By Danny Holmgren
By now, Cougar Nation is all settling into the news. After news reports swirled all over social media over the weekend, Coach Mendenhall confirmed after Monday’s practice that Taysom Hill will miss the remainder of this season with a torn LCL ligament and a torn hamstring muscle. According to team doctors, the LCL is the best ligament to tear in terms of recovery time. Hill is expected to recover completely within 4-5 months and hopefully be ready for spring ball, where he will undoubtedly be the front-runner to earn the starting QB position for the 2013 season.
At the same conference, Mendenhall announced that Riley Nelson’s back has healed and he would have been the starter regardless. Well, isn’t that just convenient, Coach! While he was obviously saddened, hurt, and weighed down with some burden of guilt over the needless injury that occurred to Hill due to a playcalling “miscommunication” on the third to last play of the game, his words sounded like a bit of a cop-out. “If there is a silver lining, the injury happened when one [quarterback] is going out and one is going back.” Really Bronco? I doubt that Hill sees any “silver lining” to this injury.
I’m glad that Bronco and Brandon Doman stepped up and took at least some responsibility for what occurred. I don’t like both of them referring to the play call as a “miscommunication.” In the real world you don’t get away with miscommunications. Military miscommunications mean borders aren’t protected or innocent bystanders are killed. In shipping a miscommunication means the package ends up in Memphis instead of Miami. In finance a miscommunication means a higher interest rate or a lost investment. And now in football a miscommunication means the loss of your starting (and future) quarterback. If there was a miscommunication and the play on the field wasn’t what you wanted called, why didn’t you call time-out?
Perhaps I’m not being fair to Coach Doman. After all, Hill ran the ball 19 times in the game and it is just as likely that his knee would get injured on the 1st rush as the 19th. I get that. The problem is that Coach Doman’s playcalling puts our quarterbacks in too much danger. It’s no coincidence that starting NFL runningbacks have shorter careers than quarterbacks, wide receivers, linemen, and defensive players. Their bodies take an unbelievable beating, rushing the ball 20-25 times each game. When you have recruited a quarterback, his main duty is to run the offense and distribute the ball where it needs to be, which includes handing off/pitching the ball to the runningbacks and throwing the ball to the receivers. So why would you structure your play calling around having your quarterback run the ball that many times when you have recruited runningbacks to run the ball?
Honestly, the play calling is lazy and sloppy. Just because a quarterback can run the ball and pick up decent yardage doesn’t mean that he should run the ball. A well orchestrated game plan for BYU consists of establishing a solid running game, passing short to intermediate passes to the backs, tight ends, and receivers, and then using play-action to throw the ball deep 5-6 times per game. Following that formula and sticking with it will eventually lead to a consistent offense that can put points on the board and win you games. Look at the talent in Provo! The offense isn’t struggling to put up big points due to a lack of talent. The talent isn’t being used efficiently and that stems from, 1) Doman still not feeling comfortable in the coaches’ booth (or on the field the last two games) and 2) Bronco giving him too much trust and freedom.
The good news today is that Hill’s knee will eventually heal. He’ll be back next season and can hopefully stay healthy and have a long, productive career in Provo. Until then, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that Doman can keep Riley healthy long enough to get through this unbelievable opportunity the next three weeks that will hopefully catapult BYU into finishing with a memorable season. But if the playcalling doesn’t change a lot, look for
James Lark, Jason Munns, Alex Kuresa, Ziggy Ansah to be the quarterback at season’s end.