BYU football: Important battle for third-string QB begins Thursday at scrimmage
Provo • Starting quarterback Riley Nelson just wants a series or two to stay sharp, while fellow senior James Lark, his backup, wants to get in there on every play, knowing that time is running out quickly on his BYU football career.
Meanwhile, towering junior quarterback Jason Munns is eager to play in Thursday's open-to-the-public scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium (10:20 a.m.) to finally show what he can do, while returned missionaries Taysom Hill, a freshman, and Ammon Olsen, a sophomore, are presumably licking their chops, too, although that's just a hunch because "newcomers" aren't allowed to talk to the media until after the first game.
"Should be interesting," says offensive coordinator Brandon Doman.
The roles of Nelson and Lark this year are crystal clear early in the season, but for BYU's other three quarterbacks, the race to be next year's starter begins Thursday, for all intents and purposes.
"I mean, every day is a big day," says Munns, the highly touted 6-foot-5 recruit from Kennewick, Wash., who has yet to take a meaningful snap. "But, yeah, this is the kind of opportunity you enjoy because you want to show what you can do."
Doman made no bones about it Wednesday: The guy who emerges as the third-stringer this year gets a leg up on next year's race.
"It is going to make a big [difference]," Doman said. "That guy is going to be in meetings, he is going to be on the airplane to the games. He is going to stand on the sidelines; he may have a headset on during games. He is going to experience a lot of valuable things in preparation for next year."
Doman said Thursday's scrimmage "will determine a lot" about whether Munns, Hill or Olsen emerges. Of those three, Hill has gotten slightly more reps through six preseason camp practices.
"We need to start narrowing our vision in, and start giving repetitions to the guys who potentially will be helping us on Saturdays. We are narrowing it in right now," Doman said, but noted that the third-stringer won't be named after the scrimmage, saying, "We got a lot of other things to iron out before we iron that out."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall agreed with Doman, calling the scrimmage "important" for the non-senior QBs. He said it will include 50 to 60 plays after a shortened practice session and that it will feature mostly second- and third-team players, with only a few key starters expected to see action.
"I think it is important, but not the only evaluation that they will get," Mendenhall said. "I hope that [evaluation] will be from their total volume of work. But that will be a great chance for them to be in our stadium, getting some live reps, even though they won't be [tackled], and to see who can move the team, and see where their composure is, and where their decision-making is without so many of us hovering and giving them feedback."
Hoffman, Sampson back practicing
Receiver Cody Hoffman and safety Joe Sampson returned to practice Wednesday after missing four straight workouts apiece for disciplinary reasons. Sampson declined to reveal why they were held out, saying, "that's in the past. I am just focused on the future right now." Hoffman didn't speak to the media following the first practice, and the second practice was closed to the media.
"I have personal contracts with a lot of my players, and their job is to keep them, and my job is to keep my word," Mendenhall said. "So, yeah. It was just a great relationship builder, and I am encouraged by what they have done to this point."
BYU camp cuts
What we learned • Two-a-days began Wednesday for the Cougars, but they are mostly focused on Thursday's 10:20 a.m. scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium; coach Bronco Mendenhall said only a few starters will play, however.
Who was hot • Outside linebacker Spencer Hadley intercepted a Riley Nelson pass and also had two would-be sacks in the 11-on-11 drills.
Who was out • Defensive end Ian Dulan (sore back), tight end Marcus Mathews (sick), receiver Dallin Cutler (hamstring), defensive end Russell Tialavea (sprained ankle) and tight end Devin Mahina (broken hand) missed practice due to health reasons; Several other players missed practice to take finals.