Provo • BYU football coach Kalani Sitake said Monday that he would like to have a starting quarterback “in place” before the Cougars’ first game Sept. 1 at Arizona.
Beats the alternative.
Who will make that difficult decision?
“All of us,” Sitake said, then joked about turning over the responsibility to reporters or “taking a poll of everyone who has never seen practice.”
When he reverted back to the more serious Sitake, the coach said now is not the time to name a starter but acknowledged that Saturday’s scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium (11 a.m., no TV) is huge for at least three healthy quarterbacks in camp — freshman Zach Wilson, sophomore Joe Critchlow and junior Beau Hoge, who is a bit limited with a sprained ankle but hasn’t missed any repetitions in practice because of it.
Senior Tanner Mangum, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, won’t play Saturday but is “on track” to join the quarterback derby when it resumes at fall camp in early August.
The other QBs on the spring roster — freshmen Baylor Romney and Stacy Conner and injured sophomore Hayden Griffits — have seen fewer and fewer reps as spring camp has moved along, and Conner even has seen a little work at receiver. Jaren Hall joins the race this summer after he returns from a church mission, unless he’s asked to try a different position.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said the decision will “obviously” start with quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick and move from there to himself and Sitake.
“He coaches the position, and nobody knows those guys, or quarterbacks in general, more than he does,” Grimes said. “I will certainly have a say in it, and in the end the head coach signs off on all things, particularly the starting quarterback.”
Roderick, who said he has been involved in “quite a few” starting quarterback decisions as an offensive assistant at Southern Utah (2003-04) and the University of Utah (2005-2015), said every offensive coach will give his input.
“In the end, it will probably be between me, coach Grimes and Kalani,” he said.
Coaches almost certainly won’t name a starter at the end of spring camp Saturday, as Bronco Mendenhall once did to establish a clear-cut leader for offseason workouts. That wouldn’t be fair to Mangum, Roderick said. But the QBs coach echoed Sitake in saying the scrimmage will be of major importance to the other three guys in the running. Sitake hadn’t decided earlier in the week if the quarterbacks would be live, as they already have been four times in scrimmages, or off-limits to contact.
“Coach Grimes is the kind of guy who wants to see all his guys prepared when things are live, and that’s probably what we are leaning toward,” Sitake said.
Roderick said coaches are mulling over two different approaches. “One would be, ‘Let’s go all out and treat it like a game and see how we look,’” he said. “The other would be, ‘Let’s hold back and not let Arizona see what we are doing.’”
Roderick agrees that the competition includes two pocket passers — Mangum and Critchlow — and two dual-threat, more athletic guys in Wilson and Hoge, but believes Grimes’ offense “is versatile enough” to accommodate any of the four.
“It is just going to be which guy moves the team best and scores points,” Roderick said. “Their job is to take care of the ball, move the team and score. So whoever we feel like is doing that the best will be the starter. And whoever does that the second best will be No. 2, and we will go from there.”
How far into fall camp will this go?
“If it is clear who the guy is, I have no problem saying, ‘Hey, this is the guy, let’s go,’” Roderick said. “We are not there yet. But if it comes to that, yeah, I don’t think there is a need to hold back. … We certainly wouldn’t [delay it] to play games with the media.”
Another question: Could the baby-faced Wilson really be the opening-day starter in Pac-12 territory Sept. 1?
“It wouldn’t bother me,” Roderick said. “I don’t really see him as a true freshman. He hasn’t played in a game yet, but he’s out here practicing with the team all spring. He will be practicing with the team all fall camp. By the time we get to the opener, he will have just as many practices in this offense as anybody else. I think he’s got as good of a shot as anybody right now.”
Where • At LaVell Edwards Stadium
When • 11 a.m. Saturday (Gates open at 10 a.m.)
Admission • Free