Is James Lark ready if Riley Nelson goes down?

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson answered many of his critics in 2011. One remaining question is can he stay healthy? Should Nelson be sidelined by injury during 2012, James Lark is the only other quarterback on the roster with experience. That experience, however, has been very limited. Is Lark ready if Nelson goes down?

Although lacking in game experience, Lark has a lot of practice experience. He will be a fifth year senior in the fall. Nothing about the college game should be a surprise to him anymore. He is familiar with the offense, the coaches, and his teammates.

During practice in the summer of 2011, Lark was impressive enough to cause speculation that he could supplant Nelson as the number two quarterback on the depth chart behind Jake Heaps. In practice, Lark has displayed in practice the skills necessary to be successful. The only question that remains is whether he can replicate what he has done in practice in a game.

In his limited time at the end of blowouts, Lark’s stats look like this:

UNLV: 1-1, 6 yards, Pass Efficiency 150.4
UTEP: 1-2, 31 yards, 1 Int., Pass Eff. 80.2

Idaho: 2-6, 21 yards, Pass Eff. 62.73

Career: 4-9 (44.4%), 58 yards, 0 TD, 1 Int., Pass Eff. 76.4

These stats do not inspire confidence. Then again, they are just from reps at the end of blowouts.

In 2006, BYU had a fifth year senior as the back up quarterback. Jason Beck was very underwhelming in his limited playing time prior to 2006. His stat line read: 23-46 (50%), 232 yards, 0 TD, 3 Int., Pass Efficiency: 79.3.

Starter John Beck was forced to sit out game four in 2006. Against Utah State, Jason Beck took the reigns. He guided BYU to an impressive 38-0 win. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 305 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Jason Beck’s pass efficiency rating for the day was 167.6.

Through hard work in practices and during the off seasons, Jason Beck improved to the point that BYU could be just as productive if he was needed under center.

Going back in BYU history, there are no other cases in the last 20 years where a career backup was thrust into play during his senior year. Matt Berry was a senior backing up John Beck in 2005, but he had seen a lot of playing time during his first three years. Charlie Peterson was a very capable backup to Brandon Doman in 2001, but Peterson played significantly in 2000.

Jason Beck’s success does not guarantee that James Lark will have similar success, but it can’t hurt. A year ago, Lark demonstrated he would put in the work he needed to get better, even if he appeared buried deep on the depth chart. There is no reason to think that he would do any different now that he could be “one play away” from being the starter.

No one should want anything for Nelson, except a healthy season, but if the unthinkable happens all hope isn’t lost.

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