BYU QB battle set for the spring

The addition of top quarterback prospect Jake Heaps could be a blessing and a curse for BYU.

With Max Hall graduating, the Cougars have an open competition for their starting quarterback spot and Heaps enrolled early to make sure he asserted himself in spring ball against last year’s backup Riley Nelson.

But if Heaps wins the starting job, it might present a conundrum for coach Bronco Mendenhall. If Heaps decides to go on his mission he’d likely only be the starter for a year, which would be tough on the continuity of the team. And there’s no guarantee that his starting spot would be waiting for him when he returned.

“A long time ago at BYU, quarterbacks wouldn’t go on missions for that very reason,” Mendenhall said. “I’m not sure whether Jake is planning to go or not, we haven’t had that conversation.”

But Heaps is going to have stiff competition for that starting role. Nelson is the incumbent since he’s been in the system and then the Cougars return two missionaries who were on the team previously.

James Lark and Jason Munns both spent a year on the team before leaving for their missions. Lark redshirted in 2006 before serving his mission in Russia. Munns suffered a season-ending knee injury during fall camp of 2007 and redshirted before serving his mission in Mexico. Lark will be in the Cougars' spring camp while Munns doesn’t return to campus until the summer.

Mendenhall said that it takes most players at least a full year to get back into game shape after returning from a mission, but that some players get back into shape quicker. He said Munns would have a tough time competing for the starting role with only a couple of months of training under his belt.

But Mendenhall isn’t making any calls on a starter until after spring camp and he said he won’t push Heaps in one direction or another.

“I really allow them -- if they come to me, I help them with the pros and cons and then they make it,” Mendenhall said. “I don’t really influence it, so we haven’t really had that conversation yet.”