BYU football: QB battle could last into fall
Provo » One day into spring football camp at BYU, coach Bronco Mendenhall has reached at least one conclusion regarding the great starting quarterback battle of 2010.
After the Cougars ended the first of 15 scheduled practices Monday, Mendenhall said it is looking more and more like he won't be able to name a starter for the 2010 season by the time camp ends April 10.
That is because the Cougars have only eight healthy offensive linemen in camp, and the coach doesn't think he will be able to hold enough scrimmages necessary to give all three candidates the volume of plays needed to make a good assessment.
"It might go all the way through [spring] and into fall camp, which is OK as far as I am concerned," Mendenhall said. "Usually, I like to have it done prior to the summer so you can have leadership emerge, and continue through that time period.
"In this case, with the dynamic of the team, [it is] probably not likely."
Junior Riley Nelson, Max Hall's backup last year, got the first snaps of the day in the team session (scrimmage) played in helmets and shorts with no pads. Working with the starters, mostly, he completed 5 of 7 passes for 33 yards.
Nelson said he feels like the job is his to lose.
"And I think both James [Lark] and Jake [Heaps] feel that way as well," he said. "That's kind of how you have to approach it. Confidence in sports is something that is very important to performance. So you have to have that confidence that you are the right guy for the job. Then it is just a matter of proving it. I think we are all on the same playing field as far as that goes."
Lark, who returned from a church mission to Russia in December, donned a helmet for the first time in nearly two and a half years. He said he is ready to complete for the starting job.
"We have got three quarterbacks who all want it, who are all good players, and we are just excited to be able to compete for it," he said.
Lark got some reps with the ones and the twos, but did not complete a pass in three attempts and was intercepted once by Robbie Buckner, after a receiver fell down.
Heaps, who graduated from high school in December and enrolled at BYU in January, cannot talk to the media until he plays in his first game, per Mendenhall's rules regarding newcomers.
He was 4-for-8 for 25 yards.
Mendenhall reminded reporters that a fourth quarterback, Jason Munns, returns from his mission this summer and will also be given a shot at the job, in fall camp.
"We will make [the quarterback battle] a positive," Mendenhall said. "We have had battles before, just not with three quality players ... so there are only so many reps, so how efficient we can be to give fair looks to each one, in real situations, to determine who is going to be the leader of the team. It is going to be quite a challenge."
The play of the day was made by another freshman who enrolled in January, running back Josh Quezada. He broke free around the left side and ran untouched for a 36-yard touchdown.
Receiver O'Neill Chambers missed practice to concentrate on his schoolwork, and could likely miss the whole week. Uona Kaveinga, a USC transfer who must sit out the upcoming season, played inside linebacker with the first unit simply because the Cougars are so thin at the position right now.
"From what I saw today, he's a good football player," Mendenhall said.