Bronco Mendenhall is the quiet reserved head coach of the BYU football team. He is someone that embraces the tradition of the program and tries to instill that on his players and assistant coaches. He is usually very decisive about player decisions and usually there is little controversy going into a season about who will play and who will watch. In 2011 BYU had the top QB recruit in the nation enrolled at their university. Jake Heaps had chosen Provo over all the other top offers in the country. He brought with him a competitive nature and a sense of entitlement that didn't do well for his chances at starting.
Bronco's philosophy regarding his starters is that he tends to favor upper classmen over new recruits. Rarely does he ever play freshmen, let alone true freshmen. Bronco's starters have to be players that have paid their dues. To the fans frustration, someone who has been with the program for a few years will often start over a freshman even if that player isn't the best player. Heart, grit, and determination are all words Bronco uses to describe his starters.
At the start of the 2011 season Bronco just couldn't bring himself to start Jake Heaps. He knew Jake had the natural talent of a QB. He had all the skills and the assets to be truly spectacular. But he was young and cocky. He treated it like it was his job to lose. Then there was Riley Nelson. This is a player who is cut from Bronco's mold. He worked hard, played through injuries, and made up for his lack of talent with his grit and determination. Heart is a big thing in football, but heart will not carry your team to many victories. This was where things got interesting for BYU's quarterback situation.
There was an intense quarterback battle from spring to fall in Provo. Both Nelson and Heaps hoped to be the starter. Bronco simply couldn't decide. So he decided to do what no coach should ever do, he started both of them in the first game. He was going to evaluate their progress and see if they possessed the talent he was looking for. A team with two leaders is a team with no leader. The most unfortunate thing that happened from their season opener against Washington was that they won. This showed that a two QB system could work and that Bronco had chosen wisely. Not so fast, as Lee Corso likes to say. BYU floundered in their next couple of games before Nelson left a game with an injury. This made Heaps the starter by default. This mismanagement costed Heaps valuable reps in spring and fall practices. Working on timing with receivers and getting reps is everything for a young quarterback. The season could have gone dramatically differently for the Cougars if it wasn't for the two quarterback system, Bronco's blunder.