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PROVO — BYU football has a starting quarterback — and he’s the known quantity.
Tanner Mangum was named as the starter for the 2018 season opener Sept. 1 at Arizona, the team announced Friday afternoon via Twitter.
Mangum beat out true freshman Zach Wilson, the former Corner Canyon star who enrolled at BYU prior to spring football camp to compete for the starting job. Wilson was the only other quarterback listed on the two-deep roster Friday.
The duo had recently been announced as finalists at quarterback over sophomore Joe Critchlow, freshman Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney, Stacy Connor and Beau Hoge, who has since moved to running back.
Head coach Kalani Sitake has been impressed by each of his quarterbacks in fall camp, but particularly the young gun Wilson and the established veteran Mangum.
"I’ve been really pleased with Tanner and Zach and the way they work," Sitake said after fall camp wrapped up Thursday. "I think they have a great command on the offense, and have made great decisions. I’ve been really surprised and excited for the up-and-coming guys, too."
The next step is the real proving ground: the Cougars open next Saturday, Sept. 1 at Arizona. They'll try to rebound from a disappointing — and at-times, disastrous — 4-9 campaign in 2017 that featured 37 team injuries, including season-ending ailments to Mangum, Hoge and other key pieces.
Hoge was not listed on the team’s preliminary two-deep roster at running back, with Squally Canada and Zach Lopini Katoa being listed as co-starters.
A former blue-chip quarterback recruit who was a finalist for the prestigious Elite 11 MVP with current NFL quarterback Jameis Winston, Mangum burst on the scene as a freshman at BYU. He led the Cougars to a come-from-behind win on a Hail Mary in his first snaps at Nebraska, and went on to throw for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 2015.
The senior-to-be from Eagle, Idaho was named Touchdown Club of Columbus freshman of the year — but hasn’t put up numbers like his remarkable first season in a Cougar uniform. A backup to then-senior Taysom Hill, Mangum threw for 1,540 yards and eight touchdowns with nine interceptions in 2017 as a sophomore, when he played in just eight games before a torn Achilles’ tendon ended his season early.
BYU is 16-10 in games where Mangum has taken snaps, including a 9-3 as a freshman in 2015.
But despite struggles during his junior season that include missing the final three games with a torn Achilles' tendon, Mangum appeared rejuvenated and youthful as the Cougars spent three weeks in fall camp in Provo. He lost nearly 30 pounds in the offseason, and adapted to new coordinator Jeff Grimes' offense under the tutelage of quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick.
"I’m just going to go out, have fun and make the most out of every rep — and then enjoy whatever comes my way," Mangum said Thursday.
Other depth chart notes
Freshman Skyler Southam, the recently returned missionary from Wasatch High, has nailed down the starting placekicker job just a few months after returning from a mission. Southam beat out Andrew Mikkelsen, who will hand kickoff duties, as well as well as converted punter Rhett Almond for the job.
Unlike a year ago, few starting spots on offense will be listed as a toss-up for the first game of the season. James Empey and Jacob Jimenez are listed as co-starters at center, while all five tight ends of Matt Bushman, Dallin Holker, Moroni Laulu-Pututau, JJ Nwigwe and Addison Pulsipher are currently co-starters at tight end.
Dylan Collie and Aleva Hifo are co-starters at slot receiver, while Akile Davis and Neil Pau'u will continue to fight for first-team reps at wide receiver.