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Who will be BYU's starting quarterback? Hill? Mangum? Still no answers

PROVO — BYU senior quarterback Taysom Hill has been around long enough that when he sat in front of a table of reporters during Media Day Thursday morning, he began by asking, and answering, his own questions — like he was reading a defense.

Hill addressed his health (“I’m feeling really good”); what it’s like to play for offensive coordinator Ty Detmer (“It’s a great experience”); and his relationship with fellow quarterback Tanner Mangum.

“We have a good relationship. He’s a great quarterback,” Hill said. “The combination of us two, we make each other better. There’s no issue there. Any other questions?”

Well, that pretty much covers it, except for one issue. Who will be the starting quarterback this fall?

At BYU, most of the important questions usually revolve around the quarterbacks, and Thursday was no different. Especially since an intriguing quarterback battle is looming on the horizon when fall camp opens Aug. 5, less than a month before the Cougars take on Arizona in the season-opener Sept. 3.

Hill is recovering from a Lisfranc (foot) injury suffered in last year’s season-opener and he was limited during spring practices. Mangum, a sophomore, turned in a brilliant freshman season, helping lead BYU to nine victories.

But the answer to who will be the starter against Arizona is still weeks away.

“It’s 50-50 right now. I haven’t seen Taysom healthy yet,” Detmer said. “We know either one is a good option.”

Coach Kalani Sitake would like to settle on a starter sooner rather than later.

“I don’t want to go into the day before and then announce it,” he said. “I’d like to have it done a little before that. I want him to relish in it and be the leader of the team.”

Sitake added that he’s not concerned about keeping it a secret from Arizona as a competitive advantage.

“I think we’ll be able to do what we want to do offensively regardless of who’s running under center," he said. "It’s going to be fun to see these guys compete.”

Detmer plans to split the QB reps between Hill, Mangum and sophomore Beau Hoge early on in August.

“As you get closer to game time, you narrow it down. The guys who are going to play will get more of the reps,” he said. “At this point, there’s no timetable (to name a starter). Obviously, going into the game, you’d like to know who that’s going to be and tailor the game plan around the skill set. After three weeks of two-a-days, we’ll have a pretty good idea.”

Detmer hasn’t ruled out playing both quarterbacks, though he admits that scenario seems unlikely.

“If it’s best for the team, we’ll do that. But I’ve always felt like, as a player, it takes you out of your rhythm once you start alternating, guys start to press and want to do too much and force things,” he said. “It doesn’t always work that well. I’ve always been of the mindset of turning it over to who you think gives you the best chance to win.”

Is he worried that once a starter is named that it could create a division on the team?

“Not at all. I’ve been a part of quarterback controversies and competitions,” Detmer said. “I think both guys have the respect of the team. I don’t think there’s a Taysom corner or a Tanner corner. From what I’ve seen, our players really support each other. I don’t see that being a problem.”

Mangum agreed.

“He and I are competitors and great friends, too. Competition brings out the best out in everyone, not just at the quarterback position. We’re in a unique position, with two quarterbacks that have experience,” he said. “But I think it’s a good problem to have. He and I push each other knowing that you have to bring your ‘A’ game every day. It’s a healthy competition. It’s not divisive or negative. It’s two guys going out and doing their best every day. Regardless of what happens, it’s for the best of the team. We’re both BYU guys. We love this team. The fans and media sometimes want to create a competition, but we’re on the same team. It’s a good situation to be in.”

Running back Jamaal Williams is happy to have two talented quarterbacks on the roster.

“They’re just teammates to me. Whoever gets the job, it’s whoever is working the hardest,” he said. “They both compete. They’re friends at the same time. It’s positive competition. It’s all good for the team and the team sees that.”

Detmer believes both Hill and Mangum can run his pro style offense.

“I think that Taysom can be a pro style quarterback and has that other side, a different dimension like Steve Young had,” he said. “When things break down, he has the ability to go on his own. Tanner’s got the ability to create extra time. He’s not looking to run like Taysom is but he can move well enough to extend plays and throw downfield. As a coordinator, the guy that gives you the best chance to win, you embrace their skill set.”

BYU MEDIA DAY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cougar coaches confirmed that center Tejan Koroma, who hasn’t been with the program since January, is expected to rejoin the team this season, though nothing is official yet.
  • BYU announced the kickoff times for three home games — UCLA (Sept. 17), Toledo (Sept. 30) and Mississippi State (Oct. 14) — each at 8:15 p.m. MDT.
  • BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe addressed questions about the possibility of the program joining a Power 5 conference. "I really would love to see our football play at that level, be playing in a P5 conference," he said. "I want our players … in all of our sports to be able to play at the highest level."
  • BYU honored the 1996 BYU football team, which finished with a 14-1 record, won the 1997 Cotton Bowl and finished in the final polls. Numerous players returned to reminisce and celebrate that memorable campaign.

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com