Bronco Mendenhall already admitted that he has given the tough decision to quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman and offensive coordinator Robart Anae to choose who will be the quarterback at BYU. The quarterback position is the glamour spot at most schools but especially at BYU; depending on your view Mendenhall is either being a great delegator or he is distancing himself from making this tough decision.
This is the first time in Mendenhall's coaching career that he has not had a quarterback named in the spring, so perhaps that is why there is hesitation in making a choice. This year is very different as blue chip prospect Jake Heaps and upper classmen Riley Nelson who in his own right was a highly regarded prospect a few years ago, and neither of the two were able to separate themselves between a number one quarterback.
The latest decision -- after last weeks debacle against Air Force -- is to start Riley Nelson against Florida State:
"Riley will still get the first snap. From there, we've never guaranteed that whoever gets the first snap will end up playing the most. It's worked out that way the past couple of weeks. But that doesn't mean that will be the way it will always be."
Mendenhall is covering his tracks by justifying that just because Nelson gets the first snap does not mean he will play more then Heaps. Umm... coach did you not see that Oklahoma passed for 394 yards and four touchdowns against Florida State last week. No matter how many passes Riley Nelson gets to attempt he is not going to get any production close to that, because Nelson will do his reads and then take off or the coaching staff will call an option play.
Here is what Mendenhall said in his weekly press conference about if Florida State's struggle in the pass defense would affect who he would start:
"It might. We need to throw the ball more effectively than we currently are. If you looked at the Air Force game in particular, we ran the ball effectively, but had very little success throwing the football. The Washington game was more representative of the balance that I think we're hoping to get. In order to beat Florida State, it will have to be more toward the first plan than the second plan. Again, it is still in formative stages. And that will probably affect which quarterback plays and how much."
How is this still in the 'formative' stages? This BYU team is looking less like a team that could have won nine games, and is starting to look like one that might be lucky to get to seven wins. Mendenhall mentioned going to a more situational situation, and it seems obvious that would mean Heaps is the starter and Nelson comes into the game on short yard situations or within the ten yard line to present a dual threat. Doing the opposite would be an odd way to rotate quarterbacks.
Looking back at the Air Force game, what did Nelson do to deserve the start? He ran when nothing was open as the Air Force defense locked down the receivers and stopped Nelson from doing anything. Heaps should be getting the start since he has the arm and will be able to challenge the weak Florida State secondary, plus why not give him a full week of first team reps so he along with the offense so they are prepared. By looking at the Air Force game, one can safely assume that is just like practice that when nothing is open Nelson takes off. So, how can the wide receivers and tight ends get a good practice in when almost half of their reps are blocking when Nelson takes off.
Mendenhall says that leadership is a key requirement at the quarterback position, and since Riley Nelson has been there longer he is more comfortable in that leadership spot. Talent has to outweigh leadership at some point, and we all saw what Nelson is capable of doing given a full half. It is now time to give the ball to Heaps and see what he can do, and against a Florida State defense that is down right awful in the secondary now is the time to give him a chance.