BYU football: Nagging injuries scramble cornerback competition
Provo » Another day, another injury-induced dilemma for BYU football coaches trying to solidify their starting lineup before fall camp ends next week and preparations begin for the opener Sept. 5 against Oklahoma.
The headache that surfaced Wednesday revolved around the cornerbacks, and coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the first practice of the day (the second was closed to the media) that the Cougars could go against the No. 3-ranked Sooners with newcomers at the starting cornerback positions.
That would mean Brian Logan or Corby Eason at the field corner spot and Lee Aguirre at the boundary corner position.
"It could easily be two junior college corners to start the season," Mendenhall said.
The reason is that the two projected starters when camp began, Robbie Buckner (field) and Brandon Bradley (boundary) have been unable to shake off nagging injuries that have kept them off the field for the bulk of the camp thus far.
Buckner, the redshirt freshman from Arkansas who recently returned from an LDS Church mission, was able to participate in 10 of the 16 periods of practice Wednesday morning, but the hamstring tightened up and he missed the 11-on-11 scrimmages.
Bradley was back on the field Tuesday after a lengthy absence, but also skipped Wednesday's drills because of tendinitis again flaring in his knees.
Mendenhall said that Bradley, a junior who got a few starts last year, will likely battle the problem all season and said it will be an "ongoing" issue which coaches will have to manage.
The good news is that the junior college guys are getting valuable experience running with the ones and are picking up the system faster, Mendenhall said.
The coach noted that Buckner and Bradley need to "show me more" to keep their positions on the depth chart once they return because of the way Logan and Aguirre have played and the "flashes that Eason has shown.
"At some point they are going to have to get healthy," he said of Bradley and Buckner. "Otherwise, they will get passed."
The first-string offense put together what Mendenhall called the "best drive we have had in camp" on Wednesday, and it was culminated when tight end Dennis Pitta caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Max Hall . Pitta snagged the ball at the goal line despite getting hit by three defenders, causing Mendenhall to say it was a "great" catch but that there was "too much contact" on the play for his liking.
Hall was 12-for-15 for 156 yards and a touchdown, while the other two QBs -- Brenden Gaskins and Riley Nelson -- struggled to move the team.
Linebacker Terrance Hooks (hamstring) participated in some drills Wednesday and Mendenhall said he could see contact on Monday for the first time since camp opened.
Running backs Mike Hague (hamstring) and Bryan Kariya (ankle) were held out Wednesday morning, but neither injury is considered serious.
Linebackers Jordan Atkinson (groin strain) and Brandon Ogletree (hip flexor) and receiver Mitch Mathews (ankle) returned to the field after missing or being limited in the last few practices.