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July 31, 2016

Taysom versus Tanner: The QB Battle That Wasn't

-- While Mangum's future is bright, Taysom's present is brighter

Here's the insane part about all this. Under any normal circumstance, or even under a somewhat abnormal circumstance, or even a one or two standard deviation from the norm, we BYU faithful would be sleepless in excitement for year two of Tanner Mangum. Not just giddy. Not just excited. We would be incapable of fatigue. Message board servers would be pushed to their limit. Twitter insanity would make even more enemies of BYU than usual. Blue optimism would turn to blue goggles which would yield to blue contacts until our eyes just naturally turned the shade of the Nazi preferred.

And with good reason.

Tanner Mangum posted the best freshman season we've ever seen from a BYU quarterback. The. Best. Ever. Better than Jake Heaps, whose 2010 rookie debut was actually pretty studly? Certainly. Better than Ty Detmer, whose spot starts as a frosh didn't exactly foretell greatness? Sure was. Better than Matt Berry who I included only so this list would adhere to the rule of three? Obviously.

The last time BYU fans faced a situation like this was the end of 2007, when Max Hall showed in his first year as a starter flashes of greatness, flashes we expected to develop into full throttle dominance given that mystical idea of the ADDITIONAL YEAR. You know what I'm talking about right? The power of the additional year knows no bounds.

"Once he has an extra year learning the playbook, watch out."
"An extra year of off-season training will do wonders for his arm."
"Give that guy a year to gel with his receivers and this offense will be hard to stop."
"Having a year to study defenses is going to bring our offense up a whole other level."

Such statements sound a bit hyperbolic but are often accurate. The jump between a college quarterback's first and second season is generally where you see the greatest improvements. Take for example the aforementioned Max Hall. He was awesome in his 2007 debut and as a result we couldn't wait for 2008. Were we rewarded? Indeed.

Max Hall accounted for 44% more touchdowns in 2008, improved his accuracy by a whopping 9%, was sacked less, threw for more yards, developed a more effective scrambling game, and fumbled less. The additional year worked its magic.

 And so we come to the case of Mangum. The guy displayed every attribute you want from a quarterback, be it freshman or senior. To prove it I've prepared for you a link-a-palooza. His arm strength was as good as advertised.11. Though truth be told his arm seemed to weaken throughout the season. An extra year of training will fix that up in no time!! He displayed ridiculous pocket presence.  He led a game-winning drive on a bum leg. He played gutsy. He took big hits and big risks. He put the ball where only his receivers could get it, or for the sake of including another clip let's just say he threw accurately. He went through reads. Multiple times. And how about we mention pocket presence again for good measure?

Now for the kicker. Mangum returned from a mission on June 3, 2015. He beat Nebraska September 5, 2015. The guy did all of the above -- culminating in national freshman of the year honors -- less than six months returned from two years in Antofagasta, Chile, a place I know pretty well. Here are two Chile facts for you to consider.

1. I saw a football once in that country.
2. I ate unhealthy, non-football player food every day.

All this makes me wonder ... if a normal leap is expected for an average quarterback between year 1 and year 2, and a larger leap is expected of a quarterback as good as Mangum, how big of a #$!@ leap should we forecast for the freshman of the year who hadn't played football since 2011, who ate third world foods for two years straight, who essentially had three weeks to prepare for the season? What Mangum did in 2015 was nothing short of unbelievable, and what he could do, given  all the benefits an extra year in the system brings is encouraging to the most depressed of BYU pessimists and downright mind-blowing to the BYU fan-boy.

I fall somewhere between those two classes of fan and yet until now haven't given Mangum's appetizing progression chart much thought, and from what I've heard and read during the offseason neither are the majority of BYU fans. And that's where things get three standard deviations insane. How could the prospect of veteran Mangum ever be dismissed? How has the fan base not worked itself into a frenzy?

You already know the answer. There's someone even better.

Is he an injury risk? Of course. Is he less polished as a passer than Mangum? I think so. Do either of those points matter? Nope. Taysom should start for BYU, and he will. How can I be so sure? Look no further than this picture:

This play resulted in a touchdown. No big deal, just Taysom dragging a defender single-handedly into the endzone. Now look at this picture:

This play resulted in a touchdown. No big deal, just Taysom hopping over a defensive player as if he were a crack in the sidewalk. Now look at this picture:

This play resulted in a touchdown. No big deal, just Taysom leaping from the 40-yard line, hovering in air for six seconds, raising the roof with the student section, giving the bird to the Boise sideline, then casually floated into the endzone on the wings of angels while the crowd saluted the heavens for the miracle to which they'd just been granted witness.

Ok, so fine that last one didn't happen. In fact Taysom didn't even score a touchdown on that play. (He just long-jumped 23-feet in football gear, lol). But that's the whole point. With Taysom anything is possible. Jumping over defenders is possible, dragging players into the endzone is possible, making plays with a busted lisfranc is possible. And beating every team on the 2016 schedule is possible when Taysom is on the field. As good as I think Mangum is going to be, you can't say that about him.

In a way it's the Jimmer effect all over again. No, every game won't include 3 rushing touchdowns highlighted by a befuddled defender, just like every Jimmer game didn't end with a 45-point scoring barrage. But from the opening seconds to the bleakest moments the belief of victory is alive in every player, fan, and coach when your leader is as dynamic an offensive threat as a Jimmer or Taysom. That threat for Taysom includes a running history we know very well. But let me remind you Taysom was hitting on  65.6% of his passes over his last 6 starts. Let me remind you that he dominates the back shoulder. And if his passing does at times abandon him I'll remind you that it doesn't matter. Remember that time he was surrounded by five USU defenders?

Yes, this play resulted in a touchdown. Of course it did. No big deal.

Just Taysom being Taysom.

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