Taysom Hill out for remainder of the season

Irony can often be cruel. Take last Friday's game against Utah State, when quarterback Taysom Hill hurt his knee on the third-to-last play of the game when he ironically should have actually been taking a knee. Instead, Hill ran a quarterback draw, and a player's helmet hit him directly in the knee.

Coach Mendenhall confirmed on Monday that Taysom Hill will now be out for the remainder of the season, and will be having surgery either this week or next.

Mendenhall said that Hill actually has multiple injuries, including both a damaged ligament and hamstring. As for Hill's recovery timeframe, Mendenhall didn't know when Hill could be expected back exactly, but said he will hopefully be ready in time for spring camp.

According to members of the media, BYU head trainer Jeff Hurst said Hill will be out four-to-six months, thus leaving his status for spring camp unknown.

While news of Hill's injury made many fans irate, given that BYU could have just began taking a knee at that point of the game to run out the clock, the play call was not for Hill to run a draw.

According to Mendenhall, Hill received a signal from the sideline that the clock was going, which he then interpreted as a call to run the play. He took his eyes away from the sideline, immediately after which a signal was given to line up in the victory formation and take a knee.

"The victory signal went in as soon as his eyes went away," said Mendenhall. "Everyone was yelling ‘victory, victory,' but he didn't hear it."

When Hill never looked back to the sideline, an attempt to call a timeout was made, but was obviously unsuccessful.

According to Coach Doman, he told Hill to let the clock run down, which Hill misinterpreted.

"[Hill] called a play and went running to the line of scrimmage, and I asked Coach [Mendenhall] to call a timeout and he didn't get to the ref in time," said Doman. "So all the circumstances leading up to it, it's my fault. At least that's how I feel, and I'm responsible for that and I don't know that I'll ever get over him getting injured the way that he did and the circumstances of how it happened. Again, it doesn't make anybody feel any better, so it's just an explanation of something that was poorly handled and miscommunicated."

Like Doman, Coach Mendenhall accepted responsibility for the situation.

"I'm responsible for anything that happens when one of our guys gets hurt," said the Cougar head coach.

Hill, a true freshman that was away from the game of football the past few years while serving a mission, was in a situation he hadn't been in for years when BYU was trying to bleed out the clock last Friday. Still, the coaches weren't about to pin the mistake on him.

"Cleaner communication on our part needs to be done so it's easier on him," Mendenhall said about Hill. "It's not his fault, it's our fault."

The significance of the injury wasn't known until the following day when Hill had an MRI. Up until that point, the coaches did not suspect anything serious.

Mendenhall noted that if there was a silver lining to this unfortunate circumstance, it would be that Riley Nelson is now ready in time to play again after missing the past few weeks with a back injury that he sustained in the second game of the year.

In fact, Mendenhall said he thought Nelson was close to 100 percent last week, and thinks he will be back to 100 percent by Saturday's game against Oregon State. Mendenhall didn't get to watch Nelson in practice on Monday or evaluate his status since he spent his time with the defense, but said that Nelson took all of the first-team reps.

"Riley took them all, and that'll be the case most likely all week," said Mendenhall. "He was close to being ready a week ago."

With Hill unavailable, James Lark is now back to being the backup quarterback.

"James is a really good player, and he's very persistent and dedicated and is awaiting his chance," said Mendenhall. "He's a good player."

Meanwhile, receiver Alex Kuresa has not been moved back to quarterback, Mendenhall said.

With the injuries that Nelson and now Hill have sustained the past several seasons, it calls into question whether employing a mobile quarterback is the best strategy. In the first five seasons with Mendenhall as head coach and Doman as quarterback coach, the 2006 Utah State game was the only one in which a backup quarterback had to start.

Doman said that prior to that fortunate initial stretch of five seasons with good health at the quarterback position, he did a study on quarterback injuries. He found that over the history of BYU football, a backup would start at least one game in 60 percent of the program's seasons.

With BYU's luck having changed in the last three seasons as the offense has begun using more mobile quarterbacks, Mendenhall admitted that it has given him pause when it comes to that shift in philosophy.

"It's not a sustainable model, especially when the quarterback carries it 19 times in a game, especially when our quarterbacks run as hard as they do and aren't really avoiding contact," said Mendenhall. "They're trying to get every yard possible. So either the carries lessen, or we become more risk-aversive at the end of sliding and dodging contact, etc. But it's hard to sustain the model when those kind of hits are being [made], and it could have happened the first play, it could have happened the last play."

The number of quarterback carries used in a game has been called into question. While some of Hills rushes against the Aggies were called running plays, others were passing plays in which he ended up taking off downfield.

"[Hill] scrambled more than a handful of times [against USU], and so that adds up over time, and then he needs to protect himself when he does that. It's hard to say, ‘Go protect yourself and not be you,'" said Doman, a former mobile quarterback himself. "I remember having those conversations with previous quarterbacks, and Steve Young called me on the phone and said, ‘You better get down or you're gonna have a career like mine where you're banged up all the time.' That's a challenge for a guy that's athletic and physical and loves football the way he loves it and plays passionately the way he plays, and it will be an ongoing challenge for him to learn how to keep himself healthy, yet be himself."

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