What a difference a year can make.
At BYU’s media day last summer, the questions for Eagle High graduate Tanner Mangum included if he’d leave early for the NFL Draft.
Last week, they focused on Mangum’s position in the four-man race to become BYU’s starting quarterback this fall.
“I didn’t play well last year and I understand that I have to earn that job,” Mangum told the St. George Spectrum. “I have to earn that right to be the starting quarterback.”
For now, Mangum is just another name in one of the country’s most intriguing quarterback battles. Mangum, junior Beau Hoge and sophomore Joe Critchlow all started for the Cougars during a 4-9 season last fall, the Cougars’ first losing season since 2004.
Throw true freshman Zach Wilson, a former Boise State commit, into that heated race. While BYU has never started a true freshman at quarterback in the season opener, he turned enough heads in spring practice to show he belongs in the conversation.
“We’re all aware that it could be anyone’s job,” Mangum told the Salt Lake Tribune.
The race adds another chapter to the senior's already-wild college career. After returning from his LDS mission in Chile, Mangum came off the bench as a freshman in 2015 to throw a game-winning Hail Mary at Nebraska as time expired. A week later, he threw the go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds left against Boise State in his first start.
Since then, Pocatello native Taysom Hill beat him out for the starting job in 2016. Last spring, Mangum revealed he suffers from mild depression and anxiety and he entered 2017 as the clear starter poised for a breakout season. Instead, he struggled all year and suffered two major injuries, a high-ankle sprain that sidelined him for two games and a season-ending Achilles injury Nov. 4 at Fresno State.
The Cougars went 2-6 with Mangum starting. He completed 147 of 257 passes for 1,540 yards with nine TDs and eight interceptions. BYU’s offense last season was one of the worst in program history, leading the Cougars to fire offensive coordinator Ty Detmer after his unit ranked 118th in the country in total offense (325.2 yards per game) and 123rd in scoring (17.1 points per game).
Mangum beat every timetable to return from his Achilles injury, participating in noncontact drills during spring and he’s on pace to return to full practice by fall camp. But with a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterbacks coach and a new offense in Provo, his experience in another system doesn’t guarantee anything.
“Coming into my fourth season now, I’ve learned a lot of things,” Mangum said at media day. “The main thing is to compete against yourself because you can’t control what other guys do and how other guys play. If you waste time worrying about what they’re doing, you end up shortchanging yourself.”
BYU quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick said he can’t remember ever seeing a four-man quarterback battle. He said the Cougars plan to narrow it to a two-man race a week or two into camp. But he added it’s important to the whole program to give all four a fair shot before the Sept. 1 opener at Arizona.
“We owe it to the players — not just the quarterbacks, but the whole team,” Roderick said. “Our coaching staff owes it to those guys that they see a real competition, that they know when they take the field at Arizona, whoever goes out there and takes the first snap, I want our players to know that that guy earned it. There was nothing given, nothing assumed, it was earned.”