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Tanner Mangum named starting QB for BYU

August 25, 2018

For three weeks of BYU football’s fall camp — or since the end of the 2017 season, depending on your perspective — the question of who would be the starting quarterback for the Cougars in 2018 cast an enormous shadow over everything in Provo.

Would it be Tanner Mangum, the experienced senior trying to bounce back from struggles and injuries?

Or Zach Wilson, the hot young gun fresh from high school with the silky-smooth release and a knack for big plays?

The initial answer came Friday afternoon as BYU released its post-camp depth chart with Mangum as the starter and Wilson as the backup.

It’s likely the decision may have disappointed some fans who felt Mangum’s past failures made him less desirable as the signal-caller in the Cougar offense. Others might have pointed to his extensive experience (26 games, 436-of-736 passing, 5,158 yards, 34 TDs, 20 Ints, 3 rushing TDs) as the strongest case for the senior to get the starting nod.

The reality, according to what the BYU coaching staff said, was that neither argument played into the decision at all.

Cougar quarterback coach Aaron Roderick said since spring camp that offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes instructed the coaches not to watch film of what the quarterbacks had done in the past.

Since BYU is running a completely different offense in a new system, that type of directive makes sense.

So Mangum and Wilson (as well as sophomore Joe Critchlow and freshman Jaren Hall) were put on the field to show what they could do. Both had moments of brilliance — and both had moments where things didn’t go well.

The competition was whittled down to the top two candidates, with the coaches consistently reiterating that they were neck-and-neck. But Roderick had previously stated that he didn’t want to have two quarterbacks splitting time, saying he’d done that before and preferred to have a starter.

Roderick, Grimes and head coach Kalani Sitake likely won’t officially address what went into the final decision until at least Monday but Mangum did whatever he had to do to earn the job.

The responsibility to get the BYU offense started strong in the season opener at Arizona on Sept. 1 (8:45 p.m. MT, ESPN) is now squarely on Mangum’s shoulders.

As 2017 showed, however, things can change quickly.

The Cougars played four different quarterbacks last year, so don’t be surprised if Wilson (and possibly Critchlow and Hall) end up getting their number called before the season is over.

Other depth chart notes: The biggest surprise on the offensive line is freshman Brady Christensen getting the nod as the starting left tackle. The two-deep list features four freshmen and three sophomores of the 11 players listed.

On the defensive line, sophomore Bracken El-Bakri also earned a starting spot in the middle, joining sophomore Khyiris Tonga, senior Corbin Kaufusi and junior Trajan Pili on the front.

In the secondary, Chris Wilcox, Michael Shelton and Beau Tanner are the listed starters, while Austin Lee, Troy Warner and Dayan Ghanwoloku are slated to fill the safety positions.

Not surprisingly, freshman Skyler Southam won the placekicking duties but a lot of the other kicking responsibilities are listed as being shared as the team prepares for the season-opener.

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