Provo • Is it finally time to throw BYU freshman quarterback Jake Heaps to the wolves or in Saturday's case, the Wolf Pack of Nevada?
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday he won't divulge who will start at quarterback against Nevada (4 p.m., the mtn.) at LaVell Edwards Stadium until Wednesday at the earliest, but hinted several times he is leaning toward handing most of the plays over to Heaps if not the starting job after having given junior Riley Nelson the starts in BYU's first three games.
"I met with the offensive staff this morning, defensive staff, special teams staff â¦ and it is becoming more and more clear to me, kind of how and what direction we need to go. But a little premature to say at this point," Mendenhall said before telling reporters he would have a "really clear idea" Wednesday.
Later, when asked if there will be any changes to the depth chart after two straight poor performances, the coach said fewer players will get in the game, and noted, "Once I made the decision early on in the year to play two quarterbacks, the biggest issue became number of plays and volume of plays that we execute, because those reps were having to be divided.
"With possible rotation issues at tight end and wide receiver as well, when you consider that to the volume of reps being divided, we just haven't played the same players, in the same scheme, running the same plays together, enough. So rather than depth chart changes, you will probably see fewer players playing in the game, with a more concise plan. That will probably be the biggest thing you will notice."
Nelson got the first and third series in the 34-10 loss to Florida State, which resulted in a three-and-out and an interception. Having been sacked the first of six times on BYU's second possession, Heaps took over for good on the fourth possession and played the entire second half.
Regarding the eight total sacks and three quarterback fumbles, Mendenhall said several were the result of the quarterbacks holding onto the ball too long.
"Most importantly, or the thing that led to most [sacks], is just not delivering the football quick enough, in terms of timing and rhythm, which lends to just execution and confidence and position mastery that we haven't reached yet this year," Mendenhall said.
The coach also put some blame on the receivers, saying FSU's cornerbacks were physical and inhibited the receivers' releases off the line of scrimmage, which altered the timing and the crispness of the routes.
"Part of the reason the quarterback was holding the ball longer than necessary was the receivers were taking longer than necessary to get open," he said.
Of course, there were some breakdowns by the offensive line, too, which needed some shuffling in the second half when left tackle Matt Reynolds left the game just before halftime with an ankle injury.
Pressed for clarification on the timing of his quarterback decision this week, Mendenhall said the decision will be made "mostly for Saturday" and not for the entire season.
"Our practice structure will reflect possibly the way I am thinking even earlier than that," he said, noting that it wouldn't be appropriate to publicly state his intentions before he tells the coaches or players. "I would say by Wednesday I could probably give you a pretty good idea of what we are going to do for the Nevada game."
Mendenhall also called for some patience for his young team in a roundabout way Monday, refusing to call the Nevada game a "must-win situation" while acknowledging the "anticipation and the anxiety around the program to win and win as soon as possible" is great.
"It is going to take some time," he said. "â¦ This is a season's worth of work. To say it is going to be a polished and finished product this week, I am not willing to say that."
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BYU quarterbacks after three games
Player Passing (comp/att/int) Rushing (att/yards/TDs) TD passes
Riley Nelson 20-40-1 31-148-1 2
Jake Heaps 30-60-1 7-(-55)-0 1