Brigham Young Football Spring Drills Close, Heaps and Nelson Lead QB Race
Other than his very first season, this may have been the spring practice session with the most questions in the Bronco Mendenhall era. So what has been decided?
Pretty much nothing.
I’m not really surprised though, as I think it would have taken perfection for someone to really run away with any of the jobs that are on the table. We all knew it would get to fall camp before decisions were made at the major positions.
The biggest question that is still left unanswered is who will be the starting quarterback. Let’s take a look at how the three candidates fared in the spring.
Jake Heaps completed 62 of 105 passes for 774 yards and seven touchdowns.
Riley Nelson completed 29 of 51 passes for 389 yards and five touchdowns.
James Lark completed 27 of 46 passes for 253 and no touchdowns.
About a week ago, Bronco made a point of saying that Lark was taking a slight backseat to the other two.
That isn't surprising, given the numbers.
The first thing that jumps out at me is the disparity in passing attempts between Heaps and Nelson. We know that they are considered to be at the same level and that they are receiving roughly the same number of snaps.
Keep that in mind I think there are two things we might draw from the numbers, though it would take more information to know which one is more accurate.
Either the offense is more pass-orientated when Heaps is in there as opposed to Nelson, or Nelson is much quicker to run the ball when he gets under pressure.
I would venture that it is a combination of the two.
The coaching staff is well aware of the fact that Heaps is the better thrower, while Nelson is the better runner. It only makes sense to play to their strengths when they are in the game.
At this point it has become a two-horse race, and I think it will come down to a matter of preference when the decisions get made.
If they want the more mobile quarterback they will go with Nelson. If they want the stronger passer they will go with Heaps.
If it were my decision to make, I would go with Heaps because the running game is well- established with Harvey Unga anchoring the offense and Joshua Quezada surprising everyone with his natural talent.
Quezada comes at the perfect time.
Much like the way that Unga benefited from a year around Curtis Brown, Quezada can learn from an experienced player who knows how to succeed from day one.
Remember, Unga has rushed for 1,000 yards in all three seasons thus far and will likely make it four this upcoming campaign.
It looks like we will be replacing two senior tight ends with a group of freshmen. Currently on campus are Mike Muehlmann, Devin Mahina, and Marcus Matthews (who broke his ankle last week). Joining them this fall will be Bryan Sampson and Austin Holt.
They will be a very young, but very talented, group. Based on the quality group of tight ends that have come through Provo in recent years, I am not overly concerned.
What was a young offensive line last year should be even better this season with a little more experience, and that will be crucial to this team’s success, especially with a new quarterback.
Much the same as with the tight ends, I rarely worry about the offensive line as BYU also seems to recruit quality players that play well above their star level when they work as a unit.
On defense, the linebacker corps appears to have remained a strong point of the unit. There will be quite a few new and young names on the squad but they have looked good thus far.
Jameson Frazier was described by Bronco as "maybe the biggest surprise (of spring drills). He went from a special teams contributor to possibly a starter through this spring. And he’s not one getting it by default. He’s really played well.”
That is the kind of thing I love to hear about. The junior linebacker has worked his butt off to earn his spot. It is so nice to hear about a young man show hard work and determination.
True freshman Kyle Van Noy has been exhibiting his speed in practice and is quickly learning what it means to be part of an elite program.
Two other freshmen, Zac Stout and Austen Jorgensen, will compete for a spot at linebacker this fall.
Brandon Ogletree and Aveni Leung-Wai have become defensive leaders at the middle linebacker spot, rounding out what appears to once again be the strong point on the defense.
All in all, I am extremely excited about where this team is going heading into the summer and fall.
There are still major questions to be answered, but Bronco and his staff have shown the ability to make the right call almost all of the time, and I have no reason to think that this season will be any different.
It is still a great time to be a BYU Cougar football fan!
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