PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - Will Riley Nelson start at quarterback for BYU Friday night against Hawaii? Or will it be freshman Taysom Hill?
That is the question on all Cougar fans minds this week. Nelson has an injured back, but wants to play badly. Bronco Mendenhall would like to see Nelson suit up, but as of last night he described Nelson as "limited and not ready yet."
Nelson sure wasn't ready against Boise State last week. He committed four turnovers and threw for just 19 yards before being benched in favor of Hill.
Mendenhall, who won't name a starter until Friday night, relies on Nelson's input about his injury. But that has proven to be a tough thing for Nelson to do.
"What I've learned throughout this whole process is you have to be honest," Nelson said. "When it hurts, you have to tell [the coaches] it hurts. When it's fine, you have to tell them it's fine. That's all I can do is give them an honest physical assessment."
But here lies the contradiction. Nelson was asked if he would ever tell Mendenhall that he couldn't play.
"No, I wouldn't," Nelson said. "I can't do it. If I can stand and if I can move my left arm, then I'm going to try and be out there."
Nelson said it is up to the coaches to decide if he should play or not.
"That's why they pay the coaches the salaries they pay them," he said. "They have to make the decisions like that. I would like to play [against Hawaii] and hope to play, but if the coaches determine that I'm not physically ready, then fine."
So if Nelson is really hurt, yet tells the coaches that he still could play and they let him, isn't he ultimately hurting the team? Nelson told Mendenhall he was good to go against Boise State, and we all saw what happened.
Whether it's Nelson or Hill under center Friday night, they are most likely going to have a good game. Hawaii's defense is awful, having just surrendered 69 points to Nevada. So since Hill is the future, maybe this is the time to see what he can do.
"I'm getting a lot of reps in practice," said Hill, who led BYU to its only touchdown against Boise State. "So, I'm doing my best to prepare as if I'm going to be the guy. I'm extremely excited if that does happen. I would be a great experience."
Hill's game is similar to Nelson's, so the Cougars wouldn't have to change their offense too much. Hill is a physical quarterback who, like Nelson, likes to run and is not afraid of contact.
"We both do like to run and we're not afraid to lower the shoulder and get some extra yards," Hill said. "So, going off of that, we play very similarly."
Hill also has developed an new found appreciation for Nelson's style of play.
"I joked around with him after the game on Thursday," Hill said. "He earned my respect after the beating that I took on a couple hits, and he was doing that week in and week out."
Nelson agreed that Hill does possess a lot of the same qualities that he does, except for one thing.
"I wish I had two more inches and 30 more pounds," Nelson said with a smile. "That would be a lot of fun."