"We got some fighting to do"

Brandon Doman's first year as offensive coordinator wasn't supposed to be like this. The Cougars were experienced at every position on offense, and that certainly included quarterback. Surely, no one thought that the program would be embroiled in another quarterback controversy before the season was even half over. But now, Doman said they have some fighting to do before it's all settled.

As the man behind the decision to replace Jake Heaps with Riley Nelson last Friday against Utah State, Coach Doman said the decision wasn't based off of any data or stats. Rather, it was based off a feeling he had, and he said he has learned in his life to trust his feelings.

So, the decision was made, and Doman said he didn't wrestle with his choice. He said he also wasn't thinking about the rest of the season, or the ramifications of pulling Heaps and giving Nelson a shot. He simply felt they needed to do something drastic to win that game.

"We weren't electrified out there," said Doman. "We weren't playing like we were gonna go win that game, and that's hard."

And with Nelson validating Doman's gut feeling by leading the Cougars back from an 11-point deficit late in the game, BYU is once again unsettled at the quarterback position. A starter for this Saturday's game against San Jose State has yet to be named.

Doman said earlier this week that he will make a strong recommendation to Coach Mendenhall, who will then make the final decision regarding who starts on Saturday. A decision on who will start will not be influenced by BYU's opponents, Doman said.

With Heaps being a sophomore and Nelson being a junior, and with Heaps being a highly touted recruit that's perceived to have more upside, the quarterback situation becomes a debate between what's best for right now and what's best for the future.

"It's important," Doman said about balancing long term versus short term. "It weighs heavy on my mind."

Naturally, Doman has spent a lot of time talking with Heaps and Nelson about the starting battle. Doman noted that Nelson probably feels as though he's earned a shot at starting, but that they also don't know how consistent he'll be because he hasn't played in many games.

Regarding what he wants to see out of Heaps now, Doman said, "I want to see him fight and overcome some adversity in his own game. He's got some challenges that he's got to overcome, and he's got to play better, and he's got to lead better. He understands all those things. But you really become a great leader when you play great."

There's "no question" that Heaps' challenges will make him stronger in the end, Doman said. Yet, Doman noted that not everyone is able to overcome their struggles.

"Some people don't ever get through it. Some people never learn how to overcome it in their lives, and the great ones learn how to do it. My goal is that [Heaps] becomes a great one and that we get him to overcome this."

One can't help but note some similarities between BYU's current quarterback situation and the situation during the 2000 season, when Doman was BYU's third-string quarterback. A mobile threat, he was playing behind a pocket-passer in starter Brett Engemann. Through ineffective play and a season-ending injury to Engemann, he was able to get some time and eventually go from third-string to starter during the last two games of the season.

Doman, a junior, won both of those games – including an improbable comeback against Utah in the final minute – and was the starter throughout his senior season. He went 14-2 as a starter.

So, Doman is no stranger to what the team is going through now, and maintains that the team is not divided.

"These guys are pretty mature … But I've been in this position too as a quarterback, and it is easy for a team to take sides. They're not right now. Will they in the future? If we don't produce and do well, they might, but right now they're not, so we're not dealing with that."

When running an offense designed around Nelson's mobility, Doman said he is able to draw upon his time as BYU's quarterback.

"Yeah, there's a lot of things that Riley can do very similar to what I did, and I expect that if he were to play, it would look a little bit like that."

Regardless of who does end up playing quarterback, Doman is looking for a return to BYU football.

"There was, what, a 20-minute span there at the end of the [Utah State] game where I think we played BYU football, and played like we were a football team out there, and Coach Mendenhall is the epitome of that," said Doman. "And if we play like a football team out there, whether with Riley or Jake, then it could turn into long term.

"But until we can put together strings and volume of that, we got some fighting to do. I'm the coordinator, I'm swinging as hard as anybody right now," Doman said with a slight laugh.

Ultimately, Doman said, this is a lot about football, but not all about football.

"When I'm done someday and these guys look back, I want them to say, ‘Man, that guy led me and he mentored me, and not only did I become a better football player, but gosh, I became the man I was supposed to become.' And I don't think you can become the man you need to become until you can stand in the mouth of adversity and overcome it. Then you become great and you become a man."


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