Taysom Hill’s foot injury on Sept. 5 against Nebraska marked the fifth time in six years a BYU starting quarterback has been sidelined with an injury.
Freshman Tanner Mangum is the latest in a growing list of backup quarterbacks to unexpectedly replace an injured starter.
Riley Nelson’s shoulder injury made true-freshman Jake Heaps the Cougars’ full-time signal caller in 2010. Hill made his debut as the starter in 2012 after Nelson was once again forced to sit out, this time with a back injury. Hill then sustained the first of three season-ending injuries just two games later with a torn ACL, forcing the team to turn to a combination of Nelson and senior James Lark.
Hill fully recovered for a healthy sophomore year and entered 2014 as a prospective Heisman candidate. Only four games into the season, Hill suffered his second season-ending injury with a broken leg, and then-senior quarterback Christian Stewart assumed the starting position. Stewart went on to finish the season before graduating.
This trend appears to be a pattern for the Cougars at quarterback, who once again find themselves turning to a freshman to fill the void left by Hill’s absence. Mangum has the possibility of starting every game in his BYU career and has already shown promise, much like Hill did when he first assumed the starting position in 2012.
The BYU offense has worked on making adjustments to help accommodate the traditional, drop–back style that Mangum brings to the field following the loss of Hill in the first game of the season.
“That’s what we’re working on … designing offense that works with Tanner, his skill set and his familiarity,” offensive coordinator Robert Anae said at a media day following the win over Nebraska. “There’s a difference between Taysom’s skill set and Tanner’s skill set. We don’t really know the extent of Tanner Mangum’s skill sets, but we’re still discovering part of it. But as a true freshman there’s a lot for him to learn.”
The Cougars should be well-accustomed to reworking their offensive scheme following Stewart’s similar emergence last season.
“Without Taysom back there, it is different but we’re prepared for it,” junior offensive lineman Kyle Johnson said.
Mangum hasn’t failed to deliver in Hill’s absence, leading the Cougars to back-to-back wins in the final seconds of the season’s opening two games and giving a strong performance against No. 10 UCLA in a one-point loss. Mangum finished 30 of 47 passing for 244 yards, one touchdown and an interception against the Bruins.
Just as critical to Mangum’s success has been the support of a veteran offensive unit.
“That’s one of the greatest things you could have as a young quarterback, is to have an experienced offensive line, experienced wide receivers and experienced running backs,” Johnson said. “It takes a ton of pressure off (Mangum) and makes life a ton easier for him, because it’s not only (he who has) to take control of the offense.”
Confidence radiates throughout the players and coaching staff with the youthful Mangum at the helm. Mangum’s poise in high-pressure situations has been particularly impressive to his teammates.
“Right after a mission, you’re very confident,” senior wide receiver Mitch Mathews said of his quarterback. “You’re very poised, you’re very mentally alert, you’re there, you’re focused, and that’s just every bit of what he is.”
BYU remains nationally ranked, despite their loss. Mangum will get another shot at beating a traditional powerhouse this Saturday as the No. 22 Cougars take on Michigan in the Big House.