PROVO — Since Taysom Hill suffered a season-ending foot injury in the season opener at Nebraska, one of the big questions surrounding the BYU football program has been about what the fifth-year senior quarterback would do next.
Hill ended the speculation Tuesday when he announced, via his Twitter account, that he will return to the Cougars in 2016: “Cougarnation, I want to thank you for all of your love and support and let you know I am coming back to BYU for one more year!!”
Now that Hill has decided to return to BYU for his final year of eligibility, new offensive coordinator Ty Detmer is thrilled to have two experienced QBs, along with Tanner Mangum, at his disposal.
“I’ve always said, two is better than one," Detmer said Tuesday. "Whoever’s in the game, we expect them to play at a high level and be able to compete. I know both guys can do that. They’ve proven that. For me, it’s great to have those two guys with experience. Most programs don’t have that."
Hill, who informed the team of his decision at a meeting Tuesday morning, is seeking a medical hardship waiver in order to play one more season.
"I’m happy for him. He’s put a lot of work in and effort," Detmer said. "Last year was very disappointing. So I’m very happy for him personally. I’m happy for the team. He’s been a big part of the team the last few years. I think everybody in the building is excited that he’s that he’s made his decision and that he’s staying ... When he said he was coming back, the guys erupted and were super-excited for him.”
“Taysom is a proven commodity and is a great leader for our football team," BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said in a statement. "We are thrilled to have him back for one more year.”
Hill’s return provides the Cougars added depth at a key position as they prepare for one of the toughest schedules in school history.
Both Hill and Mangum will compete for the starting job, Detmer said.
"Nobody’s been promised anything. I know (Hill is) a competitor. Tanner’s a competitor ... Everybody wants to play. Coach has said we’ll play the best 11 and go from there. They’ll all get their reps and get some time. The best guy will play. Tanner obviously had a great year last year. Taysom, I’ve always said it, he’s one of the best athletes ever to play the position. So he brings a whole different dimension to the position."
Mangum turned in a sensational freshman campaign in place of Hill, throwing for 3,377 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions just months after returning from an LDS mission.
What does Mangum think of Hill's decision?
"Tanner’s got a great attitude and he was as excited as anybody that Taysom made that decision," Detmer said. "He’s a team player and he pulls for guys. He saw firsthand what Taysom had to go through with the injury and the disappointment. I think he was excited as much as anybody.”
While Hill will be "limited" during spring ball, which opens March 1, as he continues the rehab process, Detmer, the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, is optimistic that Hill will be ready to go next fall when the Cougars face Arizona in the season-opener on Sept. 3.
“He’s been working out. He’s able to walk on it, a light jog," Detmer said. "Overall, he’s working through the soreness after a workout. It’s starting to come along. The big thing is to take your time with it and make sure it’s right ... Taysom’s not sure how the foot is going to react from day-to-day. By August, hopefully it’s 100 percent and there’s no residual effects. We’ll take it a little at a time and see where we’re at come Arizona."
It's not likely a starter will be named until BYU opens up the season, Detmer added.
"Nobody’s going to name a starter right now and tip your hand with everything that’s going on. It’s kind of nice to have that shock factor when you show up for the first game and nobody knows what you’re running.”
Hill injured his knee as a freshman six games into the 2012 season. He played the entire 2013 season, then injured his foot and ankle in the fifth game of the 2014 season before the Lisfranc injury at Nebraska last September.
Going into the 2016 season, Hill is the BYU career leader in quarterback rushing yards with 2,212 and 24 touchdowns. He has passed for 4,606 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Hill has started 21 games and, in 2013, set career marks with 2,938 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 1,344 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores.
Before his injury at Nebraska, Hill completed 21 of 34 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 72 yards and two more TDs before leaving the game.
In recent months, Hill was recruited by coaches at other schools. One of those was former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, who wanted him to join his program at Virginia. As a senior graduate, Hill could have played his final season elsewhere.
The BYU coaching staff spent a significant amount of time recruiting Hill, too.
“He was getting recruited from all different sides. We were part of that. We talked to him several times and coach had his wife come in one time," Detmer said. "We definitely wanted him here. He’s earned that right to come back and give it another shot. He’s put the time in here and see it through and we let him know he’s wanted here. We’re going to give him an opportunity to run a pro-style offense that, if he wants to play at the next level and show guys he can run that as well … He’s a BYU guy. Why go anywhere else at this point?”