PROVO — Entering fall camp, sophomore Joe Critchlow had his sights set on competing for, and winning, BYU’s starting quarterback job.
But last Monday, offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick announced that the QB race had been narrowed to two — senior Tanner Mangum and freshman Zach Wilson.
They also said Critchlow was competing with freshman Jaren Hall for the third-string spot.
“I would say unexpected,” Critchlow said when asked to describe how fall camp has unfolded for him. “I felt like I definitely didn’t perform up to the standard that I hold myself maybe the first couple of days of camp. I was given an opportunity and I didn’t seize it as much as I could have.
"Would have I have liked to play and get more reps? Of course. But that’s not the opportunity that was dealt. Obviously, it wasn’t the situation that I anticipated or what I wanted. But I feel like I’m prepared to make the most of it.”
Roderick praised Critchlow for the way he handled the disappointing news.
“Joe is an awesome kid, a great character guy. I can’t say enough good things about him,” Roderick said. “Joe is a good player. I know we could win games with Joe as well. I feel like Tanner and Zach have had an edge over him thus far. But Joe is the kind of guy that every time you count him out, he just keeps hanging around.
"That’s the type of guy he is. That’s how he earned a scholarship here. That’s how he won a couple games for this team last year. There is no quit in that kid.”
Moving forward, Critchlow plans to maximize his opportunities.
“I feel like my No. 1 role right now is to support (Mangum and Wilson),” he said. “Whoever ends up being the No. 1 guy for the season, my role is to help him prepare as much as possible and to always be there for the team if my number is called. I’m someone who supports his teammates and helps them do the best that they can.”
Critchlow knows well how quickly things can change. A year ago, he was No. 4 on the depth chart behind Mangum, Beau Hoge and Koy Detmer, Jr. He had been home from his mission for only a couple of months.
But by the end of the season, after injuries to Mangum and Hoge, Critchlow found himself as the starter for the final three games, posting two wins — half of the Cougars' win total — and a loss. He helped lead the Cougars to road victories over UNLV and Hawaii, with the lone setback coming at home against UMass.
“Last year, I was in a much worse spot than I am right now. I took a lot of pride in preparing myself to practice as if I were going to play. Crazy things happen,” Critchlow said. “The unexpected occurred and I ended up getting in. I’ll have that same mindset this year. I feel like my teammates know I’m ready if they need me to go in and help this team win.”
In the days leading up to the start of fall camp, assistant head coach Ed Lamb made headlines for something he said to a gathering of alumni in Cedar City.
"Joe Critchlow is, I think, a big-time quarterback in every way," Lamb said. "I think Joe will be one of the great quarterbacks at BYU before it’s all said and done.”
Before joining BYU’s staff in 2016, Lamb had recruited Critchlow to Southern Utah. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder from Franklin, Tennessee, orignally signed with SUU, then decided to join the Cougars toward the end of his mission.
Critchlow, who has been accepted to BYU’s finance program and is engaged to be married in January, remains optimistic about what he can accomplish.
“I’m still confident that I can be a successful quarterback at this level. If I were to start the first game or at any point in the season, I feel like I can compete, win and produce as much as possible,” he said. “I have three years of eligibility. I don’t know if I’ll redshirt in upcoming seasons but I could potentially be at BYU for a long time. I still feel like I have a lot to offer to this program. I feel like this program has a lot to offer me as well."
Critchlow said he has been impressed with Hall, who returned home from his mission a few months ago.43 comments on this story
“Jaren is an unreal athlete. He’s gifted with so many talents that can be used for great things in college football — at quarterback, or another position, or if he wants to do baseball even,” Critchlow said. “He has a very, very bright future. It’s a pleasure to be his teammate, too. He’s a great guy.”
Overall, BYU’s offense has made big improvements, Critchlow added.
“There’s more energy around the offense than there was in the spring," he said. "There are a lot more guys mastering the offense now and picking up the little details. I feel like those details and having the entire offense in sync will help us this year.”