Bronco goes all Ernie Banks on us: Just play two (QB's)

2010-08-25T16:35:00Z 2012-05-05T13:12:03Z Bronco goes all Ernie Banks on us: Just play two (QB's)Jason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
August 25, 2010 4:35 pm  • 

You go into fall camp with ideas of how things are going to turn out, right?

Guesses, some more educated than others.

And this whole quarterback battle has me flipped around.

Not only is BYU going to play two quarterbacks a couple of Saturdays from now (didn't see that happening), but could this really be...the right decision?

Give Bronco Mendenhall credit. Same annoying still-must-be-asked questions day after day, about the quarterbacks and the conference affiliation, and he's not tipping his hand. It's almost like he's not even holding cards.

But this quarterback deal has been nothing short of unremarkable and wholly amazing, all at the same time.

In short, Riley Nelson (aka "the runner," which we knew coming into camp) can't use his legs and experience to quite out-distance himself from Jake Heaps (aka "the mayor" or "the passer," also known a few weeks ago), who has an offense geared toward his talents — but he can't quite seem to convince everyone around that it should be his job for good on Sept. 4 when Washington comes to town.

 

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Here's where it gets really, really different that most QB battles you'll find.

Each of these guys brings noticeable strengths to the table. Things that would make it hard to keep them off the field. Really, it would be nice if BYU's third quarterback (Sorry, James Lark) was Riley Heaps. Or Jake Nelson.

Blend them like a Jamba Juice smoothie (man, does that sound good right now) and make a perfect Cougar concoction.

But I like Nelson more in short-yardage situations. He brings an added element where he just knows how to get yards. The kid scrapped at Utah State and he's a feisty little bugger in Provo, too.

But get BYU to third-and-long, and the freshman Heaps really is the more viable option. He has an arm that can make throws, at a tender age, that Nelson the junior (who's also served an LDS mission) just can't make.

One happened today when Heaps threw a dart across the middle of the field that led to a quick-strike touchdown.

We all know that star offensive lineman Matt Reynolds is expected to be the left tackle (like last year) if the righty Heaps wins the job. Reynolds moves to right tackle for the southpaw Nelson, all for the sake of protecting the blindside.

But where I once saw the experienced, talented O-line as Heaps' best friend -- giving him, in theory, time to locate his receivers -- now I'd say that line makes Nelson's game more credible. 

It can open holes, allowing Nelson to roam for yardage (his size allows him to hide behind blockers a little better than Jake). Also, you'd think BYU's experience up front means less penalties, like holding and illegal procedure. That would mean, in theory, fewer long-distance plays in later downs.

That means Nelson could be the better option, at least to start the season against the Huskies.

 

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Whatever the case, it appears more likely that Mendenhall is going to decide not to name a starter leading up to the game.

As it goes on longer, it becomes harder to imagine Nelson would get shunned outright. That would be downright disrespectful. And the sixth-year-coach, who would simply value Nelson's more anonymous path than Heaps' one of hype and prestige (not to say that he likes Nelson any better, however), doesn't appear inclined to not include Nelson in at least the first game.

Mendenhall has his pet phrases. A new one he's used a bunch lately is "culture of the program." 

I do not believe this includes a petri dish.

But Mendenhall is going to give Nelson every chance to continue competing for this job, because he's the veteran. Because he's paid his dues. And, frankly, Heaps hasn't done quite enough to make that sentiment stop.

What Bronco's doing isn't a long-term solution by any means. And it's probably fair to say there are fans, and maybe even those in the locker room, who aren't thrilled that Heaps doesn't appear to be the Day One answer. He is, after all, the future.
But what remains to be seen -- back to the poker simile -- is how long Bronco tries to play this hand.

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