Fall Practice Preview: Quarterback

Unless they've been hiding under a rock since the 2009 season ended, fans are fully aware that there is a major quarterback battle that has been ongoing since early January. The major story by a mile this coming August will be about the starting quarterback spot and who will be taking the first snap come the season-opener against Washington.

The marquee position at BYU is obviously quarterback, where the program has been able to field some of the best players in the nation since the mid ‘70s. There have been some dips in talent, but generally speaking, if someone starting at quarterback at BYU, then they're one of the best nationally at the position.

During Bronco Mendenhall's tenure as head coach, the team has benefited from the play of John Beck and most recently Max Hall, the latter of whose three years starting came to a close last season. Replacing him will not be an easy task, but there are some extremely intriguing prospects ready to fill his shoes.

This battle heated up during spring practices as true freshman phenom Jake Heaps (6-2, 205) and Riley Nelson (6-0, 207 Jr.) came out on top, and they will continue to battle this fall. Their battle will overwhelmingly be the chief storyline all through August up until the time a starting quarterback is announced.

What makes this battle even more intriguing is how it's between two somewhat divergent skill sets, which will make the final decision for coaches all the more difficult. Both Heaps and Nelson compiled a resume during spring, and that will continue to play out this fall in determining who the primary signal-caller will be.

Heaps' Resume

The resume Heaps compiled prior to coming to BYU was about as impressive as one could imagine. He held at least 26 Division I offers and was widely named the top quarterback prospect nationally before joining BYU's program in early January.

None of that matters one whit should Heaps not have shown equal to his hype during spring practices, which he most certainly did. From day one of spring, he showed a grasp of the offense and speed of the college game rarely demonstrated by quarterbacks during their first Division I practice session.

Heaps presents a classic drop-back type quarterback in the mold of John Beck and others. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae's offense as currently constituted fits a player such as Heaps and his abilities like a glove, which gives him a leg up in the competition for the starting spot. Heaps didn't win the job during spring, but he is the odds-on favorite to earn the starting spot this fall based on his superior performance during the spring practice session.

Nelson's Resume

Nelson didn't compile near the national resume that Heaps did upon his arrival at BYU, but did compile an amazing high school career. After a good performance with Utah State as a freshman, he transferred to BYU after his mission and saw some spot duty last season.

Early on during spring it appeared as if Heaps was going to run away with the competition, until Nelson closed strong with two stellar weeks of practice. Should Nelson continue his momentum into the fall, he could very well garner the starting nod.

Nelson draws parallels to Brandon Doman in regards to his ability and what type of quarterback he is. Nelson, like Doman, won't "wow" people during a non-contact workout or in a combine structure, but is known as a "gamer" that excels much more during a game situation than in a non-contact practice structure.

Furthermore, the offense will have to be tweaked some to illuminate Nelson's abilities should he earn the starting nod, much like it was with Doman when he called the signals. How coaches will manage the unique dynamic he brings to the position is yet to be determined, but it will be fun to follow this coming month.

Other Options

James Lark (6-2, 200 So.) struggled a bit during spring after having returned from his mission service late last year, but he did show some good signs, which may catapult him back into a race that was down to two horses at the end of spring. Lark is a very good athlete who could play any number of positions if it doesn't work out for him at quarterback.

Jason Munns (6-6, 240 Fr.) showed very well before his mission service, but has reportedly acquired a lot of rust during his mission that he'll work to shake off this fall. Subsequently, he likely won't be competing for a starting spot, but his progress will be noteworthy as he's a very talented player.

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