Provo • BYU coach Kalani Sitake will conclude the Cougars’ ninth spring camp practice at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday morning with another fully padded scrimmage if the weather cooperates. No word yet on whether the quarterbacks will be subjected to contact and tackling like they were in an 11-on-11 exercise last week.
Joe Critchlow certainly hopes that is the case.
The sophomore, a bit forgotten in the closely watched quarterback derby of 2018 spring camp, hopes to show he can be as elusive as the two dual-threat QBs getting the bulk of the repetitions and media hype this spring — freshman Zach Wilson and junior Beau Hoge.
“I would say that none of the quarterbacks shy away from contact,” Critchlow said. “We all love football. It feels good to play real football.”
It is almost as if Critchlow has to remind folks that he started the final three games and delivered two wins last season, albeit against Mountain West cellar-dwellers UNLV and Hawaii.
“I feel like I learned a lot from the short playing time I had last year, and I feel like this spring is a great opportunity for me to grow and build on what I developed last season,” Critchlow said. “We are always on our toes. We are always looking to put our best effort out there every single day.”
Hoge and Critchlow said coaches haven’t informed them yet what the depth chart at quarterback looks like or if they will have one coming out of spring camp.
“It makes it a lot easier when you are friends with a lot of the guys you are competing with,” Critchlow said. “Competition is something a lot of us quarterbacks tend to do really well. I think we are all growing from it.”
Meanwhile, Wilson’s emergence has been so noteworthy that BYU coaches might make an exception to a long-standing rule that forbids “newcomers” from talking to the media before they play in a game, just as they did last spring with tight end phenom Matt Bushman.
Senior Tanner Mangum, who has started 21 games and played in 26 during his career, repeatedly has said he also will be in the mix this fall. Mangum has been limited this spring as he recovers from the Achilles injury he sustained Nov. 4 at Fresno State, but he is doing more than anybody expected.
Cynics might suggest that comeback has been hurried a bit because Wilson and Hoge are performing well in the new offense being installed by Jeff Grimes.
“It is good for guys like Zach to come in and get a lot of reps and just get that experience right away,” Mangum said. “That’s what spring ball is for. It is good for Beau and Joe and Baylor [Romney], too. It doesn’t mean I am taking plays off. Every play is a mental rep. I go through it in my head, going through the read progression.”
Mangum said he learned a lot after his 2017 battle with Taysom Hill about supporting the other QBs in the room.
“Something I like about this group is that we are helping each other out, coaching each other up, making sure we are all succeeding,” he said. “It is a competition, but at the same time there is camaraderie.”
Wishing him well
Some coaches might be bitter when a scholarship quarterback opts to transfer, but not new BYU QBs coach Aaron Roderick. He said he was “impressed” with how former Pine View star Kody Wilstead handled his departure.
“He is a competitive guy and he wanted more opportunities,” Roderick said. “I have told all the quarterbacks: I would be upset with you if you weren’t upset about not getting the chance to play. If it doesn’t bother you, then you have no shot to be a quarterback at this level. It should bother you. As long as you handle it in a professional way, then we can work our way through it.
“Kody just came to me and said he feels like he is never going to get enough reps to prove himself. He wants to play early in his career. And I think had he stayed, he could have been a pretty good player in time, but he wants to play now.”