BYU football will have plenty of talent in 2017.
The group of starting linebackers may be one of the best in the country. The defensive backfield will be athletic and experienced. The offensive line is mean and seasoned.
But there are a lot of questions about BYU’s offensive skill positions. I’m personally pretty high on the running back group of Riley Burt, Ula Tolutau and Squally Canada. Jonah Trinnaman and Moroni Laulu-Pututau have the tools to give the Cougars passing game weapons.
But those players come with a lot of hope and a bit less of experience and proven production.
Enter Tanner Mangum.
For the first time at BYU, the highly touted junior from Eagle, Idaho, enters a season as the unquestioned starter at quarterback.
Mangum was famously pressed into duty as a true freshman in 2015 when, after a scintillating three quarters, Taysom Hill left the game and the season at Nebraska. Mangum won not one, but two games with desperation throws (do we call those Hail Joseph’s at BYU?) and ended the season with 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns, the best season for a freshman QB in school history.
Then Taysom Hill came back in 2016. Mangum spent the season as a virtual redshirt, standing nearly the entire season with a clipboard, mopping up against Southern Utah and UMass — and then against Utah State, when Hill again went down with an injury.
Mangum closed 2016 as the starter in a sloppy, muddy Poinsettia Bowl, throwing for 96 yards in a 24-21 win over Wyoming. He threw the ball only 33 times last season.
So here we are. He’s had plenty of moments showing off his arm and making NFL-type throws. There have also been plenty of bumps and bruises. With yet another daunting open to the schedule, BYU needs Mangum to take that next step — a season of Max Hall-ian precision and leadership.
While position players take time to round into form, a capable offensive line should give Mangum what he needs to make the throws that bring his teammates along — and win ballgames.
Hoge, the dynamic high-school playmaker, also enters 2017 after a redshirt.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore completed 8 of 11 passes for 117 yards and one passing TD, adding 47 rushing yards, in 2015.
With a season of development, Hoge should be a suitable backup. I don’t think BYU fans or coaches want to find out if he’s ready for the reins — nobody can match Mangum’s arm, though Hoge has been highly spoken of this offseason — but if needed for spot duty, he could hopefully keep the boat from rocking too much.
Koy Detmer Jr.
Rounding out the QB depth chart is Koy Detmer Jr., who also redshirted last year. The 5-foot-10 Texan is gritty and has an arm bigger than his height. He’s thrown 3 total passes at BYU, completing all 3 for 57 yards.
He’s a solid #3 option, though again, I’m not sure BYU wants to learn much more about him this year.
Wildcards: Young Tanner and Kody Wilstead
Young Tanner is a 6-foot scout team QB who transferred to BYU from Phoenix College prior to the 2016 season. In junior college, he played 11 games, throwing 145 of 301 for 1,382 yards and 11 TDs.
Depending on further recruiting, Kody Wilstead may be the heir apparent, depending on how he develops. The 6-foot-6 gunslinger is expected to be a talent in the ilk of Mangum, but is a returned missionary and may redshirt in 2017.
It would be surprising if either took snaps this season.
The well-traveled Utah prep record-setter is now at BYU, but it doesn’t sound like he’s expected to play quarterback in Provo, according to Ty Detmer.