Provo • After a relatively satisfying and stress-free initial season at the helm of BYU’s football team, coach Kalani Sitake faces a crisis situation in his second year, and not just because the Cougars are 1-4 and in serious danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
Sitake and offensive coordinator Ty Detmer have some major decisions to make with the quarterback position as they prepare for Friday’s 8:15 p.m. MT game against Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium, decisions that could implications well into the future.
The question regarding who will start at quarterback against the Broncos (2-2) is shaping up to be a shell game of epic proportions, with no fewer than five candidates suddenly in the mix — or six if you count QB-turned-receiver-turned-running back Austin Kafentzis, who took snaps out of the wildcat formation in the 40-6 loss to Wisconsin and the 40-24 loss to Utah State when opening-day starter Tanner Mangum was sidelined with a left ankle injury.
Boise State at BYU
Friday, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPN
Obviously, Mangum, who happens to hail from the Boise area and was instrumental in BYU’s 35-24 victory over BSU as a freshman in 2015 would be the preferred starter, Sitake said. But the junior hasn’t practiced since the Sept. 9 injury. The second choice would be redshirt sophomore Beau Hoge, who left during the second quarter last Friday with what appeared to be a concussion.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Sitake said in his weekly press briefing on Monday. “Obviously, you would like to have answers when you have guys go down. … I don’t talk about our injuries too often, but there is still the chance that Tanner and Beau could play this week. That is still up in the air.”
Reading between the lines, it does not appear that the staff wants to play redshirt sophomore Koy Detmer Jr. again if other options are available. Detmer relieved Hoge in the second quarter and struggled mightily, to put it mildly.
“I hate to come down on Koy, but he threw [passes] in a bad spot, and we asked him to help us come from behind and win the game,” Sitake said. “That’s what we expected him to do. It didn’t work out very well, with his inability to find routes and to function in the passing game. … We still expect our guys to be better than what he did on Friday night.”
So what are the other options? Kafentzis was the most prolific QB in state history at Jordan High, but there’s probably a reason coaches moved him to another position the first week of training camp last July-August.
That leaves two freshman returned missionaries the coaches were hoping to redshirt in 2017, 6-foot-4 Tennessean Joe Critchlow and 6-6 Pine View High product Kody Wilstead. Repeating what he said after the USU game, Sitake noted that pulling a redshirt, or two, is a possibility this week.
“We just hate to take them out of their redshirt year,” Sitake said. “These guys were serving missions [in Montreal and Argentina, respectively] a year ago, but the last time a returned missionary was thrown in there early it was Tanner Mangum and it worked out pretty well, so we still have to factor all that in, even with the thought that maybe Tanner and Beau will still return, if not this week then hopefully soon.”
With just a few days to prepare for Boise State, which had a bye last weekend, the last thing the staff wants to do is sink reps into a quarterback who isn’t going to play, Sitake said. So it is a major dilemma in a season filled with many.
Sitake did say that if Mangum is healthy and practices in the next day or two, he will start.
“If Tanner can’t go, then Beau [is next],” Sitake said. “It just goes down the line again. … It is kind of up in the air, depending on how guys progress with their health, No. 1, and No. 2 being able to get the best guys out there to help us win.”
Quarterbacks on BYU’s 2017 roster
Tanner Mangum, Jr., 6-3, 220 • Started in 12 games as a freshman in 2015, first three games of 2017.
Beau Hoge, Soph., 6-1, 210 • Was 5 of 9 for 95 yards and two touchdowns before leaving USU game.
Koy Detmer Jr., Soph., 5-10, 175 • Nephew of offensive coordinator Ty Detmer struggled in relief Friday.
Joe Critchlow, Fr., 6-4, 200 • Signed with SUU before church mission, but followed Ed Lamb to Provo.
Kody Wilstead, Fr., 6-6, 222 • Threw for 9,654 yards and 92 touchdowns at St. George’s Pine View High.