A fifth-year productive star QB is a luxury. This is a situation worth its weight in gold. It pays off on the field with experience, but more importantly it has a settling impact on the rest of the team.
To the surprise of few, senior Taysom Hill will be the starting quarterback when BYU opens up against Arizona in Glendale a week from Saturday.
That decision, the correct decision, opens up myriad options or what could be termed “features” for first-year offensive coordinator Ty Detmer. It’s a situation he could not ignore.
Here’s a break down of what the Hill decision brings to BYU’s offense.
First and foremost, it gives Detmer the luxury of having a Maxwell Award watch list quarterback as the backup in sophomore Tanner Mangum. Mangum was named the freshman of the year in 2015 by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. Hill, who has been a Heisman Trophy candidate, will greatly benefit not only from Mangum’s presence and push, but his gym-rat personality.
If you look at the nation’s best QB situations, Detmer may have one of the best in the country. Clemson might claim the best with Deshaun Watson and experienced sophomore Kelly Bryant backing up. But at Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield is backed by a true freshman Austin Kendall, and that’s the same situation Ole Miss faces with starter Chad Kelly and Shea Patterson. Even at UCLA, with the great Josh Rosen, his backup is a true freshman, Matt Lynch.
The Hill/Mangum metric is huge.
Hill’s mobility, 4.5 sprinter speed and freakish strength when he runs, is a feature Detmer can use in myriad ways, but his design isn’t to ride Hill’s legs like the Cougars have done in the past with the read option. While that could be part of a package to make defenses prepare, Hill has worked his tail off in developing into an NFL pocket passer, and Detmer is the perfect fit to help. By all accounts, Hill has had three or four outstanding practices where his arm, his accuracy and making reads and delivery have been outstanding.
Hill’s skill and acumen as a runner may find its best utilization in extending plays. Defensive coordinators say the most feared feature of an offense is unpredictability, a broken play in which a run/passer buys time and busts something wide open.
While this offense won’t depend on Hill carrying the ball 20 times a game, that doesn’t mean there won’t be designed plays outside an occasional read option on the edge to try to mix it up and spring him loose. Look no further than how TCU used Andy Dalton from 2007 through 2010 with the QB draw. Deadly.
As a passer, Hill was on his way to proving he was on an impressive trajectory in 2015. He’d had an outstanding fall camp, his completion percentage in practices climbed, his ability to read defenses, go through progressions and deploy touch passes were evident to everyone who witnessed him play. In that tragic injury in the season-opener at Nebraska, Hill was simply outstanding. In just over a half of play in Lincoln, Nebraska, against a Big Ten defense, Hill was 21 of 34 for 268 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He ran for 72 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8 yards a carry with touchdown jaunts of 3 and 21 yards.
A fifth-year productive star QB is a luxury. This is a situation worth its weight in gold. It pays off on the field with experience, but more importantly it has a settling impact on the rest of the team. From the locker room to the huddle, it takes out a lot of guesswork and anxiety. The team knows what it has. In the case of Hill, his worth ethic, his dedication in the weight room and his leadership with teammates is something you can’t manufacture as a head coach or a coordinator.
Hill has run or thrown on 1,072 snaps as a BYU quarterback in a career that’s been cut up in snippets by injuries. Yet he’s created a bevy of unique highlights forever fixed among a traditional and historically rich QB situation in Provo. He has thrown 60-yard passes and had scoring runs of 68 yards. Twice.
A year ago, Hill spent all of September, October, November and December sidelined with a Lisfranc injury, but he also harbored an itch, a burning inside to get back behind center.
Detmer now turns all that pent-up energy loose. Mangum is stage right, waiting in the wings.