BYU football coaches agree that keeping opening-game opponent Arizona in the dark regarding which of four candidates will be the Cougars’ starting quarterback on Sept. 1 in Tucson has some strategic value.

But it doesn’t appear that little bit of potential gamesmanship is going to keep them from picking — and announcing — a starter as soon as possible. In fact, the choice could be made much sooner than almost anyone suspects, if Assistant Head Coach Ed Lamb’s comments to a BYU alumni group in Cedar City last Thursday mean anything.

“We may want our first opponent, Arizona, to not know who our quarterback is. … But in our building, we need to know who the guy is about Day 2 or 3,” Lamb said, according to The Spectrum & Daily News in St. George.

Lamb, who is also the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator, reportedly called one of the candidates, sophomore Joe Critchlow, “a big-time quarterback in every way.”

Lamb was Southern Utah’s head coach when he recruited Critchlow, from Tennessee, to SUU before the quarterback served a church mission to Montreal, Canada. When Lamb was hired by Kalani Sitake in 2016, Critchlow signed with BYU in February of 2017.

“I think Joe will be one of the great quarterbacks at BYU before it’s all said and done,” Lamb told the alumni gathering.

The Cougars report on Wednesday and open preseason training camp on Thursday afternoon in Provo. Senior Tanner Mangum, junior Beau Hoge and freshman Zach Wilson are also in the mix to be the starter, although Lamb said at the alumni event that the athletic Hoge might be moved to another position, according to The Spectrum.

“Beau Hoge has a lot of other skills,” Lamb said. “I think it is fairly common knowledge that he is playing other positions and might fit in somewhere else.”

As for Mangum, who has by far the most experience of any of the candidates, Lamb said the senior “has all the physical skills” to be a top-notch quarterback but apparently didn’t “respond well” to the previous offensive coaching staff.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said at Football Media Day that “in an ideal world” the coaches would like to narrow the quarterback derby down to two or three within the first week of camp.

“By the end of the second week, hopefully we will know where we are going,” Grimes said. “But the list may not be quite as big as it appears to be on paper. We’ve narrowed it down some already, although we’re not willing at this point to say who’s in front of whom.”

Quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick said he won’t “force it” when it comes to picking a starter, but agrees the sooner it happens, the better.

“I think after seven days you should be able to know a lot,” he said. “ I think two weeks to two-and-a-half weeks you can have a really good idea of who the starter should be.”

Roderick said returned missionary Jaren Hall, a standout quarterback at Maple Mountain High before his mission, “will still be a quarterback” this fall but is not among the candidates to be the opening-game starter. Like Hoge, Hall is extremely athletic and an excellent runner.

“Again, I keep saying that [Hall] definitely has a future here,” Roderick said.