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PROVO — BYU coaches made it official this week by announcing fifth-year senior Taysom Hill as the starting quarterback, nearly two weeks before the season opener Sept. 3 against Arizona.
The announcement capped a furious competition throughout fall camp between Hill and Tanner Mangum, the rising sophomore star who started all but one game as a returned missionary freshman in 2015. But with the decision behind them, the Cougars turn their attention to the Wildcats, who have yet to formally name a starter after junior Anu Solomon struggled with two concussions a year ago.
“That’s not the fun part from the coaching standpoint, having to tell guys they won’t play,” BYU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ty Detmer said. “It’s very challenging. Tanner is a great quarterback. But you rely on some of the past experiences at BYU, with (Jim) McMahon and Marc Wilson and other guys, and I had those experiences in that situation.
“The best thing is to let guys know and to be honest with them. They know the deal going forward, but we still think that Tanner is a big part of the program — it may be this year, and it may be Week 1 just like last year.”
With that in mind, here’s a look at the non-starters currently participating in fall camp with BYU.
Tanner Mangum, So.
It’s almost impossible to definitively nail down such a category, but Mangum makes a strong case for best backup quarterback in the country at his new role.
The sophomore from Eagle, Idaho, was featured in 12½ games for BYU in 2015, leading the Cougars to SportsCenter Top 10 finishes against Nebraska and Boise State in his first two outings under center in college.
Just a few months after returning from a two-year mission for the LDS Church in Antofagasta, Chile, Mangum threw for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions while leading BYU to a 9-4 record in the final season of former coach Bronco Mendenhall.
As a true freshman, he averaged a quarterback efficiency rating of 136.00, winning Freshman of the Year honors from the Touchdown Club of Columbus and finding his way onto Phil Steele’s All-Independent First Team.
And now, until further notice, Mangum will be handling backup duties, helping Hill finish out his final season of eligibility as an extra QB coach and sideline judge — but ready for action the moment he is needed, just as he was one year ago in Lincoln, Nebraska.
And if Hill needs to take time off, recover from an injury setback, or simply get relief during a less-strenuous week during the grueling 2016 schedule, the Cougars will have no lack of confidence in their No. 2 signal caller. BYU coaches were quick to submit that Mangum will not use a redshirt in 2016, which means Detmer and Sitake plan on playing the returning starter.
Prediction: Backup quarterback/fill-in starter
Beau Hoge, So.
Hoge is perhaps best known for his famous father, former NFL running back Merril Hoge, who currently works for ESPN. But the former three-star recruit from Fort Thomas, Kentucky, saw time in three games as a true freshman in 2015.
His first action was less-than-impressive, completing 1 of 5 passes for just 9 yards with an interception in relief of a hamstrung Mangum during BYU’s 45-38 win over East Carolina. But he eased into college football better in routs of Wagner and Fresno State.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Hoge came to Provo after turning down offers from Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio. He was named MVP of Kentucky’s Class 4A state championship Highlands High in 2014 and earned a spot on ESPN’s top 10 with an 81-yard touchdown run in the state final that year, as well.
Teams are rarely in a good situation if they have to go to their third-string quarterback (with apologies to Ohio State). But in his second season at BYU, Hoge — the only other quarterback not named Taysom or Tanner to letter in 2015 — could be a strong candidate to see mop-up minutes in blowout victories.
Prediction: Third-string quarterback
Koy Detmer Jr., So.
The most famous surname on BYU’s current quarterback depth chart, Koy Detmer Jr. is the nephew of the Cougars’ current offensive coordinator and son of former NFL quarterback Koy Detmer — best known for his time with Philadelphia.
The younger Detmer arrived at BYU as a small-framed freshman from Somerset (Texas) High School, an all-district athlete in baseball, basketball, football and soccer. He threw for 2,375 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior, then played in just one game while working with the scout team in 2015.
Detmer owns a career 259.60 pass efficiency rating, mostly because he completed all three of his pass attempts against Wagner for 57 yards with just one sack taken.
He’s bulked up significantly through the spring and summer workouts, though, and he has been among the last players to leave the practice field during fall camp. That work ethic could make Detmer a prime candidate to lead BYU’s scout team, and a redshirt season could be in the works with limited reps to go around.
Prediction: Redshirt / scout team
Hayden Livingston, Fr.
A walk-on freshman who made the 105-man roster by joining the team before school starts, Livingston’s father played at Rick’s College before settling in Rigby, Idaho. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound freshman entertained offers from Air Force, Boise State, Idaho State and Weber State before taking his reported 4.4-second 40-yard dash time to Provo.
Livingston was named player of the year by the Idaho Falls Post-Register, and was a USA Today All-Idaho first-team selection as a senior in 2015, when he threw for 1,970 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
But Livingston is possibly best remembered as the recruit who got first-time college coach Ty Detmer in trouble for talking about him before he was enrolled in college. NCAA regulations prevent coaches from commenting on recruits before they sign with the university, or enroll in classes, in the case of walk-on student-athletes.
Everyone makes mistakes, right?
As a first-year freshman, Livingston could delay enrollment until BYU’s winter semester to seek an extra year of eligibility, similar to what Mangum did prior to serving a mission, which would make him ineligible to play in any games this season.
Prediction: Grayshirt / scout team