The BYU Cougars have a problem on their hands. It’s a very good problem to have, but a problem none the less. When Taysom Hill went down against Nebraska last season, most people assumed his career was over and that the Tanner Mangum Era had begun. Mangum showed a ton of promise as a freshman, and I still expect him to be QB1 this season. Of course, that leaves the question “What in the world do you do with Hill?” He’s far too good not to use, but how much play time is too much? The Cougars are Mangum’s team going forward, so an entire season of splitting time or getting benched would be a step in the wrong direction.
The simplest answer is to switch positions. Ty Detmer has come out and said that Hill is still a quarterback, but Urban Meyer did the same thing with Braxton Miller last year and we all know how that turned out. Like Miller, Taysom is so dynamic with the ball in his hands, that it’s hard to imagine a move to defense. That leaves three options: quarterback, running back and receiver. Each comes with pros and cons, but I think there is an answer staring BYU in the face. I’m not saying it’s what they will do, but it’s definitely what they should consider… Move him to tight end. Yes I know, we have absolutely no idea if Taysom can catch. Or block. But if you think about his overall athletic ability, Cougar fans should be salivating.
BYU has a long history of fantastic tight ends. Guys like Chad Lewis and Dennis Pitta immediately come to mind, but dig a little deeper and you find plenty of other studs too. Itula Mili, Daniel Coats, Tevita Ofahengaue, Jonny Harline… the list goes on. Sadly, the position has disappeared in recent years, ever since Robert Anae returned for a second stint as Offensive Coordinator. In that time, Kaneakua Friel is the only tight end to have a memorable game (against Washington State in 2012), let alone a great season. A new regime means it’s time to bring the tight end back, and Taysom Hill is the man for the job. True, he’s a little short to be a traditional tight end at 6’2”, but who says he needs to be used traditionally?
A lot of people seem to think Hill will be a wildcat-type quarterback, who comes in on short yardage situations or in the red, er, excuse me… the blue zone. No doubt, there’s proof that this can work (think freshman Tim Tebow in 2006, or even J.W. Walsh for Oklahoma State last year), but limiting Taysom Hill to one or two specialty packages seems like a gigantic waste. By developing him as a tight end, the team could have him on the field for another 40-50 plays a game, and then line him up in the shotgun for those specialty situations. Win-win for everyone… except opposing defenses.
It may be hard to imagine now, but everything you need to know about Taysom the Tight End can be seen in film of Taysom the Quarterback. He obviously has the speed and quickness to cause matchup problems (just ask Texas), but his strength is just as impressive. That skill set will inevitably lead to mismatches, which is all you can ask for on offense. There’s also the added bonus that Hill is used to reading defenses. That means that on option routes, he’ll be seeing the same thing as Mangum and should be able to make the correct decision to get open. Once that happens and he has the ball, lookout.
The one caveat hanging over all of this, of course, is Taysom’s health. One wrong hit from a safety diving at his knees, and we’re looking at another tragic end to a promising season. All of Cougar Nation is holding their breath, and if you love football, you should be too. The best players make for the best theater and Taysom Hill is an unbelievable talent. For all that he’s given to BYU football the last 4 years, he deserves to ride off into the sunset, healthy, after a great (2nd) senior season. The only thing to do now is cross your fingers, and wait till Fall.