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Eagle High grad put Idaho football ‘on the map.’ Can he lead turnaround at BYU?

BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum celebrates after defeating Arizona 28-23 on Sept. 1, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum celebrates after defeating Arizona 28-23 on Sept. 1, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. The Associated Press

BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes told the Salt Lake Tribune this week that the Cougars’ new offense isn’t easy to learn, and it puts significant stress on the quarterback, who has to make the right decision in a split second.

To the surprise of many, senior quarterback Tanner Mangum ran that offense to near perfection in the Cougars’ 28-23 victory to open the season Saturday at Arizona, at least temporarily quieting detractors who thought true freshman Zach Wilson deserved the starting nod over Mangum.

But there were some who knew first-hand what the BYU coaching staff must have seen in Mangum, who was attempting to return from a season-ending Achilles injury after one of the worst seasons in program history.

“When he was just a beginning pup in football, he was always taking notes. He’s always been a major student of this game,” said Paul Peterson, Mangum’s coach at Eagle High. “He’s a football rat, and they’re not going to throw defenses or offensive schemes at him that are overwhelming to him. That’s just not going to happen.

“I think it’s just genetically who Tanner is. He’s always been committed. He’s passionate about the game and succeeding and being great, and he’s willing to put in the work.”

Because it has been more than seven years, it is easy to forget that Mangum once shared MVP honors with current NFL quarterback Jameis Winston at Nike’s 2011 Elite 11 quarterback camp in Beaverton, Ore.

His performance changed the way college coaches think when it comes to recruiting in Idaho.

“Tanner had an awful lot to do with putting Idaho football on the map as not being a joke, that it was real,” Peterson said. “He’s aware of that, and the other coaches in the Valley at the time of all that Elite 11 stuff knew that he was kind of the flag bearer for Idaho football, and it’s a huge deal what he’s done.”

Mangum turns 25 on Saturday — the same day BYU hosts Cal in the Cougars’ home opener at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.

The game starts at 8:15 p.m. Mountain time on ESPN2.

Mangum has endured the highs and lows of playing the most scrutinized position in football. It makes him the perfect candidate to help lead BYU back to relevance after last season’s 4-9 record.

“I’ve always believed that Tanner’s a winner, first and foremost. He’s extremely competitive. He takes great pride in his craft,” Peterson said. “No environment is too big for Tanner. He thrives on it. He loves it.”

Vandals look to bounce back

After a disastrous 79-13 loss at Fresno State to start the 2018 season, Idaho will try to hit the reset button in its home opener Saturday against Division II Western New Mexico.

Kickoff is 3 p.m. Mountain time in the Kibbie Dome, and the game will air on Pluto TV, which can be viewed online at pluto.tv.

Idaho last faced a Division II opponent in 1995, defeating Sonoma State 66-3 in its home opener. That also was the last year the Vandals were members of the Big Sky, until they rejoined the conference this season after moving down from FBS to FCS.

Saturday will be the first meeting between the Vandals and Western New Mexico. The Mustangs (0-1) are coming off a 38-9 loss at San Diego.

At halftime, seven Vandal legends and two lifelong supporters will be recognized for their induction into the Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018. Among the inductees is former football coach Dennis Erickson.

C of I braces for difficult road game

Checking in at No. 4 in the most recent NAIA coaches’ poll, Southern Oregon is the top-ranked team in the Frontier Conference this season.

That’s not exactly welcome news for The College of Idaho, which takes on the Raiders at 2 p.m. Mountain time Saturday in Ashland, Ore.

The Yotes (0-2) have lost back-to-back games to start the season and have been swept by Southern Oregon during the regular season three of the past four years.

Note: Idaho State has a bye this week. The Bengals (1-0) return to action Sept. 15 at Cal.

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