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BYU football quarterbacks: Cougars would be best served starting Tanner Mangum, using Taysom Hill situationally

A QB controversy is set to hang over the BYU football program. Maybe there is a clear way to settle the issue. Keith Shirts offers his thoughts.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Taysom Hill is returning to BYU. He will once again attempt to recover from a difficult season ending injury to taking his place under center for the Cougars.

Getting back to football playing fitness is going to be more difficult this time than last time or the time before. In 2012, a Lateral Colateral Ligament injury in Hill's left knee ended his season. In 2014, a broken leg ended his season. Hill was able to get healthy and take the season-opening snap following those two major injuries -- a huge triumph over those difficult obstacles.

In 2015, Taysom Hill, on a non-contact play, suffered a lisfranc fracture to once again end his season. Overcoming the LCL and the broken leg would be like scaling Mt. Timpanogos. Coming back from a lisfranc injury in less than 1 year: Everest.

Perhaps even more difficult for Taysom to overcome in 2016? Tanner Mangum.

Unlike previous recoveries, there is another Y signal caller who has claim to the spot. James Lark, Riley Nelson, and Christian Stewart were all seniors when they backed up and filled in for Taysom.

The moxie Hill is displaying by returning to BYU is impressive. He must clearly believe that he can conquer his most significant injury and master a brand new, not catered to his skill set offensive scheme; all while only having fall camp to get back into football rhythm and still beat out Tanner Mangum. That's a level of optimism many will never experience in this life. In life, it is important to have blind faith, but not to be led astray by false hope.

Tanner Mangum is too good and too comparably reliable. This time, the quarterback position belongs to Tanner Mangum.

Mangum's freshman campaign showed the kind of promise fans can only dream of. Mangum, just a couple months off his mission, won 8 games as a starter. Tanner became BYU's 1st 3,000+ yard passer in 6 seasons since Max Hall eclipsed the milestone in 2009. Mangum showed he can make all the throws. Downfield, intermediate, short, left, right, and center -- Tanner throws them all with confidence.

The Cougars were more explosive offensively under Mangum with 41 plays, 32 of which were passes, going for 30+ yards. That's more than any of the previous 5 seasons, all while committing fewer turnovers and surrendering less sacks than his predecessors.

An aspect of Tanner's freshman performance that goes unheralded is the level of competitiveness, toughness, steadiness, and leadership he showed that carried the Cougars through multiple difficult scenarios. Last season, the Cougars were tied or trailing in the 4th quarter in each of their first 7 games. Despite that, Mangum found a way to get the Cougars to victory 5 times (the two losses: losing narrowly to UCLA and widely to Michigan).

During those 5 victories, Mangum displayed different ways to lead the Cougars to victory. Whether by miracle against Nebraska and Boise State, increased focus and execution against Cincinnati and UCONN, or even by simply gutting it out with banged up hamstrings against East Carolina.

With a full off-season to develop his post-mission physique to accompany his thrilling football mind, Mangum is poised to build on the greatest freshman quarterbacking season in BYU history. As such, I am quite willing to see past the specter of Taysom Hill's comeback campaign and let Tanner begin blueprinting his sophomore architecture.

Of course, I'm happy to have Taysom Hill return. QB depth is important. Nobody has taught BYU fans that more than Hill himself.

The 100% fully weaponized Hill is gone. It won't be restored in the next 200 days before BYU plays Arizona. Given Hill's problems with health, which is only made more problematic by Taysom's approach to the gridiron, his best role to help the 2016 Cougars is to be the backup -- just not in the traditional sense.

Don't have Hill be the wearing a baseball cap, a headset, and holding a clipboard kind of back up. Have him be a situational specialist. Allow me to introduce to you #SituationalTaysom.

Hill was a punishing rusher and a decent passer. There are situations which allow Hill to highlight his rushing strength, such as goal line and 3rd & short. In these instances, Taysom playing as a wildcat could be a nightmare for opponents.

In Taysom Hill's career, he's run the football 30 times on 3rd down and 1-3 yards to go. Taysom gained a first down in 23 of those attempts. Passing on 3rd and short in Taysom's career yields 17-for-28 (60.7%) and 13 first downs. In his 58 career 3rd and short scenarios, Hill extended the drive 36 times (62%). Awesome.

This becomes a valuable asset for the Cougars. Give Hill between 5-10 snaps per game in certain favorable situations, limiting his contact while also setting up countless trick play formations, gaining more first downs, and scoring more touchdowns. All of which leads to game-planning nightmares for opposing coaches.

Meanwhile, Mangum continues to mature and unleash his downfield assault for the majority of snaps as the Cougars continue to invest in their future.

If these roles and where they are applied could be defined and understood by the players, team, and fans, there isn't any reason why both talented quarterbacks couldn't help BYU pick up victories in 2016.