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Will BYU's quarterback competition turn into a QB controversy?

PROVO — BYU boasts two proven, talented quarterbacks on its roster — sophomore Tanner Mangum and senior Taysom Hill.

Mangum salvaged the Cougars’ season after Hill went down with a foot injury in the first game last season at Nebraska.

Now, during spring practices, which opened Tuesday, both are battling for the starting job next fall. So could this quarterback competition turn into a quarterback controversy?

Both Hill and Mangum downplayed the possibility of the QB race dividing the locker room.

“Obviously, it’s a competition. That’s fine. Every team has that. That doesn’t mean it has to be divisive,” Mangum said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Hill) and there’s some mutual respect there. We’re both competitors, we’re both fighters, but at the same time, we’re playing for the same team. It’s not Team Taysom or Team Tanner. It’s BYU. Whatever happens, will be what’s best for the team.”

Hill, who is about five months removed from undergoing surgery, admitted Tuesday that he is still a long way from being 100 percent healthy. Coach Kalani Sitake said that his first job is “to make sure Taysom’s not doing too much.”

"All of these conversations are the outside looking in," Hill said. "But there’s no issues. There will be a lot of conversations about it, I’m sure. But I don’t feel anything like that.”

Hill’s focus, for now, isn’t on beating out Mangum.

“I’m trying to be the best that I can. I’m competing against myself,” he said. “I need to get healthy and those things will take care of themselves."

Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said Mangum and Hill are helping each other learn the new offense.

“You see them out there, they’re talking through plays together. They’re not competing against each other,” Detmer said. “They’re competing against themselves. They want to be the best players they can be, not just better than the next guy. If you’re really trying to get to the next level, that’s the way it should be. The coaches decide the rest after that.”

No decisions about which quarterback will start will be made until the fall.

“We’ll evaluate the guys that practice. We know Taysom. We know what he can do,” Detmer said. “He’s not a guy that needs a ton of reps. Nobody’s winning the job in spring. There’s a lot more to go. Fall camp is where a lot of the battles will take place.”

For now, Mangum said, he isn’t concerned about the battle for the starting job even though he’s started the last 12 games for the Cougars.

“Nothing’s given. It’s all earned. Every year, regardless of what happens, there’s a competition. You have to earn that job,” he said. “Right now (Hill is) rehabbing his injury and we’re hoping for a speedy recovery and hoping that he’ll be healthy and strong for the season. The starting position isn’t going to be given out right now, March 1. We’re trying to get better as an offense then we’ll continue to compete and play. We’ll see how it all shakes out for the season. I’m not too worried about that right now.”

Hill and Mangum practiced together during fall camp last year. Mangum is glad Hill has returned to BYU.

“I kind of had a feeling he’d be coming back. He’s done so much here. We all know how much he loves BYU. It’s a tight-knit family. I was supportive of him either way, if he went to Virginia or wherever or if he came back,” Mangum said. “It’s cool seeing him out there (at practice). He’s a proven leader, a proven commodity on this team. We’re all consulting each other. After every play we’re talking to each other and talking about what we saw. It’s a new offense and we’re trying to pick it up quick. It helps having Taysom back there.”

BYU’s new attack under Detmer will be a pro-style offense with huddling between plays and the quarterback spending a lot of time under center.

“We’re going to be under center for the most part during spring practice. We need to work under center,” Detmer said. “They haven’t done much of it the last few years. I’ve told a few of them to expect us to be under center a lot more than in the gun. Come regular season, we may modify that. This gives a chance to work under center for whoever is in there at the time and develop that mindset a little bit more.”

The approach will be much different from the go-hard-go-fast style BYU had been using under former offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

“It’s a lot more under center. We huddle up between plays,” Mangum said. “Little differences like that. But in the end, it’s still football. It’s just a different style. (Tuesday) was a good practice. It wasn’t perfect. There’s a lot to work on but it was fun to be out there finally playing again.”

The way running back Jamaal Williams sees it, having two quarterbacks the caliber of Mangum and Hill is “a great problem to have. It’s fun to watch them go at it in practice. There’s no hard feelings. I’m grateful to have two quarterbacks.”