PROVO, Utah (AP) Tanner Mangum's moment at BYU is finally arriving.
The Cougars first had to wait two years to get Mangum on campus as he completed his Mormon church mission. He was thrown into the mix months after he returned as a freshman in 2015 after Taysom Hill was injured and Mangum set school freshman records for passing yards and touchdown. But it was back to the bench in 2016 when Hill returned and Mangum went to work wearing the headset each week and learning new offensive coordinator Ty Detmer's system.
Now he's finally taking the reins, though the Mangum era may ultimately prove to be a short one. The junior will turn 24 in September and another quality season could force him to make an NFL decision. If Mangum finishes his senior season, he could be a 25-year-old NFL rookie when the 2018 season begins.
Mangum isn't thinking about that now, but it's a fact that will be taken into consideration.
Meanwhile, BYU should have an improved passing game as Mangum is a more polished passer than Hill and is in Year 2 of Detmer's pro-style scheme.
''I've been able to kind of master the offense a lot better now,'' Mangum said. ''Now to go out there and run the show is something I'm focused on. It's so nice when you get out there and know what you're doing, know what you're seeing, can change things around and put people in different positions. Call different audibles just to make sure you're running the right plays.''
The run game was more prevalent in 2016 with the school's all-time leading rusher and current Green Bay Packer Jamaal Williams in the backfield. Plus, Hill was an athletic quarterback who would often call his own number.
With Mangum under center, the receivers and tight ends are expected to produce much more.
''He throws a great ball, an accurate ball and makes our job easy,'' senior receiver Jonah Trinnaman said. ''It makes us more excited and have more confidence in the receiver room. You come out of your break and expect the ball.''
Coaches and teammates have praised Trinnaman, sophomore Talon Shumway, junior Beau Tanner and freshman Neil Pau'u as they aim to replace an underwhelming 2016 corps. More yards after the catch has been a camp focus.
''We're close to being really good in the passing game,'' Detmer said. ''But we still need some time.''
QUARTERBACKS BEWARE: The Cougars return starting linebackers senior Fred Warner, junior Butch Pau'u and junior Francis Bernard and all are expected to pick up the aggression this season.
Junior defensive end Sione Takitaki is back after missing the last season and a half due to off-the-field issue. He's a high-end pass rusher and, along with 6-9 bookend Corbin Kaufusi, the defensive line is expected to spend plenty of time in the backfield.
''We can get to the quarterback,'' Kaufusi said. ''We're going to turn a lot of heads.''
KEY GAMES: BYU continues to live in a no-man's lands of sorts with no conference affiliation but a slew of Power 5 opponents on the schedule. The Cougars face LSU in Houston on Sept. 2, host rival Utah on Sept. 9, host Wisconsin on Sept. 16 and are at Mississippi State on Oct. 14.
BYU is unlikely to come through those four with a winning record. The Cougars probably fall out of any kind College Football Playoff contention with two losses and don't have a conference championship to play for. It will be difficult to stay in the national conversation down the stretch against six straight non-P5 games.
''It puts some added motivation for us during the offseason knowing that we have to be on our `A' game, we have to be sharp,'' Mangum said. ''There's no warmup game. You have to come out the gate ready to go.''
PREDICTION: The Cougars would have to consider a .500 winning percentage a success in its four Power 5 games. BYU may have to run the table in its other nine games just to be ranked in the Top 25 considering the level of competition the rest of the way. The Cougars are likely to hover around nine wins and play in a middle-of-the-road bowl game.
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