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Sports debate: Who should start at quarterback for BYU, Taysom Hill or Tanner Mangum?

It's another presidential election year, but don't let the debates be relegated to just the political realm.

In the sports world, there is plenty to debate as well, including in the state of Utah, from Logan to St. George.

At BYU, one of the biggest mysteries entering the 2016 college football season is who will be the starting quarterback. Will it be the incumbent signal caller Tanner Mangum, or will it be oft-injured dual-threat Taysom Hill?

Both Mangum and Hill have laid a legitimate claim to the job through their past performances, and both have enjoyed their time in the limelight as a Cougar.

DeseretNews.com writers Jack Urquhart and Brandon Judd take their best stab at answering the most pressing question surrounding the BYU program heading into 2016.

First up, the argument for why the senior Hill should be BYU's starting quarterback in 2016.

The case for Taysom Hill

Urquhart: There have been some great quarterbacks at BYU. There has only been one Taysom Hill.

After a practice a couple years ago, a couple of defensive backs were talking to reporters. Both were asked the same question: Who is the fastest player on the team?

I recall that both mentioned themselves, among other defensive players as candidates. When another reporter asked whether Hill might be the fastest player, both looked embarrassed, and one finally said, "Yeah, it might be him."

Hill isn't just fast, but he's one of the strongest players on the team, too. Opposing defenses simply cannot stop his passing and running. They will be burned by one of the two, and maybe both. As great as Mangum is, I think Hill's athleticism opens things up for the offense even when there are great athletes on the other side of the ball.

BYU's offense was completely shut down by Michigan last season, and I have to think that had Hill been in the game, he would have necessitated more honesty from the Wolverine defense, and would have scrambled for positive yardage on broken plays. Many think that Hill will be different this season, not so much of a dual threat. To that, I would simply say that he has returned from big injuries twice and hasn't changed his style of play. I don't think it's in his DNA to sit back in the pocket when he sees daylight ahead.

The quarterback is the leader of the team, and Hill is the type of quarterback that demands respect. He's hardworking and isn't afraid to crash pads with the rest of the team. The love Hill's coaches and teammates have for him was evident when he exited the Nebraska game last season. His leadership traits, and injury history, combine to make him an inspiring leader — one that a team with a tough schedule and new coaching staff can really rally around.

The case for Tanner Mangum

Judd: There is no debating Hill’s leadership. He’s a proven veteran that has produced several memorable moments — just ask Texas — captaining the Cougar offense, a leader that teammates can get behind.

But so is Mangum, even if he’s played fewer seasons. Offensive teammates have rallied behind Mangum ever since he arrived home from his LDS Church mission a little over a year ago and immediately worked his way into becoming Hill’s backup in fall camp. Then, Mangum guided signature last-second victories against Nebraska and Boise State to start the 2015 season, cementing his teammates' trust in him as he delivered a 9-4 season as a freshman.

Mangum is the future of the program with three more years of eligibility remaining. It's not often you get the chance to have a four-year starter at quarterback, and Mangum has the tools to make that happen, with room to develop. He broke several freshman records at BYU in 2015 — including wins as a starter (8), passing yards (3,377), touchdown passes (23), 300-yard passing games (5) and consecutive games with a touchdown pass (9).

Eight times during his rookie campaign, Mangum completed 60 percent or more of his passes. If he continues to improve his accuracy in 2016, BYU will be in almost every game of a daunting schedule.

In the spring, Mangum threw with confidence, even as he learned a new pro-style system under first-year offensive coordinator Ty Detmer. He fits the offensive philosophy Detmer wants to implement and Mangum has the better overall arm. Remember his first TD pass at home last year, the 87-yarder against Boise State?

Plus, Mangum has the upper hand on Hill after being able to participate fully in spring ball while Hill continued to recover from a Lisfranc injury. With the learning curve a new coaching staff brings, that experience is valuable.

Rebuttal for Hill

Urquhart: The fact that Mangum participated in spring practices is important. The fact that Hill wasn't ready to take part with the team in the spring adds a lot of skepticism about whether he'll be prepared for the fall.

An argument for Hill hinges on him being 100 percent physically by the time the team gets together again. If he's not, it's an easy decision. Mangum would be the man. However, if Hill is healthy, he brings a rare dynamic to the quarterback decision and really opens up the playbook.

There won't be any mudslinging in this debate, as it's a choice between two excellent quarterbacks. Hill, however, provides the experience a transitioning team needs, and the tools to keep physical and fast defenses (like Michigan State or UCLA) in check.

Rebuttal for Mangum

Judd: There is no question Hill is a dynamic talent. He's built like former Doak Walker winner Luke Staley — and sadly, injury prone as well — and Hill showed greater touch and accuracy in the passing game during the Cougars' season-opening win against Nebraska last year, before his injury.

Mangum's quick adjustment to the college game was a pleasant surprise, though. Yes, he struggled at times in 2015 — take the Michigan game, for example — but so did UCLA phenom Josh Rosen — take the BYU-Bruins game, for example. That's why I think the sophomore is the answer this year: he's proven to be a quick learner and you've got to strike (continue the learning curve) while the iron is hot.

It's a good thing the choice ultimately lies with the new coaching staff and not with us. Both quarterbacks are starter-worthy, and there will be plenty of sleepless nights ahead.