The rumors that BYU starting quarterback Taysom Hill got seriously injured on his last run of the USU game are gaining steam. It appears that BYU's new strategy of encouraging BYU quarterbacks to "play in traffic" is, unsurprisingly, leading to QB's getting severely injured.
BYU's handling of quarterbacks over the last three years has been a train wreck.
It seems like it has been a series of unfortunate events and unfortunate choices that has led to the three year QB mess BYU has found itself in. Here are some of the events:
- 2009 Max Hall graduates
- 2010 BYU has a QB controversy between wunderkind true freshman Jake Heaps and returned missionary junior transfer Riley Nelson. Rather than choose one QB in 2010, Bronco and the BYU coaching staff decide to make Heaps and Nelson "co-starters", splitting practice reps and even splitting playing time in games.
- A few games into 2010 Nelson becomes roadkill after playing in traffic and is out for the season. Heaps starts the rest of the games and locks up the starting job.
- At the end of 2010 season offensive coordinator Robert Anae is fired and replaced by QB coach Brandon Doman
- In the spring and summer of 2011 rumors spread about Heaps having a lot of distractions. Heaps still gets mostly positive reviews through spring and fall camps. Other rumors circulate that the BYU locker room is divided over who should be QB, with many players choosing between Heaps and Nelson.
- 2011 season starts and Heaps is less accurate and less confident than during his freshman year. No one knows if it is the new OC's system or something else.
- Heaps gets progressively worse through five games in 2011. After an atrocious start to the USU game Doman replaces Heaps with Nelson. Nelson leads BYU to an unlikely victory. A new starter is named.
- Nelson beats several bad teams and loses to TCU. Then gets hurt for a couple of games. Nelson heals up and takes back over as starter. Heaps decides to transfer at the end of 2011.
- Nelson is firmly entrenched as the QB and as a team leader through spring and summer of 2012. Nelson starts the 2012 season well but coaches have him play in traffic too much and he gets injured in the second game. Coaches decide to let Nelson play through pain and BYU loses two heart breakers in a row largely due to offensive mistakes.
- Freshman Taysom Hill gets the next two starts in part because he is a runner too. BYU has him play in traffic and he gets injured in his second game as starter.
- Bronco not making a strong QB decision at the start of 2010 got things off on the wrong foot.
- Then Bronco changing to a new OC added fuel to the fire
- Heaps regressing from freshman to sophomore year made things worse
- Bronco's obsession with grit made him naturally prefer Nelson
- Bronco and Doman's decision to go all in on the "running qb" thing in 2012 has proven to injure the quarterbacks and hurt the team.
BYU can't undo the past but it can stop making its quarterbacks play in traffic. In BYU's current QB-draw-heavy system, a quarterback can survive about two games before getting seriously injured. That is obviously unsustainable. Having a mobile quarterback is great; let him escape pressure and run if there is an opening. But stop using the QB as your primary running back! And for heaven's sake, require your QB to slide much more often. Allowing the QB to lower the shoulder and hit someone on occasion might fire up the sideline but getting injured ends seasons. Experienced quarterbacks are far too valuable to risk for an occasional extra yard or two.
While some fans are calling for Doman or Bronco to be fired, I am not there yet. I just want them to change. Fix this. Recognize that the current offensive plan to run the quarterback 10+ times per game has failed. Teach the quarterbacks to be assassins as passers and then they won't have to run all that often.
Sadly, this revelation that the offensive scheme relying heavily on QB running is not going to work comes just as BYU is going to face two top ten opponents. BYU's defense is exceptionally good this year, which helps a ton. But Doman and the rest of the offense have an extremely hard row to hoe over the next three games. The main hope is that Nelson really is healthy enough to pass well, and that he is wise enough to avoid a career ending injury in the process.