Saying Tanner Mangum’s career at BYU has been a roller coaster may be an understatement.
Over the past four years, Mangum has filled a number of different statuses on the roster, including his headline-grabbing “hail mary” passes as an unexpected starting freshman, his role as a clipboard-holding backup as a sophomore, and his inconsistent, injury-plagued junior season.
Now, as a senior in good health, Mangum commands one of the most unique offensive units in all of college football. Mangum rarely takes the shots downfield he was accustomed to as a freshman in this year’s new run-heavy system.
Mangum’s longest completion this season has been 39 yards, and he averages just around 150 yards a game through five weeks.
When asked about his dip in statistics, the Eagle, Idaho, native replied he couldn’t care less about the decline this season, saying that the only numbers that really matter are “team victories.”
“Honestly, it’s something I’ve talked about with Coach Roderick and some of the other guys where at the end of the day what matters is the wins, that’s what gets remembered and what you care about,” Mangum said, referring to his conversation with BYU’s passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick. “That would be extremely selfish of me to be worried about my numbers or stats as opposed to helping our team win.”
Mangum’s role in the new offense and lower statistics have led many to label him as a game manager, a term usually seen as a backhanded compliment for a quarterback with limited skills. However, Mangum’s numbers don’t tell the full story of his impact in the offense.
“I think you would hope that every quarterback is a game manager,” said Offensive Coordinator Jeff Grimes. “Any good quarterback manages the game and doesn’t let the 40-second play clock expire before he snaps the football and distributes it where he’s supposed to.”
Grimes said Mangum has done well with managing the run and pass games, since the ball handling asked of him is “more than a lot of styles.”
“We do a lot of things before the snap and (Mangum) drives all of that — the ability to break the huddle with enough time left and be able to shift and motion (the offense),” Grimes said.
Mangum has been fairly accurate, completing 62 percent of his passes, including an 18-for-21 performance against an elite Washington secondary on Sept. 29. Averaging just one sack a game behind a young offensive line, Mangum has used his legs to escape pressure and extend plays. Most importantly, Mangum has rarely been picked off, turning the ball over on less than two percent of his throws and finishing turnover-free in four of five games this season.
“We have too many times where we haven’t caught the ball, but there are so many things that go unnoticed,” Grimes said. “Maybe a guy’s route is supposed to be 12 yards, and he ran it at 10, so it looks like the quarterback didn’t throw it well, so that’s not necessarily (Mangum’s) fault.”
With BYU moving away from the classic air-raid offensive scheme that has been so common as a part of the program’s past success, senior wide receiver Dylan Collie said he is confident in the system.
“There is nothing to worry about except what we’re going to do next week and how we’re going to play, whether that be running the ball, throwing the ball, relying on the defense or special teams. However you get the job done is going to get it done,” Collie said. “We have a great offensive line and a great system going, so there’s no need to press the panic button in any way.”
After more than 20 career starts, Mangum won his first two contests against power-five foes after taking down both Arizona and Wisconsin this year.
Mangum said the challenge of facing high-profile opponents and being seen as an underdog doesn’t faze him at all.
“It doesn’t matter to us whether we’re favored or the underdog. We can’t control the outward predictions and analysis,” Mangum said. “All we can control is the way we play and our preparation and attitude. We’re just going to go out and play our hardest. We have confidence in ourselves as a group, and we have to have that winning mentality and mindset.”
Chasing bowl eligibility, pivotal matchups against future opponents will make or break the season for the Cougars. Mangum said he looks forward to continuing to reach for the full potential of the offense.
“Thinking about from when the (new offensive) coaches got here to now, so much progress and changes have been made with a lot of improvements,” Mangum said. “Obviously, we have a long way to go, but it’s been fun seeing the progress. We just need to take it one week at a time.”