PROVO — BYU’s starting quarterback from the beginning of last season wasn’t fully healthy during Thursday’s first scrimmage of spring camp.
But his replacements? They ran the offense well enough.
The Cougars put on full pads for the first time Thursday inside the school’s indoor practice facility, held a full-contact scrimmage, and the offense took advantage while it tries to install itself under new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.
That included plenty of hits — including to the green jersey-clad signal callers.
“It was good to hit the quarterbacks,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “They get a little too safe in the pocket. The time gets a lot better when they know they are going to get hit. That works out for us.”
Beau Hoge took command of the first-string offense, and Joe Critchlow and freshman Zach Wilson took the bulk of the reps behind him during the media portion of Thursday’s practice.
Last season’s starter Tanner Mangum took a few limited snaps as he continues to recover from surgery to repair an Achilles’ tendon injury.
But as far as the hits? That was the best part, Critchlow said.
“None of the quarterbacks shy away from contact,” said Critchlow, who started the final three games of the Cougars’ 4-9 season. “We all love football. None of us want to play 7-on-7 out here. It feels good to be able to play real football.”
Grimes said he’s installed “about 60 percent” of his offense, which he describes as multiple in form and “able to attack the defense in a number of ways.”
“Most successful offenses nowadays are balanced, and ours will be balanced,” Grimes said. “But we’ll take advantage of what the defense gives us and what are our mismatches for us.”
No decision has been made on the quarterback battle — and likely won’t for the remainder of spring. But with seven signal callers in the film room — including an injured Mangum and sophomore walk-on Hayden Griffitts, who watched Thursday’s practice in a walking boot on the sideline — those who seemed to impress during the first scrimmage were Hoge and Wilson, the early enrollee freshman from Corner Canyon whose parents were on the sidelines inside the IPF.
“In his time at Corner Canyon, he’s made some big plays and handled different coaching and different offenses,” Sitake said of Wilson. “He had this plan, to graduate early and enroll in January. I’m just glad he’s here and is with us.”
The final session ended in Hoge’s 45-yard touchdown strike to Tariq Buchanan, eliciting a reaction similar to a frat party on most college campuses before the Cougars break for the university’s newly announced, one-day spring break.
“I think some guys are beginning to take a step forward,” said Grimes, who declined to name any order of quarterback play.