If it were the month of April, it would have been a good April Fool's joke. However, Austin Collie
playing the quarterback position during Friday's practice was all too real.
"I was a little shocked," said Collie. "I was a little taken back, but I'm going to take the responsibility and work with it and get better. As you guys can see I have a long, long ways to go. It's a little bit different."
For Collie, Friday's new wrinkle was not unexpected.
"I was told Wednesday after practice that I was going to be with the quarterbacks and trying to get better at that position," said Collie.
The move by coaches could be more a desire to motivate the depth chart to perform at a higher level than Collie actually being trained as a future Cougar quarterback.
"It's absolutely motivation," said Max Hall. "Brenden [Gaskins] and Kurt [McEuen have to] take it as that and work their butts off and prove it wrong."
Collie feels that the move also helps provide possible future options for the offensive coaches if needed.
"Just to add more depth to the quarterback spot," Collie said regarding why the move was made. "That's basically about it. Kurt and Brenden are great quarterbacks and I'm going to learn a lot from them."
Come Monday, Collie will be a busy man, as he'll see time with both the wide receivers and quarterbacks during practice.
"I'll be going back and forth," he said. "I'll be a busy man and will be swapping back and fourth. I don't want this to get in the way of my wideout skills, and that's the main priority. I do need to learn the offense and I do need to learn some things about quarterback just in case something does happen to Max [so that] I can step in there and have something going."
"The best thing about this is he'll get a chance to watch defenses and be more on the same page as I am," said Hall. "I think it's going to make him a better receiver. And again, Austin is a good enough athlete that if you give him a few months he'll learn the position. He's got a decent arm. I call it a pee shooter, but he thinks he has a pretty good arm, and he does. He's a good athlete and can make plays. Once he picks up a few simple plays and learns how to read them we'll see what happens. So right now he's going to be in the mix and the other QBs need to step it up."
Collie feels that he's already gained a new perspective of the game simply by taking part in quarterback activities. He believes that learning the quarterback position will help him to better understand defenses and what the quarterbacks are thinking.
"Yes, just having my first meeting today has really helped me out a ton," Collie said. "You better know where the defense is going, what the defense is thinking and what the quarterback is thinking, so if anything it's really beneficial for me as a wideout."
"It's a good move," said Hall with a laugh. "He gets to sit in our quarterback meetings with me and watch film, and we get to discuss stuff, but he's still my receiver. He's still my guy, but now he gets a chance to learn a little more about what it takes to be a QB and find out really how hard it is. Maybe then he'll appreciate me a little more."
Although Collie is a fantastic athlete, having played multiple roles on the team as both a wide receiver and kick return specialist, Coach Doman had some work cut out for him in helping Collie get some mechanics down during drop back drills.
"The last time I played quarterback I was 10 years old, so it's been a while," said Collie. "I wasn't half bad, but we did run a lot of the option. I was never really tested with the arm. As you guys can imagine, I have a lot of stuff to think about and a lot of stuff going through my head, but wherever the coaches need me, I'm there. That's what the plan is."
"Austin is still learning and Coach Doman is awesome," said Hall. "But when Brenden is in, Austin will stand by me and I'll say, ‘Okay, this is what I'm looking at, this is our key defender, here is the play, the back is going to do this and you have to watch for the blitz and watch for this or that.' I just try and walk him through everything and help him read [or] look at where the safeties are at or if it's cover-two. It's mostly just things he's never had to look at before. He didn't even know what a one-technique was and what a three-technique was, or how to make run checks and things like that."
During the scrimmage portion of Friday's practice, Collie positioned himself behind center as BYU's newest quarterback and surprisingly threw a decent ball to receivers downfield. He also showed that he could run the ball well from the position when things broke down for him.
"Right now I'm in the QB meetings," said Collie. "I'm just learning from Max and the other QBs and Coach Doman, who is a great coach. He's helping me along and has a lot of patience, which is what he'll need."
Now that he is learning and understanding what it takes to play the position, Collie has a newfound respect for his quarterback.
"I always gave Max a hard time," said Collie. "I said, ‘Do you want to know how to do this, because it's not that hard to throw a ball.' But I'll tell you what, there is a lot of stuff to think about. I even screwed up bad today on a run play, and that was something basic and I didn't even get the ball off and was looking the other way and the running back was coming from the opposite direction. There is a lot of stuff to think about and a lot of adjustments. It's a whole new world but it's definitely going to help me out as a wide receiver to better read the defenses, know where I'm going and where I should be as a wideout."
Despite receiving reps at the quarterback position, Collie does not expect to lose any playing time at as a wide receiver. Right now he feels he is at about 95-to-100 percent ready to go and was catching passes from Hall on a full sprint following Friday's practice. Collie expects to play in BYU's opener against Northern Iowa, but is confident that those behind him will get the job done if called upon.
"Last year we did have a wide receiver rotation and this year we have a lot of depth at those positions," Collie said. "We also have a lot of guys who can play, but I'm going to try and be out on the field as much as I can and as much as they'll let me. We throw the ball 90 percent of the time and I don't think there is a receiver in the nation that can go that many reps all the time running downfield. Mike [Reed] and I will need some rest from time to time and we'll get that. Luke [Ashworth] and O'Neill [Chambers] are two phenomenal athletes and receivers and it's good to know they can come in and back you up."
Cougar fans often wonder how much of the playbook Coach Anae and the Cougar offensive staff will open up this year. During Friday's practice session, Offensive Player-of-the-Year and All-Mountain West Conference preseason candidate Austin Collie found himself taking reps at a new position.