Now is the time to make the change.
After losing to Utah State for the second consecutive year and seeing the offense continuing to struggle, now is the time to make a change at quarterback.
Here’s why I believe BYU head coach Kalani Sitake should make the switch and start true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson for the remainder of the season.
Zach Wilson Is The Future
Let’s face it. Tanner Mangum started his college career off in the most epic way possible with Hail Mary touchdown passes to beat Nebraska and Boise State in back-to-back weeks. You couldn’t have scripted a better start for Mangum who was named the week one “Campus Hero,” was all over SportsCenter and was even the feature story on ESPN’s College Gameday segment, produced by legendary reporter Gene Wojciechowski.
While there was no way he could have topped his early season heroics, Mangum, who has battled several injuries the last few years, seems to have regressed with his yards per attempt worse than its ever been to go with his second worst quarterback rating. In six games, Mangum has only thrown for more than 200 yards twice, to go with six sacks, three interceptions — including a pick-6 — and a fumble. The 25-year-old senior quarterback has already graduated and is not the future face of the program.
With BYU already out of the College Football Playoff, New Years Six Bowls and no conference championship to play for, the season now belongs to getting enough wins for a bowl game and getting the future face of the program — true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson — as much experience as possible as he looks to lead the Cougars up against another daunting front-loaded schedule in 2019.
Next year, the Cougars will face Utah, Tennessee, USC and Washington right out of the gates, which is not the perfect time to play an inexperienced quarterback.
Zach Wilson’s Touchdown Drive
Late in the fourth quarter, Wilson came into the game and quickly led BYU down the field for a touchdown. The true freshman completed 3-of-4 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, including a nifty 26-yard run where he juked multiple Utah State defenders in the process. The sweet run gave many Cougar fans flashbacks of Taysom Hill running all over teams.
However, what most people did not realize, is that Wilson did all of this against an Aggie defense that had half of its starters still in the game. While Wilson was undoubtedly playing in “garbage time,” he was still going up against some good competition. So let’s break it down.
Wilson’s first pass went to tight end Matt Bushman who ran a crossing route for 15+ yards. The pass was on the money and didn’t make Bushman slow down at all.
— BYUtv Sports (@byutvsports) October 6, 2018
On the next play, Utah State blitzed and brought five guys. Wilson, who had great pocket presence, felt the rush and stepped up and showed off his elusiveness as he broke off a 26-yard run up the middle and left several Aggie defenders on the ground.
Most notably, TCU transfer and starting outside linebacker Tipa Galeai — the same guy who started the game off with a pick-6 from Tanner Mangum in the first quarter — couldn’t contain Wilson as well as starting cornerback DJ Williams, inside linebacker David Woodward and defensive end Adewale Adeoye.
Wilson then followed it up with a nice back shoulder pass to wide receiver Talon Shumway for 20 yards. The true freshman’s only mistake was not throwing the ball away during a red zone play because he tried to extend the play and the offensive line was called for holding. But Wilson made sure to quickly make up for it as he found another true freshman — Gunner Romney — in the flat for what turned into an 18-yard scoring strike.
Having a mobile quarterback is a must in today’s college game and Wilson has that edge over Mangum who is not a dual-threat quarterback.
In his limited time, Wilson showed off how elusive he can be and the ability he has to extend plays. That of course, is a defensive coaches worst nightmare as former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz saw firsthand a few years ago as Taysom Hill ran all over the Longhorns, setting school records and getting several Texas coaches fired in the process, including Diaz.
During Wilson’s 26-yard run, many had Taysom Hill flashbacks as the freshman’s run more than doubled BYU’s entire rushing total in the process against the Aggies. If Mangum was still in the game, the senior quarterback would have likely taken a sack, but for Wilson, the true freshman scrambled thanks to his dual-threat ability. This of course will make defensive coordinators think twice before stacking the box and blitzing on every single play as Utah state did against Mangum, knowing he wouldn’t take off and run.
Wilson showed why he pushed Mangum for the starting spot during fall camp. Now its time for us to see what he can do and give the program some much-needed hope for the future after several disappointing seasons.
Who do you think should start against Hawaii on Saturday? Mangum or Wilson?