Last season, James Lark was third on the BYU quarterback depth chart. With Heaps jumping ship to Kansas, James Lark, a highly touted quarterback out of high school in his own right, fully understands he must be at the top of his game.
“There is a sense of urgency,” Lark said. “It’s something that’s definitely on my mind for two reasons. I’m one hit away from my number being called. I mean, Riley is a great quarterback but got hurt two years in a row. We don’t want that to happen again, but if it does, I have to be ready to go in without there being a drop off if I go in.
“We can’t take a drop off if the backup quarterback comes in. I’ve always put a lot of time into feeling I’m ready to go. I have to prepare myself as though I’m ready to go as the starting quarterback.”
On top of being fully prepared to lead the team if Riley Nelson were to go down, Lark also wants to reach his quarterback potential considering this is his senior year as a Cougar.
“Also, it’s my last year,” Lark said. “Whether I end up playing or not I want to know that I reached my highest potential as a BYU quarterback. I don’t want to leave here heading downhill in skill level. I want to go out from here with a bang and that’s by reaching my highest skill level.”
Lark came to BYU as the 16th ranked quarterback in the nation for the class of 2006 with scholarship offers from Oregon, Utah and Arizona State. He postponed serving his mission by two years in order to provide more quarterback depth.
After Lark was named the most valuable member of the scout team in 2009, BYU signed the number one quarterback in the country out of high school in 2010, leaving Lark third on the depth chart for his sophomore and junior years. Even now, in his senior year, he continues to make sacrifices for the Cougar program.
“You know, I’ve been working hard,” Lark said. “This summer I’ve given up some intern opportunities and realized that football is just one year left, so I have to go all out one more time for the team.”
After finding himself third on the depth chart, there was a time when Lark actually thought about switching to the defensive side of the ball.
“I’m never going to stop competing no matter what in life,” Lark said. “I have a love for defense and that’s where I started my football career. It crossed my mind in the past and I thought about giving defense a shot. My sophomore year in high school I played safety, so it crossed my mind about maybe playing there after my first season of being back from my mission. But it just wasn’t my dream to be a safety; it was my dream to always be a quarterback.”
Lark remained the third string quarterback and continued to work. He would stay after practice to get in the extra time he felt he needed to match the number of reps the first and second team quarterbacks received. Now that he’s been leading the second team offense, that has changed.
“I love it,” he said. “I used to have to stay after practice just to make sure that I’m throwing all the balls. Now I’m getting it in practice and my arm is even getting sore in practice from throwing so many balls around, so I’m getting a lot more reps which is good, especially in team reps. Those are the most important reps and I’m getting plenty of them now.”
Being the oldest quarterback in the cadre, Lark feels that if his number is called he’ll be ready to go.
“I feel like I’m at that level now and I’m 24 years old,” Lark said. “If I’m not ready to go now, I probably shouldn’t be the backup quarterback now. I’ve worked hard and put in the time. There’s obviously a lot more that I could do to better myself and I’m ready to go.”
The biggest difference for Lark when comparing this year with previous years is the fact that he is now able to apply the various things he’s learned in the film room in a team scrimmage setting.
“I watch film, a lot of film, and I know what the defense is doing,” he said. “The only thing is it’s a totally different view being on the field and doing it than actually just watching it in the film room. So now that I’m out on the field I’m seeing it from a different view and I have to just put it all together. I now get a chance to apply what I’ve been learning in film to the field. I now get a chance to apply the different situations first hand and so on. It’s been great and I’m very happy and I’m ready to go if I’m called.”
If the history of the past two years repeats itself, Lark just might get that call.