BYU loaded at quarterback, though starter unclear
New coach Kalani Sitake has one of those good problems at quarterback with two proven signal-callers fighting for the job.
Sophomore Tanner Mangum stepped in months after returning from a church mission last season after Taysom Hill went down in the first game and went on to set school freshman records with 3,377 passing yards and 23 touchdowns.
Hill, on the other hand, was in the Heisman conversation when he threw for 2,938 yards and rushed for 1,344 with 29 combined touchdowns in 2013. Injuries, however, have ended Hill's other three seasons.
Now Sitake and Heisman winner turned offensive coordinator Ty Detmer have a decision to make. Stick with the young, strong-armed Mangum and let him continue to grow or hand the reins back to the dual-threat veteran in the final year of his college career.
''Everyone knows that they're competing for the spot,'' Sitake said ''It's a great example for all the other players that are competing for spots as well.''
KEY GAMES: BYU enters the season with one of the toughest schedules in the country and every game is key for the independent program. Two losses essentially eliminate the Cougars from the College Football Playoff and leave them in the already-contracted Poinsettia Bowl. BYU has a chance to improve its lot with a New Year's Six bowl but likely needs to avoid having more than two losses.
The Cougars play six Power 5 schools, including an opening stretch against Arizona, Utah, UCLA and West Virginia. Only UCLA is coming to Provo. BYU also has a challenging October with Michigan State, Mississippi State and Boise State.
SWITCHING UP: Detmer brings a pro-style offense to BYU. The quarterback will be under center much more than in the past and there are expectations that the tight end will be more involved. The defense has also been tweaked under Sitake and defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki with a 4-3 base and the cornerbacks playing more press-man coverage than in the past.
GO TIME: There have been high expectations for receiver Nick Kurtz since he arrived as a transfer in 2014. He caught 39 passes for 578 yards and three touchdowns in 2015, but the Cougars want more out of the 6-foot-6, 215-pound Kurtz. Kurtz has worked on his strength and hopes to play better against aggressive, physical cornerbacks.
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Running back Jamal Williams is back after taking a year off for personal reasons. The senior is 930 yards shy of breaking Harvey Unga's school rushing record of 3,455 yards, a record Williams openly talks about chasing. He rushed for 1,233 yards as a sophomore and suffered a knee injury in the seventh game of the 2014 season. BYU ranked No. 112 in the nation with an average of 128.31 yards per game last season. Williams should immediately improve that ranking.
SEASON OPENER: BYU kicks off the season Sept. 3 against Arizona at a technically neutral site, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona - the home of the Arizona Cardinals. Glendale is just under 130 miles from the Wildcats' campus.