Provo » The BYU Cougars will find out this week whether running back Manase Tonga has been granted re-admission into the school and will be able to join them for the 2009 season.
Tonga, who played in 2007 but missed the 2008 season due to academic ineligiblity, could go before an admissions committee as early as Monday, providing he received grades of B-minus or better in two summer semester classes.
If he re-joins the team, Tonga will be used primarily as a blocking and pass-catching fullback, assuming he gets back into playing shape quickly, having already missed more than a week of fall camp.
But after Saturday's scrimmage, coach Bronco Mendenhall said it is becoming more and more clear which running back will get the bulk of the carries behind all-conference performer Harvey Unga .
That would be sophomore J.J. DiLuigi .
"Right now, J.J. is emerging as, and putting separation between himself and the other players, as the second ball-carrier," Mendenhall said. "There are others that are capable, but between blocking and assignments and running the football and catching the football, he's the clear No. 2, as I see it."
A pair of returned LDS missionaries -- Malosi Te'o and Mike Hague -- are also backup tailbacks, although Hague could possibly be moved to fullback, Mendenhall has said.
If Tonga gets back and gets in playing shape quickly, he will battle Bryan Kariya to be the starter at fullback. The Cougars could also use third-string tight end Braden Brown in the backfield as a lead blocker, and Mendenhall mentioned he also likes the progress of freshman Anthony Heimuli at fullback.
At fall camp last year, coach Mendenhall announced his new redshirt policy, saying players would not be told they were going to redshirt until a particular season was over and that it was not a given that a redshirt would be awarded just because a player didn't see action in a game.
A year later, the policy remains in effect, he said.
"I like it. Redshirts are earned, and it is not by default just because a kid is not ready to play," he said. "And really those decisions aren't made until they go through an entire year of scout team and an entire year of getting up at six in the morning and an entire year of going to class, etc."
One fine field
When BYU plays host to Florida State on Sept. 19 at LaVell Edwards Stadium, fans will notice a new playing surface. The crown on the field has been almost completely taken out, and new grass was planted in the spring.
Saturday's scrimmage was the first time the Cougars played on the new field, and it got positive reviews.
"I love the field, it is nice and flat," quarterback Max Hall said. "I think it is going to be pretty sweet for the first game."
Mendenhall called the field "outstanding" and said it will add to the stadium.