"Take Your Time, Ben; Make it a Good One"

The seemingly neverending second, third, fourth and fifth-hand reports about whether All-American high school quarterback <b>Ben Olson</b> will return to BYU after his LDS mission remains just that: idle speculation.

The most interesting question for me is the TIMING of his decision. Sometime before December, Ben Olson will formally notify BYU or another school of his final decision. I can see some practical reasons why he may delay that decision.

WHEN Does Not Predict WHERE

Idle speculation of when he returns from his LDS mission in Canada has Elder Olson returning anytime from August until November. WHEN he comes home is not a predictor of WHERE he will attend school. Each option has its own advantages and tradeoffs. Depending upon what assumptions you take, each decision has its logic.

I do not know Olson, the family or any of the critical facts that determine the earliest he is judged to have fulfilled an honorable mission. That's between him and his mission president.

The main reason that I spend 95 percent of my BYU browsing time on TotalBlueSports.com's (TBS) message board is because I've found that TBS' informed posters do not accept everything someone else said, and are more discriminating in separating data and facts.

If he's a dedicated missionary, which he appears to be, it's doubtful that he is sharing his innermost plans with people in his mission field.

Elder Olson undoubtedly knows the whipsaw the rumor mill can be. If he is guarded in what he says about his college football plans, the rest of us are going on partial information – even if the original informant is a reliable source. Consequently, I take all such predictions or speculation with a grain of salt.

The BYU Family

Each BYU fan decides a number of things for himself. I do not know Ben or his family, but if I was among their friends, I'd want them to believe that I support him fully no matter what he decides. I'm sure Elder Olson and his parents will carefully evaluate all his best options and make their decision accordingly.

I do not expect him or his family to make this a committee decision, where they poll TBS subscribers or BYU season ticket holders to determine their final decision.

It's a private decision and it's none of our business. I like my privacy, and believe I should respect the privacy of others. My curiosity is not an excuse to invade Elder Olson's privacy. It's his life and future. I wish him well whatever his choice. Living in California, I know the positive impact that basketball star Mark Madsen had while playing for Stanford and the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, let me go on record and state that I hope Ben Olson returns to BYU. If he returns to BYU, he returns. All of our chatter one way or another affects nothing. At times, our chatter must resemble a proverbial hen house.

Olson is not a pawn or cog created to satisfy my football desires, but a fine young man with huge upside potential. I'd like the Olson family to feel an overwhelming number of BYU fans put the athlete and his family first. It would be unfortunate if BYU fans adopt the "come to BYU or we will trash-talk you" attitude. That shows a distinct lack of class.

Pardon my soapbox stance, but we do not own any college athlete. Sometimes, athletes decides to transfer away from or to BYU for various reasons. We want the door to be open and inviting.

Timing Is Significant

An unconfirmed report has Elder Olson being released from his mission as early as September, allowing him to re-sign and possibly play football this fall. If that's true, it looks like part of a battle plan. Olson knows that both Matt Berry and John Beck returned from LDS missions and enrolled in January, preparing for fall ball. Both struggled to get their arms, legs and timing back.

If he plans to prepare for the NFL as a livelihood and compete for the starter's job in 2005, it might make sense to give it a full 12 months of solid preparation.

Diehard BYU loyalists will say that Elder Olson made a commitment to BYU with his first letter of intent and should stick with that commitment. There's logic to the argument, but contracts and agreements today are often changed.

Why Olson may delay his decision

If he has NFL aspirations, Olson's future could be impacted if his offensive line is porous. Both Berry and Beck were knocked out last season with broken bone with injuries. In reflection, it was a good time for Olson to be on a mission and not being subjected to poor offensive line blocking.

Any quarterback can also have a career-ending injury behind a great offensive line. All we're talking about is possibilities. At BYU, the quarterback is always the big target, which requires that pass blocking must be good.

Indeed, Olson will have an excellent opportunity to see an apparently improved Cougar offense when the Cougars take on Notre Dame and USC at home early in the season.

BYU head coach Gary Crowton signed the best stable of wide recruits BYU has ever seen in one class and added an outstanding new offensive line coach in Jeff Grimes.

There are numerous indications that a number of major colleges will launch aggressive efforts to lure Olson away from his original BYU commitment. Most of these advances apparently coming from Pac-10 coaches and time will tell how successful they will be.

To Elder Olson, I will simply say, "Take your time, Ben. Make it a good one."

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