2014 Outlook: The BYU Quarterbacks
BYU announced the transfer of back up quarterback Ammon Olsen to Southern Utah University on Tuesday.
Ammon played his first year at SUU prior to his mission and will join former BYU head coach Gary Crowton, who was named as the offensive coordinator for the Thunderbirds earlier this week.
Olsen’s transfer puts added emphasis on keeping starter Taysom Hill (6-2, 221 Jr.) healthy and upright in 2014.
Hill shattered the school single-season rushing record for quarterbacks last year with 1,344 yards.
He also holds the career rushing record for QBs with 1,680 yards, and his 14 career rushing touchdowns is second only to Steve Young’s 18.
Despite producing those impressive rushing numbers, there is some real concern about the number of carries and hits he took in the process. Hill had more rushing attempts last year (246) than pass completions (236). He averaged 19 carries per game and finished off the season by rushing 31 times for 133 yards in BYU’s bowl loss to Washington.
Though Taysom is a big, strong guy, its bucking the odds to expect him to see that may carries and continue to avoid injury.
The bottom line is that he and the Cougars got lucky last year. They weren’t so lucky in 2012 when Hill went down for the season with a leg injury. Putting your quarterback in harm’s way nearly 20 times per game is asking for problems, especially after losing your back up.
For that reason, it’s important that Hill develops himself as a passer. With the team shifting gears and players beginning their workouts in preparation for another spring practice, Hill has already addressed the need for him to improve that all-important area of his game.
“I want to improve my accuracy and decision making,” Hill told BYUtv True Blue host Dave McCann last week. “As a quarterback, you are always constantly trying to improve on those (things) at any level.”
Hill went on to say that he has reached out to a few quarterbacks who have played in the NFL in an effort to learn how to take the next step in his development.
During his sophomore season in 2013, he completed just under 55 percent of his throws for 2,938 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. In the first year of the go-fast, go-hard offense, Hill and the Cougars had issues sustaining drives and getting into the endzone. They finished 62nd in the country in redzone offense,
If the Cougars are going to consistently sustain drives and produce touchdowns in the redzone, Hill’s completion percentage will need to push the 65-percent mark. His passing production will also need to be closer to 3,500 yards next season. Reaching those levels of performance in the passing game will also reduce the need for the offense to rely on Taysom’s legs to keep the chains moving.
Green vs. Stewart
With the departure of Olsen, the battle for the back up job behind Hill will come down to a competition between Christian Stewart (6-2, 201 Sr.) and Billy Green (6-2, 206). Both saw action in one game last year, getting snaps in the Cougars’ 59-13 win over Idaho State.
The decision to burn Green’s redshirt year by playing him for a couple of snaps against the Bengals last season was a curious decision by the BYU coaching staff. He still has a redshirt season available to him, but he may not be able to take advantage of that next season, especially if he ends up as the back up.
Billy was a great player in high school in the state of Washington, but the fact that he played at a small school created questions about how well he can perform at the Division-1 level. Despite those concerns, he’s been a winner and Bronco Mendenhall loves him as a player.
Stewart walked on to the BYU program for the second time in 2013. He originally walked on in 2008 before serving a mission to Japan. After his return from the mission field, he played two years at Snow College where he ended up as the nation’s second-ranked quarterback following his sophomore season.
During last year’s spring game, both Stewart and Green flashed some promise. This spring, the coaches will be looking for one of them to step up and claim the role as the second guy on the depth chart.
The QB pipeline
The heir-apparent at quarterback when Hill’s playing career in Provo is over is fellow Idahoan Tanner Mangum (6-3, 200 Fr.). Tanner left for his mission to Chile this past summer and is scheduled to return to the program in 2015. He was considered one of the nation’s top pro-style high school quarterbacks in the 2012 signing class and greyshirted during the 2012 season.
Oustside of Green and Mangum, there isn’t really anyone in the pipeline. Alex Kuresa, who had more of a future as a receiver and return man, has returned home early from his mission and has since transferred to Snow College.
The Cougars have offered scholarships to duel-threat high school quarterbacks Ronald Monroe (6-4, 195) from Richmond, Texas, Kimane Domera (6-2, 190) from Portland, Oregon and Malik Henry (6-2, 175) of Westlake Village, California.
Monroe has committed to Washington State as a wide receiver, but is planning a trip to BYU just a few days before signing day. The Cougars are reportedly interested in him playing his preferred position of quarterback. Domera is a 2015 recruit and a convert to the LDS Church, while Henry is a member of the 2016 recruiting class.