Every year, the BYU Cougars have several players who are much older than your typical student-athlete.
Starting quarterback Tanner Mangum, for instance, will turn 25 in early September, making him older than some NFL quarterbacks. His counterpart on Saturday, Arizona QB Khalil Tate, is only 19.
Of course, the reason for this is many BYU players serve two-year missions as members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Per the school, 65 percent of BYU’s roster has served a mission.
Those players have six years to play four. Student-athletes usually have five years to play four. Some view that as an advantage for BYU, since it gives their players more time to mature physically and mentally by the time their football careers end.
But how much does it actually help? Probably not as much as you think. Missionaries work seven days a week for two years, meaning they aren’t exactly out there lifting weights and running corner routes.
“I served a mission and have never been the same in terms of athletics,” one BYU fan told me this week. “No sports, very limited exercise, not great nutrition depending where you are. I was in a third-world area for much of mine. Lost muscle, lost explosiveness, lost speed. Some/most can recapture their prior athletic level, but by no means does it give an added advantage. If anything, it’s a physical disadvantage, in my opinion.”
Still, you can’t talk about BYU football without someone mentioning the team’s age and how it makes them a difficult team to play.
“We addressed it early, there will be some older guys,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said this week. “Heck, I remember when Tanner (Mangum) the quarterback, the first year he started. It seems like a long time ago, it was.”
(Mangum’s first start was actually just three seasons ago, which is normal for a senior quarterback, so that is an odd comment by Sumlin.)
Then UA wide receiver Cedric Peterson added this later in the week: “The Mormons are a little bit older than most teams we play against, but the main thing is their D-line. They’ve got a few bigger bodies up there that we haven’t really seen, but I think we can handle them.”
I tweeted these quotes out the other day and BYU fans were not too fond of them, and they do have a point. The average age of the BYU roster is 21.5, per the school’s game notes. Nothing too outlandish. (And again, is that even an advantage?)
Additionally, BYU fans cited a CBS article that says BYU’s average age is 23.5 and Arizona’s is 23.3 — not much difference — but those figures are probably inaccurate on both accounts, especially when you consider that CBS lists Arizona State’s average age as 24.7, which is absurd.
Either way, BYU fans want you to stop talking about how old their team is:
Hate this argument. Whenever BYU is good, it's bc they're older. When they're bad, their age plays no relevance. With missionaries leaving at 18 yrs old, its only 1 year older than the average. 2 years off of practice to gain a 1 year advantage=no advantage.— Patrick Dabel (@dabel07) August 29, 2018
just remind them that that huge age advantage went 4-9 last year. c'mon man.— Chad Stewart (@chadstewart_79) August 29, 2018
Let him know our average age is 23...and so is Arizona's— Academics!!! (@Y4LYFE) August 29, 2018
A little older, as in 0.2 years older on average this year.— OldschoolBYU (@OldSchoolBYU) August 29, 2018
That was so awesome how much that age advantage helped BYU beat Bama last year in CFP— Russell Grizz (@Grizzfather) August 28, 2018
Oh wait we went 4-9 so not much of an advantage? Lol
I, too, remember when he was a freshman exactly 4 years ago— BYU News Feed (@byu_undefeated) August 27, 2018