Football

Forget great. Treasure Valley native will have to be ‘amazing’ to start at QB for BYU

BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum went 8-4 as a freshman starter. But the 2012 Eagle High grad struggled to a 2-6 record last season and is mired in a four-way battle to become the Cougars' starting quarterback this fall.
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum went 8-4 as a freshman starter. But the 2012 Eagle High grad struggled to a 2-6 record last season and is mired in a four-way battle to become the Cougars' starting quarterback this fall. AP

According to a BYU assistant coach’s recent comments, Eagle High grad Tanner Mangum will have to be “amazing” to start at quarterback for the Cougars this fall.

BYU Assistant Head Coach Ed Lamb told a group of BYU alumni Thursday in Cedar City, Utah, that incoming sophomore Joe Critchlow will become one of the greatest quarterbacks in BYU history before his career is over. But how soon he steps under center remains the key question as BYU starts its fall camp Thursday with a four-man quarterback battle.

“If (Critchlow is) not the starter this year, it’s because Tanner is amazing and beats him out,” Lamb said.

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 too. 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.

Lamb said BYU is considering moving Hoge to another position, but Mangum knows he needs to stand out quickly at fall camp after an Achilles’ injury limited him in spring practice.

“It’s motivating to me knowing I have to be ready from Day 1,” Mangum said during BYU’s Media Day in June. “I can’t use that as an excuse. I have to come in and show that I understand the offense, understand what we are doing and be able to lead the offense and be productive.”

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 with rumors he might leave early for the NFL Draft. 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).

“I didn’t play well last year and I understand that I have to earn that job,” Mangum told the St. George Spectrum in June. “I have to earn that right to be the starting quarterback.”

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 for 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.”

Lamb said Mangum has all the physical skills to win the starting job, but he said he struggled under the previous coaching staff.

“He did not respond well to the previous coaching staff,” Lamb said. “I think there is great potential there for him to improve because he seems to be responding better to this style of coaching. He really struggled with the previous coaching staff’s style.”

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