joe Critchlow, Beau Hoge, Tanner Mangum, Zach Wilson, Stacy Conner, Baylor Romney and Hayden Griffitts at the quarterback position, though Griffitts is injured and not participating.
Mangum, who suffered an Achilles injury last November, is seeing limited action, though he is taking part in 7-on-7 work.
Wilstead, meanwhile, is moving on.
“Kody’s asked for a release and we’re going to grant him that. We want him to have success and we’ll support him any way that we can,” Sitake said of the former Pine View High star. “I talked to him as a head coach and I’ve been able to sit down with him and have a really positive conversation.
"He wants to get on the field and play as soon as possible. I think he’s looking for a different place to do that. He loves football. He’s been a great support to us and a he’s a great teammate. I wish him the best.”
Last season, the Cougars played four quarterbacks due to injuries. Sitake likes having a surplus at that position.
“I just want a lot of quarterbacks. I’d rather have too many than none,” he said. “If there’s a great one sitting there, then I’m going to recruit him. I want the best players here. If it hurts some people’s feelings, then so be it. That’s just part of football.
"I don’t believe in manipulating the roster and manipulating the depth chart. The depth chart is always settled on the field. We’ll always have a good group of quarterbacks to compete with and the best will play.”
Wilson, a freshman who enrolled early out of Corner Canyon High, has made an impression so far in spring ball.
“From what we’re seeing, it seems like he’s a little further ahead (than most true freshmen QBs),” Sitake said. “Being here at mid-year has been good for him, too, and learning the offense, being able to graduate from high school early. People keep forgetting that he’s supposed to be in high school right now. I’ve been really impressed with his knowledge of the game.”
Mangum, who is the most experienced quarterback of the group, is four months removed from surgery.
“Every day it’s getting better and every week it’s feeling better. I’m working with the training staff and the strength staff. It’s feeling good,” the senior from Eagle, Idaho, said. “I’m happy with the progress we’re making. It’s been a test of patience but I’m happy with where we’re at and it’s fun to be back out here with the team.”
Mangum said he plans to be 100 percent healthy by the time fall camp begins in August.
In the meantime, he’s doing everything he can to learn and improve even if he can’t participate in every drill.
“For me, it doesn’t mean I’m taking plays off,” he said. “Every play is a mental rep. I make the most of the 7-on-7 reps that I get.”
Mangum has been a big support to the other quarterbacks, Sitake said.
“He’s doing a great job of cheering (the other guys) on and helping a lot of the young freshmen, especially the new guys. He’s always been a good support. He did the same thing when Taysom (Hill) was starting and he was his backup.
"Right now, he’s not able to compete 100 percent but he’s able to help lead and support. I’ve been really happy with the way he’s done that as a teammate.”34 comments on this story
As for the quarterback competition that features seven quarterbacks?
“It’s unique having a lot of guys but we have a lot of camaraderie. We get along really well and we have fun together,” Mangum said. “Sometimes it can be frustrating. Everyone’s a competitor and wants to play as much as they can and get as many reps as they can. But (quarterbacks) coach (Aaron) Roderick always tells us to make the most of every rep. Don’t count the reps, make the reps count. That’s the mentality we all have.”