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Provo • Taysom Hill got his birthday present a few days early this year.
BYU's oft-injured fifth-year senior, who turned 26 on Tuesday, learned last week that coaches have tabbed him to be the Cougars' starting quarterback on Sept. 3 when BYU meets Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer broke the news to the media on Tuesday, and moments later new head coach Kalani Sitake confirmed that five months of speculation regarding whom the coaches would pick Hill or sophomore Tanner Mangum was over.
"The best guy won," Sitake said, "and a great player was second place. So it is a great spot to be in, where we had two great ones competing for it, and it just felt like Taysom was the guy who earned the spot."
Hill's superior experience he played in 25 college football games before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc injury in the opener against Nebraska last fall, as opposed to Mangum's 13 was obviously considered but was not a "major factor," Sitake said.
The Cougars went 9-4 last year in the games in which Mangum played, and beat Nebraska, thanks to Mangum's successful Hail Mary, in the only game in which Hill started.
"I felt like I got a lot better because of the [QB race]," Hill said. "I felt like the situation was handled really well, but it is nice to be able to look forward now and prepare for Arizona."
Detmer and Sitake said the Cougars are already preparing for the Wildcats, even though there are technically a few days of training camp left.
"Taysom has got the experience, and the leadership of the group, and so we feel real comfortable with him in there, and going full speed," Detmer said. "Tanner handled it great. He worked hard. He made it a tough decision, which is his job. So we feel really good with both those guys.
"Tanner is going to be ready to go when called upon," Detmer continued. "There is no doubt about that, so we are excited to know that we have both of them, and both can go in and win games this season."
Mangum, who turns 23 on Sept. 8, won't be asked to redshirt.
"We are not going to save him," Sitake said.
Sitake and Detmer both said Mangum will play some, but did not specify how much. Detmer stressed that it won't be a two-quarterback system.
"I have never been a fan of that," Detmer said. "Taysom is our guy, and he has done it every year. He has been a Heisman candidate the last couple of years. Last year he didn't get a chance to really do it. They are both great players, and Tanner is obviously a big part of the program going forward."
Sitake said he and Detmer "were on the same page" when it came to making the decision.
"Well, Ty is the offensive coordinator, and the quarterbacks coach. He will have the first say in everything that we do with our quarterback position, and I will give my opinions."
Hill said has received 80 percent of the reps in practices since the decision was made.
Mangum handled the news like a pro, said the coaches and Hill, who has thrown for 4,606 yards and 31 touchdowns in his career.
"Yeah, I spoke to Tanner afterwards and Tanner is super supportive," Hill said. "Tanner and I have been good friends all along, and I think he and I both were able to help each other get better as we went through this process. … I have felt only love and support from him through this whole thing."
Most observers of the battle that really began in March when Hill announced he was returning to BYU for his final season of eligibility have always believed that the senior would get the nod. A better passer than Hill, Mangum's chances hinged on him perhaps being a better fit in Detmer's pro-style offense.
But Hill says he's capable of flourishing in it, too.
"I would say this offense, when you think as a quarterback of an offense, growing up, this is what it is, right?" Hill said. "This is what I grew up thinking I was going to be playing as a quarterback. It is a very fun offense to be in. We have added some nuances to the offense that kind of fit my skill set, and will make us harder to defend."
Career passing at BYU
Quarterback Year GP Comp-Att Pct. Yards TDs Effic.
Taysom Hill Sr. 25 387-675 57.3 4,606 31 123.9
Tanner Mangum Soph. 13 267-446 59.8 3,377 23 135.0