With Tanner Mangum out for the year after undergoing successful surgery this week, BYU coaches have been busy evaluating who will be the starter against UNLV this weekend, and likely for the rest of the season.
The coaching staff doesn’t have a lot of time to figure it out either with the short turnaround as the Cougars (2-8) travel to Las Vegas to face on UNLV (4-5) Friday night at Sam Boyd Stadium. The Rebels are currently 4.5-point favorites.
During his weekly press conference, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said the quarterback position will be an “open competition” between sophomore Beau Hoge, freshman Joe Critchlow and current freshman Kody Wilstead who has been redshirting this season.
“We will see who deserves to be the starter and who deserves to take the first snaps this weekend,” said Sitake. “Whoever it is, is going to earn it throughout the week.”
Here is a look at the pros and cons of each of the three quarterbacks. Of note, Sitake added that sophomores Koy Detmer Jr. and Austin Kafentzis are not being considered for the starting quarterback position. Kafentzis is expected to still see time in the wildcat packages, but will remain at running back which has been hit hard this year.
PRO: Hoge had the BYU offense rolling against Utah State in his second career start before leaving the game with an injury in the first half. Of all the four quarterbacks who have played this year, the 6-foot-1 sophomore is the only dual-threat quarterback the Cougars have. And with the problems along the offensive line this year for BYU, Hoge has arguably the best ability to extend plays with his feet as he’s shown this year against Utah State, Wisconsin and Fresno State.
CON: After going down against Utah State, Hoge was finally able to get back on the field on Saturday, but was still limited in what he could do. After a tackle from behind right before the half, Hoge was noticeably limping.
“I don’t know if he is ever been back full strength,” Sitake said of Hoge. “Every one of our players has issues, are banged up here or there. It is just something that we are evaluating, and that factors into the competition part of it, too.”
With concussion problems and the inability to stay healthy, it may be best to give the final three remaining games to a quarterback then can get into a rhythm instead of shuffling quarterbacks in and out of the game like the Cougars did against Fresno State.
PRO: The 6-foot-4 standout at Franklin High School in Franklin, Tennessee was a two-time all-district selection and was named to the all-region team as a senior. Of all the quarterbacks who have played this year, Critchlow is considered the best passer behind Mangum. During his high school career, the right-handed quarterback set schools records by throwing for 5,703 yards and 68 touchdowns.
With his intentions to redshirt this year, those plans went out the window when Critchlow ended up playing late in the fourth quarter against Boise State. With Mangum not close to being 100% going into the game against Mississippi State many believed Critchlow would get the chance to see what he could do. However, the freshman has not had the chance to do so after playing sparingly against the Bulldogs and San Jose State.
CON: The biggest reason Critchlow was set on redshirting was the logjam at the quarterback position and was also just coming off an LDS Mission and wanted to use the time to get back into game shape and learn the offense and scheme. The 2015 recruit was looked at by several ACC and SEC schools but those programs backed off after finding out he was going to serve a a two-year LDS mission and wouldn’t be available until 2017.
The one drawback for Critchlow is that Mangum, who wasn’t close to being 100% when he came back, shows that the coaching staff does not think the freshman is ready ready to play. However, that still begs the question of why they pulled his redshirt in the first place.
PRO: The 6-foot-6 gunslinger was rated as a three-star quarterback coming out of high school with offers from Louisville, Notre Dame, Utah and UCLA. With his height, Wilstead has an advantage to be able to easily see over his offensive line to make the right reads and can use his long legs to extend plays. Height does have its advantages as key NFL quarterbacks can attest with the likes of Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco having great NFL careers.
Wilstead, amassed nearly 10,000 passing yards to rank third all-time in the Beehive State and also ranks third in the state with 92 touchdown passes. If the coaching staff believes Wilstead is the future of the program going forward — with Mangum not expected to be back at the start of next year and with Hoge being injury-prone — Wilstead can use the final three remaining games as great experience and a springboard heading into the 2018 season as the likely starting quarterback if he plays well.
CON: The only reason why Kalani Sitake should not use Wilstead during the Cougars’ last three games of the season is because there are ONLY THREE GAMES REMAINING in the season. BYU won’t be going to a bowl game and is assured of a losing season for the first time in more than a decade. By not pulling his redshirt, the Cougars will be able to have Wilstead over the next four seasons. But if Sitake feels that his job is on the line, expect the freshman to see some time this year as Detmer looks for answers for a Cougar offense that has struggled mightily to put up points this year.
Who do you feel should start the final three games of the season and do you feel it would be worth it to pull Wilstead’s redshirt this far into the season to see what he can do?