Taysom Hill was supposed to be the future of BYU football, but that future will have to wait.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Monday evening that Hill, the freshman quarterback who had appeared in every game this season and started the last two, will miss the rest of the year with a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee that will require surgery.
Senior Riley Nelson will start in Hill's stead. Nelson was the team's starter at the beginning of the season, but what Nelson called "back fractures" forced him to the sidelines for the past two games. Nelson says he's healthy and ready to return to the field.
"My heart goes out to [Hill]," Nelson said. "Season-ending injuries are tough. I've experienced those before. They're hard to get over but first and foremost it's a big blow to our team. He's a playmaker and one of our best offensive weapons. It leaves a hole in our offense."
Hill was injured on a play that should have never happened at the end of last week's 6-3 win against Utah State. According to Mendenhall, Hill only got part of the offensive play call from the sideline and missed that he was supposed to kneel down in the victory formation and allow the clock to run down with a minute left and one timeout. Instead, Hill set off on a 4-yard run and took a helmet to the knee, which also injured his hamstring. He knelt for the Cougars' final two plays, which ended up being the final two plays of his season.
"There was miscommunication, and I'm responsible when anything happens when one of my guys gets hurt," Mendenhall said after Monday's practice.
Hill, who passed for 425 yards this season and rushed for 336 with eight touchdowns, will have surgery within the week and recovery is anywhere from 4-6 months.
Riley is obviously a competent replacement. He led the Cougars to a win over Washington State, but left in the second half against Weber State because of back spasms. He struggled in losses to Boise State and Utah because of his injury, and has been trying to heal since.
Nelson said he has no fear about running the ball during BYU's upcoming game against Oregon State. The Beavers, coincidentally, are also with their starting quarterback Sean Mannion, who is out indefinitely because of knee surgery.
"My back feels good, so I'll be able to move freely and there won't be constant pain," Nelson said. "It was at a point where I was feeling it every step, and every throw and every cut and every move. That occupied my mind so much it affected my decision-making and my play and my confidence. That's all gone because I don't feel pain anymore. I'm back to myself."