BYU opens spring practice Monday afternoon and all eyes will be on the race to replace three-year quarterback starter Max Hall.
It’s been a while since there was a quarterback controversy in Provo, Utah, but junior Riley Nelson (last year’s backup), sophomore James Lark (who returned last December from his mission) and true freshman Jake Heaps (one of the most highly touted quarterbacks in the country) will provide a interesting plot to the Cougars' spring.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said the contest is open and that while he’d like to find a quarterback by the end of spring's 15 practices, he’ll take the competition into fall camp if he needs to. And don’t forget, Jason Munns, who also was away on a mission, will join the race in August.
By looking at each quarterback on paper, there doesn’t seem to be a wrong choice. All have great backgrounds and have accomplished many things prior to coming to BYU. The question will be, which quarterback best fits the Cougars system and is able to create the most cohesion in the offense?
Here’s a brief look at the résumés of each of the three spring quarterback competitors:
Riley Nelson, Jr.
Nelson was Hall’s backup last season after transferring to BYU from Utah State upon return from his mission. Nelson appeared in seven games last season and completed 7 of 10 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries.
During his only season at Utah State in 2006, Nelson was a captain as a true freshman and started the final eight games of the season. He threw for 925 yards and six touchdowns for the Aggies.
James Lark, So.
Lark redshirted the 2006 season before leaving for his mission in Russia.
As a senior at Pine View High in St. George, Utah, Lark threw for 3,248 yards and 36 touchdowns and was a Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News first-team all-state selection.
For his high school career, Lark finished with 6,739 passing yards, third most in state history and tied the state mark with 79 career touchdown passes.
Jake Heaps, Fr.
The Parade All-American led Skyline High School (Issaquah, Wash.) to three consecutive state titles. He completed 213 of 352 passes for 3,191 yards and 45 touchdowns as a senior and threw four touchdown passes in the state title game.
He was a 2009 first-team all-state quarterback, AP Washington State Player of the Year and a USA Today All-America first team selection.
For his career, Heaps threw for 9,196 yards, 114 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions. He also rushed for 30 scores.