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Taysom Hill's season-ending injury puts Tanner Mangum in bowl spotlight

Taysom Hill’s college career is officially over.

The Tanner Mangum era has arrived.

The Hill announcement came just before noon on Monday in a formal press release from BYU. Test results on the sprained left elbow Hill suffered in a 28-10 win over Utah State showed he will be unable to play in the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 21.

Fortunately for Hill, unlike his three other season-ending injuries, this recovery won’t take most of a year. But like every other time Hill has ended a season, his leadership in the locker room and on the sidelines will be missed.

On social media, Mangum wrote late Monday: "My heart hurts as I think about what Taysom has gone through. He's truly given his all for this team. Win or lose, I will always respect #7!"

Now, what about the transition to Mangum?

Gone is Hill’s experience. Gone is his innate ability to make plays with his legs. Gone is his tremendous upper and lower body strength that he used to break arm- tackles for drive-extending two, three or 10 yards. Gone is offensive coordinator Ty Detmer’s ability to shift on the fly to a hurry-up read option attack featuring Hill and Jamaal Williams.

What isn’t gone is BYU’s challenge to pass protect a quarterback. What isn’t gone is a challenge for BYU receivers to get on the same page as their QB with reads and in-play adjustments. What isn’t gone is a philosophy by Detmer to establish the run, dominate the clock and wear down an opponent while setting up the pass.

What Detmer has in Mangum are tangibles that will be different and could be effective in this end-of-season switch. And the best tool in getting this done is what is expected to be a fully healthy Williams in his backfield.

Williams is a tremendous asset for Detmer and Mangum because he forces the bowl opponent to continue to commit anywhere from seven to eight defenders in the box, giving Mangum more daylight in the passing game. Williams makes play-action work.

Hill and Mangum both have strong arms, but Mangum showed last year he has more touch, a more natural feel for placing the ball in catchable spots and an ability to make it easy for receivers to react to his throws.

In relieving Hill a year ago, Mangum showed an innate ability to excel with the pass in chaotic situations. When Hill was healthy, he excelled in chaos by dashing for real estate. Mangum takes advantage of breakdowns by keeping his eyes downfield, not to run for daylight, but to find a pass target.

Those were his biggest plays in 2015, evidenced in the miracle throws at Nebraska and Boise State, and with big gains against Utah in Las Vegas.

There’ll be a lot of these situations in San Diego.

I think Mangum has a quicker release than Hill. I have a suspicion, with very little Mangum evidence in Detmer’s offense, that he might be making decisions faster. What we don’t know is how proficient Mangum is in making the right reads in this pro-style offense.

The last time we saw game after game of Mangum, he was throwing to seasoned veterans like 6-foot-6 Mitch Mathews and 6-foot-5 Terenn Houk. He didn’t get much time to establish chemistry and timing. And yet he did very well.

In 2015, Mangum’s situation was completely different than this. Back then, Mangum came off an LDS Church mission in June and was playing against Nebraska in September.

When the Cougars reassemble for bowl preparation, Mangum will have two seasons under his belt. He is stronger than a year ago. He weighs more. He is healthy. Like BYU quarterbacks of the past, he’s had hundreds of hours of study and Detmer tutelage, absent a year ago.

Look for Detmer to put Mangum in successful situations in down and distance. Detmer will try to keep four pillars of BYU’s offensive success so far in an 8-4 season intact.

Those items include national rankings of No. 13 in third-down conversions (.481), No. 23 in fourth-down conversions (.632), No. 5 in red zone offense (.942) and No. 15 in time of possession (33 minutes per game).

The passing of the torch is done.

What does it mean? We'll see in San Diego.

In a strange twist, after this bowl game, Mangum will have played in more bowl games than Hill. And in Hill, BYU got a QB who was responsible for more touchdowns than Steve Young and more total offense than Jim McMahon, both of whom are in the College Football Hall of Fame.