The past 10 months have been trying for Taysom Hill.
The senior BYU quarterback suffered a season-ending foot injury in the 2015 opener that took much longer to heal than he hoped. There was a decision to be made about where to play his final year after coach Bronco Mendenhall took the Virginia job. Then Hill’s brother, Dexter, passed away in the spring.
“I look up to my brother so much,” said Hill, who will wear No. 7 to honor his brother in 2016. “A lot of my competitiveness and motivation to play college football and excel in football came from him. I had this struggle of, what do I do to make sure my brother is still part of everything that I do? As I was driving up to his funeral, it hit me. I’m going to wear his number.”
Now Hill is anxiously awaiting a return to the football field so he can stop repeatedly addressing the same questions. He spoke to reporters Thursday at the team’s football media day and started the session by reeling off answers to the inevitable questions.
▪ Yes, he’s recovered from the foot injury and has no limitations.
▪ Yes, having Heisman winner Ty Detmer as the new offensive coordinator is great and there are no concerns about his new pro-style offense.
▪ No, there isn’t any beef with fellow quarterback Tanner Mangum as they compete for the starting job.
Hill and his situation are the biggest question marks for the team this season considering the first four years of his career. Three of those have culminated in season-ending injuries, but 2013 saw him throw for 2,938 yards and rush for 1,344 with 29 combined touchdowns and a lot of Heisman hype.
Hill was awarded an extra year of eligibility with a medical exception and decided to return to BYU after getting to know new coach Kalani Sitake and Detmer, adding, “I’m a BYU guy.” But while he was out, Mangum set school freshman records with 3,377 passing yards and 23 touchdowns.
Hill certainly didn’t return to sit, but he’s no lock to win the job.
“When it comes to competition, the competition is with yourself,” Hill said. “Tanner’s a great kid and good football player, so it motivates you to work hard and all that. But ultimately at the end of the day, I’m trying to be as good as I possibly can.”
Detmer and Sitake said they won’t wait until the first game to make the decision on a starting quarterback but will give Hill and Mangum ample opportunities to make their case for the job during fall camp.
The two are good friends, and Mangum insists it’s not a “Team Taysom” or “Team Tanner” situation.
“Competition brings the best out of everyone,” Mangum said. “We’re obviously in a unique position with two quarterbacks that have experience, but that’s a good problem to have. He and I push each other knowing every play you’ve got to bring your best effort. You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every day. It’s a healthy completion. It’s not divisive. It’s not negative.”
Hill was still limited in spring practices, so he hasn’t seen full action in the new scheme. He’ll be under center more and running less, but Detmer has no plans to confine him to the pocket.
Hill said he’s a quarterback first and would prefer throwing touchdowns, but when the game’s on the line, he’s “going to do what it takes to win the football game” regardless of worries about staying healthy.
Hill said he’s tested the foot enough to know it’s fully healed and even ripped off a dunk at a recent fan event.
“It’s the old, ‘If someone told you to jump off a bridge’ sort of deal,” Sitake joked. “It was a good teaching moment. We’re going to have to teach him to slide and step out of bounds once in a while. It wasn’t the nicest dunk I’ve ever seen, but it was good to see his body’s healing up.”
Detmer has no plans to use a two-quarterback system and thinks it keeps either from finding a rhythm. And there will be no quick hook for whoever wins the job.
“If we believe one of them’s the guy … he’s going to get every opportunity to play and grow in the offense,” Detmer said.