Prior to the start of this season, Tanner Mangum was an afterthought. With dual-threat player Taysom Hill firmly entrenched as the BYU Cougars’ starter under center entering this season, many thought that the man who was limited to just five games last year would bounce back from his broken leg and lead the team to a successful season.
But fate had other ideas. Hill suffered a Lisfranc injury in BYU’s season opener against Nebraska, and Mangum took over while fans held their collective breath.
Fast forward to the present time, and Mangum is the primary reason that BYU sits 2-0 on the season despite losing a quarterback that threw for 2,938 yards and 19 touchdowns while accumulating 1,344 yards and 10 scores on the ground. In leading BYU to stunning wins over Nebraska and Boise State this season, both of which came on final seconds Hail Mary passes, Mangum has thrown for 420 yards and three touchdowns. Despite his being a more traditional pocket passer and not having rushing abilities, his performance has BYU playing as though Taysom Hill is an afterthought.
It’s really an excellent story on Mangum’s end. A former four-star recruit out of Idaho’s Eagle High School, just outside of Boise, Mangum had offers from a number of schools including Boise State, Utah and even Arkansas before signing on with BYU. He was co-MVP of the Nike Elite 11 camp with evenual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, so it’s clear that this young man has some talent.
But Mangum’s college career took a unique path before he even stepped on the football field for BYU this year. Instead of heading right to school following his high school graduation, he spent two years in Chile on an LDS mission. Now a freshman, he has been quickly thrust into the spotlight and handled the pressure with poise and ease.
And just how well Mangum is truly handling his new role will be put to the ultimate test on Saturday, when No. 19 BYU takes a trip to Westwood to play the No. 10 UCLA Bruins, a team that also has a freshman quarterback sensation in Josh Rosen. As strong as BYU has looked at times this season, UCLA has outscored opponents 71-19 with Rosen at the helm. A defense led by linebacker Myles Jack is also sure to add to the pressure of pulling off yet another upset win but if how Mangum has played over his first two games is any indication, the Cougars should be just fine.
It’s certainly going to be an uphill battle being a road game, and BYU are currently listed as 17-point underdogs.
But the truth of the matter is that BYU has something special in Mangum, a quarterback who, as was mentioned before, was not expected to even see significant playing time this year. Rather than cracking under the pressure, he has thrived in it.
That is only going to help him as his team prepares for its game against UCLA, and for the rest of its games as well.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports