BYU football is back next month and the excitement is building around campus. Junior Quarterback Tanner Mangum may be the most excited of all, entering the season as the undisputed starter.
He also added 10 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame in the offseason.
“We want this year to be a special year, and we feel it can be,” said Tanner Mangum. “I’m feeling really motivated and I’m feeling really excited.”
BYU faces another loaded September slate but Mangum has faced that before. As a freshman – and just months off his mission – he was thrust into the opening game when Taysom Hill was injured at Nebraska. Mangum’s game-winning Hail Mary to Mitch Mathews became legendary for the young quarterback.
Subdued sophomore season
Taysom Hill was back as the starter to begin last season. Despite moving to the bench his sophomore season, Mangum was always supportive and positive in the backup role.
Before another injury to Hill in the final game against Utah State last November, Mangum saw limited action in the four regular season games he played in, coming in when BYU was in full control.
Mangum went 22-for-33 on the season, throwing for 241 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Mangum’s best performance of the season came against Southern Utah, where he threw for 121 yards on 11-for-13 passing.
His only start came in the Poinsettia Bowl against Wyoming in a torrential downpour. Mangum led the Cougars to a 24-21 win over the Cowboys on 8-for-15 passing with one touchdown and an interception.
Mangum also ran for a touchdown in the win.
Phenomenal freshman season
Looking back at Mangum’s unexpected year at the helm as a freshman, the potential for the junior quarterback from Eagle, Idaho, is apparent.
Mangum broke BYU freshman records for passing yards (3,377), wins (9) and touchdowns (23), received the Touchdown Club of Columbus’ Freshman of the Year award and was the first BYU quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards since Max Hall in 2009.
Another packed September highlighted that schedule, with games against No. 10 UCLA, No. 20 Boise State, Nebraska, Michigan and Utah.
Mangum’s late-game heroics against Nebraska and Boise State helped propel him into the national spotlight, and five 300-yard games and a 23-10 touchdown to interception ratio added consistency to his highlight reel.
BYU’s offense will be different under Mangum. Hill’s dual-threat nature was always a focus for opponents; Mangum brings a throw-first pocket presence to the offense.
Backing up Mangum on the depth chart are sophomore quarterbacks Beau Hoge and Koy Detmer Jr.
Both redshirted last season, splitting scout teams duties at quarterback.
Under head coach Kalani Sitake, redshirting has become a way to physically develop players and accelerate their growth.
“The training regimen we put our redshirts through is unbelievable,” Sitake said. “It’s work and it’s hard, but the proof is what happens when you’re done.”
Hoge threw for 137 yards and one touchdown on 10-of-17 passing in three games during his freshman year.
Koy Detmer Jr., offensive coordinator Ty Detmer’s nephew, played in one game in 2015, going 3-for-3 against Wagner.
Behind those two are redshirt sophomore Austin Kafentzis and freshmen Kody Wilstead and Joe Critchlow.
Kafentzis – the highly recruited star from Jordan High School in Utah – transferred from Wisconsin to Nevada, and then to Arizona Western College before coming to BYU. Ty Detmer told reporters at Media Day that Kafentzis could possibly play another position this fall, according to the Deseret News.
Wilstead graduated from Pine View High School in St. George while Critchlow hails from Franklin High School in Franklin, Tennessee.
The quarterbacks will have their work cut out for them early on as the Cougars face two top 15 defenses in September.
LSU’s defense was ranked No. 5 nationally last season, allowing 201.2 passing yards per game while Wisconsin came in at No. 13, at 206.1 yards per game.
BYU averaged just 198 passing yards per game in 2016. It was the first time the Cougars’ passing average dropped below 200 yards per game since 2010.
Under Mangum in 2015, the team averaged 297 passing yards per game.
BYU opens fall camp the last week of July.
Next week’s preview: running backs.