Provo • The theory has always been that quarterback Taysom Hill decided during his LDS Church mission in Australia to sign with BYU and not attend the school he signed with out of high school, Stanford, because coach Jim Harbaugh left to coach the San Francisco 49ers.
Not true, Hill said Monday after BYU’s practice, having finally been allowed to talk to reporters for the first time since he arrived in Provo last January. In what local reporters commonly refer to as the "O’Neill Chambers rule," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall does not allow newcomers to talk to the media until after their first game.
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And what a first game it was for Hill, who threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Kaneakua Friel out of the wildcat formation when he took the snap from Blair Tushaus and rolled right on 4th-and-1.
Hill said the primary reason he didn’t return to Stanford had nothing to do with Harbaugh at all, or his replacement, David Shaw.
Rather, Hill said he learned on his mission that Stanford does not allow incoming freshmen to join the team until June each year. Hill returned home after two years in Australia last December, enrolled at BYU in January, and immediately received a scholarship.
"Stanford wanted me to come home four or five months early from my mission, and be home for last football season," Hill said. "And I didn’t want to do that. So they said I could come home when I did, but would [have to] be at home [in Pocatello, Idaho] for four or five months before I could get into school. I didn’t want to do either of those options."
So here he is, third on the quarterback depth chart, but seemingly bound to play more — due to his versatility as a runner and a thrower — than second-stringer James Lark.
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said that if starter Riley Nelson is injured, Lark will go in as the almost-every down quarterback. However, in blowouts, "we will probably put the younger guys in, Jason Munns or Taysom Hill — let them play and see how they do," Doman said. The Cougars are huge favorites over Weber State, a Football Championship Subdivision team, on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (1 p.m., BYUtv).
As for Hill, he said he was "unaware" of Stanford’s policy on early enrollees when he signed in 2009. Hill said he and his father initiated the contact with BYU, through email, when he made the decision not to continue at Stanford.
"BYU was definitely there [recruiting him before he signed]," Hill said. "And so BYU was available, and I did the things necessary in the mission field without taking away from my responsibilities as a missionary. I did those and found out that BYU was where I needed to be, and it has been confirmed ever since I have been here."
The only injured Cougar who definitely won’t play Saturday against Weber State is backup defensive back Skye PoVey, who has an injured foot. Mendenhall said PoVey’s return is unknown; It could be two weeks, or it could be 10 weeks.
Tight end Devin Mahina, who broke his hand early in fall camp, is "likely" to play, Mendenhall said. Defensive end Ian Dulan, who has a bad back, is also making progress and could play on Saturday.
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