PROVO — When it comes to the biggest issue of BYU's fall camp — selecting a starting quarterback for the 2018 season — coach Kalani Sitake has a timetable in mind.
“As soon as possible,” he said after the first practice of fall camp Thursday. “That’s what we want to get done.”
Quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick said it might take several practices to determine a starter.
“I’d like to have a good idea in two weeks. That’s the goal,” Roderick said. “If it happens in two or three days, that’s great. I think two weeks is a reasonable timeframe. That’s what I’ve planned for.”
The BYU quarterback race has been narrowed down to three candidates — senior Tanner Mangum, sophomore Joe Critchlow and freshman Zach Wilson — after Beau Hoge was switched to running back.
“Tanner, Joe and Zach took all the reps and I distributed the reps evenly and I’ll probably keep it that way for a few days,” Roderick said of the first practice. “Then we’ll see if somebody starts to separate a little bit.”
Mangum has the most experience of the candidates with 21 starts to his credit and he’s shown that experience early in fall camp.
“Tanner had one where he was tempted to throw it deep. Then he looked at his second read and dumped it to the back,” Roderick said. “Sometimes a play like that is really critical in finding out who can play quarterback for us because those plays might bore the fans but once in a while those things are critical to making sure we don’t beat ourselves.”
What will the starter have to do to win the job?
“It’s going to come down to execution and who can lead the offense, who can execute the offense, who can consistently make plays and make things happen,” Mangum said. “It comes down to consistency. We have a lot of guys who are capable of that. Coach Roderick has done a great job of coaching us up and letting us go out and play.”
Mangum said he’s not getting caught up in the drama that accompanies a quarterback battle.
“I’m just going to make the most of every day,” he said.
As far as fitting into the new offense implemented by first-year offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, Mangum feels comfortable.
“I can do different things and this offense allows us to do different things. We can throw the ball downfield, we can run it, we can do some QB run, do some trickery, a lot of motion and shifts. It’s very diverse,” he said. “I like that because I feel like I’m a diverse quarterback. I can throw it but I can make plays, scramble around and make things happen. It’s fun.”
Roderick pointed out that Mangum has lost 20 pounds during the offseason and is leaner and stronger than he was last year. He added that Wilson, who completed a couple of impressive deep passes Thursday, has added 15 pounds to his frame.
Critchlow signed with BYU in 2017 after committing to Southern Utah prior to his LDS mission. When Critchlow signed, the Cougars didn’t have a scholarship available, so he was on academic scholarship last season.
Recently, Critchlow was given an athletic scholarship.
“It means a lot to have that confidence from the coaches,” he said. “Deciding to transfer here from Southern Utah, that was the plan, that I would have an academic (scholarship) last year and plan on getting an athletic (scholarship) the second year after I proved myself. I’m happy to be here.”
Last season, Critchlow started the final three games after Mangum suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Critchlow posted a 2-1 record as a starter, including road victories over UNLV and Hawaii.
When assistant head coach Ed Lamb addressed alumni at an event in Cedar City last week, he heaped high praise on Critchlow.
“Joe Critchlow is, I think, a big-time quarterback in every way,” said Lamb, who was the head coach at SUU when Critchlow signed with the Thunderbirds in 2015. “I think Joe will be one of the great quarterbacks at BYU before it’s all said and done.”
Critchlow heard about the comments from Lamb and was flattered. But he knows he has a lot of work to do.31 comments on this story
“It’s always great to get a compliment from a coach that you’ve worked with for a long time,” Critchlow said. “But I’m just focused on this fall camp, focusing on the quarterback competition. I’m trying to win a job and to help this team as much as I can, to win this year.”
Critchlow likes the competition with the other QBs.
“I feel like all the quarterbacks have the same mindset,” he said. “We’re coming out here every day and working as hard as we can to help this team to win this fall. Whoever that ends up being, I feel like he’ll do a great job and we’ll have a great year.”