PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – It was quite a battle between Tanner Mangum and Zach Wilson for the BYU starting quarterback job, but in the end, the senior was just a little better than the freshman.
“He deserved it,” head coach Kalani Sitake said at Monday’s press conference. “He earned the starting spot. That’s what we wanted to do was create an opportunity for our guys to compete. I feel like he performed the best.”
After admittedly playing poorly last year in eight starts before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury, Mangum is thankful to get another chance.
“It’s been a wild ride, a lot of ups and downs,” said Mangum, who will start this Saturday at Arizona. “I think I’ve matured and playing with a little bit more with a chip on my shoulder. More than anything, just proving to myself that this year has taught me that I can overcome hard things. I can push through doubt, I can push through fear, and I knew I had to come back and show what I was capable of. I knew I had to improve my play and get better.”
The fact that the quarterback battle was so close was more of a credit to the way Wilson played. But Sitake says he will not have a short leash on Mangum if he struggles.
“I don’t want guys to look over their shoulders all the time,” Sitake said. “I don’t think you can play loose. I don’t want our guys feeling nervous that if they make a mistake they’re out.”
Wilson could still play in four games this season without losing a year of eligibility.
Mangum says competing with Wilson will only make the team as a whole stronger.
“You want that,” he said. “You don’t want there to be a big drop off between guys. We both handled it very maturely, and we understand that it’s all about the team. Whatever we can do to help this team win games and be successful, that’s all we care about.”
BYU kicks off the season Saturday night at Arizona at 8:30 p.m.