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2018 (early) Position Preview – Quarterbacks

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Pictured: Current BYU QB Tanner Mangum attempts a pass against Wyoming, via universe.byu.edu

The final piece to the offensive positional preview is also the position with the most uncertainty heading into 2018. The Quarterback (QB) position is seen as perhaps the most important position in all of football, and may even fall behind only the Head Coach or Offensive Coordinator (OC) in terms of responsibility. A talented, capable QB is the difference between good and great teams, especially at the college level but it is unusual for a QB to be able to do everything himself. On every level of football, there are exceptions – such as Taysom Hill taking over games with his legs, or Aaron Rodgers taking over games with being Aaron Rodgers – but those exceptions are unusual.

I need not revisit the storied history of the QB position at BYU. It has been done time and time again. But QB heroics are often what people remember, and the QB’s that make up BYU’s football history are a huge part of what makes BYU so great, and what makes being a fan of the Cougars so fun.

Last year was the worst year for a BYU QB since 2012. If you wanted ignore that year as a fluke you would have to go back to 2003 for a comparably poor performance from the QB position. In fact, you would have to go back to 2003 to find the last time the starting QB for BYU threw more interceptions (INT) than touchdowns (TD.) Not a single BYU QB threw more TDs than INTs in 2017. The poor performance does seem to be directly correlated with Ty Detmer’s time as BYU’s OC, as both Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill – who both had previous years with much better performances under Robert Anae – digressed statistically, if nothing else, during his time.

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Pictured: Former BYU QB Taysom Hill leads a Utah State defender, via tornbysports.com

With the announcement of the release of former OC & QB coach Ty Detmer, it is assumed that new Passing Game Coordinator (PGC) Aaron Roderick will also assume QB coaching responsibilities. Having previous experience as both a QB coach and an OC, there is some reason to hope for improvement among QB play, however with Roderick acting as an OC, QB coach, or PGC with Utah QB performance was consistently mediocre with only 1 out of 6 of his seasons being directly involved with QB play being what many BYU fans would consider acceptable. The most productive year for QB’s with Roderick involved was 2014 where Roderick was in a QB coach role (no PGC, no co-OC) and Travis Wilson, a Junior at the time, threw for 18 TDs to only 5 INTs with a 61% completion rate. While these numbers are encouraging, the very next year as Roderick stepped into a Co-OC & QB coach role – similar to the PGC & QB coach role he is expected to have with BYU – Wilson, now a Senior, digressed to throwing 13 TDs to 10 INTs, though his completion rate raised slightly to 62%.

Again, similar to the results we saw with the WRs performance, Roderick has had a very mixed bag of results with QBs as well.

This is not especially encouraging news considering the status of the starter out of 2017’s fall camp is questionable for 2018’s spring and fall camp. Because of injury and/or poor performance, BYU shuffled through 4 different QBs in 2017. It has happened in the past – where BYU has played 4 different QBs – but normally this is due to BYU being in so far a lead they could afford a less-experienced QB getting some playing time without risking the game. Such was not the case in 2017. BYU does, however, return every major contributor to the QB position from 2017 and has added a few new faces to mix as well. It is anticipated that the competition for the starting QB job will be the major focus of the off-season.

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Pictured: Current BYU QB Beau Hoge scrambles during a play, via vanquishthefoe.com

Returning starters:

Tanner Mangum (RS SR.) Mangum burst onto the scene in 2015 when superhuman but oft injured Taysom Hill went down with a season-ending injury in the very first game of the year. Fresh off a mission, Mangum stepped into the spotlight and performed admirably. With a few miracles mixed in, Mangum put in as good of a season by a BYU QB as any finishing with 3,377 passing yards, a 60% completion rate, and 23 TDs to 10 INTs. As Hill resumed his role as the starter in 2016, Mangum still looked sharp in limited time, throwing 3 TDs to 1 INT with a 67% completion rating as he started only 1 game – the bowl game against Wyoming, after Hill was again injured.

2017 was to be the true beginning of the Mangum era. For reasons only few know for sure, 2017 ended up being an absolute disappointment. Limited by injuries and who knows what else, Mangum only managed 1,540 passing yards in the season, and threw 8 TDs to 9 INTs with a 57% completion rate. Mangum’s best games finally came near the end of the season against East Carolina and San Jose State. Against the first, Mangum threw a season best 319 passing yards, 2 TDs to 1 INT (his first game with a positive ratio of the season,) and a season high 63% completion rate. Surprisingly, BYU still lost that game and the passing game outgained the running game by 217 yards. Against the latter, Mangum threw a season high 3 TDs to 1 INT but his completion percentage fell to 53%. BYU did beat San Jose State, but the passing game outgained the running game by only 66 yards. His worst game was against Utah, where he threw 1 TD to 3 INTs, but BYU also didn’t crack 100 yards rushing as a team. Somehow, BYU only lost by a single TD.

Health permitting, Mangum is probably the best option right now as the starting QB for 2018. With the injury he sustained during the season he is expected to miss valuable time learning the new offense in Spring camp and could miss some or all of Fall camp as well. If that’s the case, it would be surprising to see Mangum be the starter for his Senior year.

Out of high school Mangum was the #3 overall QB prospect in the nation. A 4-star recruit, he was Co-MVP of the Elite 11 camp with Tampa Bay Buccaneer, National Champion, and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. He was also recruited by Arkansas, Boise State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah, and Washington State.

Beau Hoge (RS JR.) 2017 marked Hoge’s most significant playing time since coming to BYU. Hoge was the primary backup to Tannner Mangum, and played in 3 games, starting against Utah State. As it so happens, Hoge’s best performance was against Utah State, where he threw 2 TDs to 1 INT with a 56% completion rate and ran for another 25 yards before going down with an injury. Before 2017, Hoge did see the field in some garbage time against Wagner in 2015 where he threw for 117 passing yards and a TD with a 73% completion rating and ran for an additional 47 yards and 2 rushing TDs. A common idea is that the most popular person on the football team is the backup QB. This will certainly be the case when the team is struggling as it did in 2017. However, despite the insistence of armchair QBs, Hoge has shown no more capability under center than Mangum did in 2017. Still, with Mangum’s health in question heading into the 2018 season Hoge would be considered the next man up and has shown flashes of potential. It is possible that Hoge enters the 2018 season as the starter assuming Mangum is not able to compete due to his recovery timeline.

The son of former NFL running back and analyst Merril Hoge, Beau was a 3-star prospect out of high school who was featured on ESPN’s Top 10 for an 81-yard touchdown run. Hoge was also recruited by Cincinnati, Miami of Ohio, and Ohio.

Joe Critchlow (SO.) Similar to Mangum, Critchlow was thrown into the fire after recently returning from a mission due, heavily, to injuries. Unlike Mangum, Critchlow’s results as the starting QB were varied. In 3 games as the starter, Critchlow’s best game was against the toughest of the 3: UNLV. Having recently upset the Mountain West Conference runner-ups in Fresno State, the UNVL Rebels and their new HC had momentum on their side! The pressure was effectively taken off of Critchlow as the running game had its best game of the year, and Critchlow threw for a stead 160 yards and 1 TD to 0 INTs, along with a 64% completion rate. There was talk that Critchlow was the answer to BYU’s woes (mostly by armchair QB fans) but he struggled in the following game against struggling fellow-independent UMass where he threw 1 TD to 4 INTs – the worst single-game ratio of any QB in 2017 taller than 5’10” – and an abysmal 47% completion rate. For many, the loss to UMass was the nail in the coffin for Ty Detmer’s time as OC at BYU. Luckily, Critchlow redeemed himself against Hawaii in the final game of the year and threw for a career high 166 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, with a 61% completion rate. Critchlow is expected to be a major part of the upcoming QB battle heading into 2018. Generally considered a better pocket passing option when compared to Hoge, if Mangum isn’t able to compete Critchlow has as strong a chance to win the job as any.

Out of high school, Critchlow was named Mid-State Mr. Football his senior year, and set school records for career completions, passing yards, and touchdowns. He was also recruited by Vanderbilt, Virginia, and Wake Forest.

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Pictured: Current BYU QB Joe Critchlow attempts a pass against Boise State, via sltrib.com

Returning Contributors:

Koy Detmer Jr. (RS JR.) Detmer played in only 1 game in 2017, coming in as the backup to injured starter Beau Hoge. Ahead 21-7, some fans had confidence in Detmer’s ability to manage the rest of the game with his short but stellar performance in 2015 in garbage time against Wagner where he completed 100% of his limited passes. Detmer struggled mightily, completing a season-low 35% of his passes for a season-worst 0 TD to 3 INT ratio. BYU would end up losing to Utah State 24-40 in large part because of the turnovers, both the INTs thrown by Detmer and multiple fumbles. Because of Detmer’s struggles against Utah State, Joe Critchlow’s redshirt season was burned to try and save what remained of the sesaon.

The son of former NFL QB Koy Detmer and nephew of former BYU Hesiman Trophy winner and NFL veteran QB Ty Detmer, Koy was a 3-star prospect out of high school. As a senior he was a multi-sport athlete, who earned All-District first team honors in baseball, basketball, and soccer as well as football.

***Edit: It has been announced that Koy Detmer Jr. will be transferring to another school. We wish him the best in his endeavors.

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Pictured: Current BYU QB Koy Detmer Jr. shouts instructions to his teammates, via gettyimages.com

New Faces:

Kody Wilstead (RS FR.) The 6’6” Wilstead redshirted in 2017 after returning from his mission (and didn’t have to burn it like Critchlow.) He was a 3-star recruit out of high school and also received interest from Louisville and San Diego State.

Jaren Hall (FR – RM.) A 2016 3-star commit, Hall is a dual-threat QB who received interest from Arkansas, Houston, Stanford, Texas A&M, Utah, Utah State, and Washington State. He received an official offer from Utah, but committed to BYU in 2014 and stayed true to his commitment.

Stacy Conner (New recruit.) A former UNLV commit, Conner also received interest from Baylor, Cal, Mississippi State, Purdue, and Washington, and held offers from Arkansas State, Memphis, Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, and UConn.

***Edit: Another newcomer

Zach Wilson (New recruit.) A former Boise State commit, Wilson received offers from Cal, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon State, and Syracuse.

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Pictured: Current BYU QB Kody Wilstead practices with the team before the season, via heraldextra.com

For more information about the newest recruits, I encourage you to visit:

http://bluecougarfootball.blogspot.com/2017/12/byu-announces-first-13-members-of-2018.html

which has a comprehensive list of each.

 

Key Loses:

None

 

Notes:

  • Recruiting for the 2018 season has not concluded but is rapidly approaching on February 7th. We may yet have a few more QB recruits before that day.
  • Austin Kafentzis participated with the QB’s in 2017 pre-season camps, saw time as a Wildcat QB early in 2017, but all signs indicate he will make a full transition to RB for 2018.
  • Similarly to Kafentzis, it is possible that some who currently anticipate being on the depth chart as QBs could move positions. Kalani Sitake has shown a willingness to move players around.
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Pictured: 
Current BYU QB Tanner Mangum attempts a pass via vanquishthefoe.com

Projected depth chart:
(compare to https://www.loyalcougars.com/football-roster/depth-chart/)

QB 1 – Tanner Mangum*
QB 2 – Beau Hoge
QB 3 – Kody Wilstead
QB 4 – Koy Detmer Jr.

Redshirt – Joe Critchlow, Jaren Hall, Stacy Conner
Translation/Final thoughts: Barring an outstanding performance by any of the QBs on the roster in camp which demands that the coaching staff start them AND if Tanner Mangum is able to participate in at least Fall Camp I see no reason to expect anyone but the most experienced Senior QB on the roster to resume his previously reprised leadership role. While some fans may be upset with the projection due to Mangum’s struggles in 2017 every single QB who played in 2017 struggled.

In this particular scenario, there would be no immediate need for Joe Critchlow, and the staff would then be able to redshirt him for his sophomore year instead of his freshman year as was previously the plan. Beau Hoge will be entrenched as the primary backup with promising RS Freshman Kody Wilstead as the #3 option, having redshirted last year.

After Tanner’s graduation, and all other things remaining equal, I expect Beau Hoge will be named the starter in 2019 with Wilstead and Critchlow battling over the job in 2020 when both are RS Juniors.

If Mangum is able to learn Grimes’s new offense and develop using Roderick’s experience, there is reasonable hope for Mangum to return to at least his 2015 form for his final year as a BYU Cougar. The most highly touted QB recruit since Jake Heaps, BYU fans are hungry for the next great BYU QB and though many have given up hope on Mangum, he is perhaps our best hope. Fate willing, he could step into the long, proud history of BYU QB lore.

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Pictured: Former BYU QB Ty Detmer poses with the Heisman Trophy, via espn.com

Next year’s schedule has a difficult start, with 4 out of the first 5 games being against P5 schools, and 2 of those (Wisconsin & Washington) were particularly formidable in 2017. Still, if BYU is able to avoid a major injury plague like it suffered in 2017, an underwhelming performance in the QB position by November would be a major cause for concern. Let’s hope and pray things bounce the Cougars’ way in 2018. Perhaps we should be a little more generous in our fast offerings this year.

* Health permitting

Offensive Previews:
Offensive Line Preview
Running Backs Preview
Tight Ends Preview
Wide Receivers Preview

Defensive Previews:
Defensive Line Preview
Linebackers Preview

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