Provo » BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall says it was one of the most remarkable conversations he has had with a player in his life.
The Cougars' backup quarterback, senior Brenden Gaskins , went to Mendenhall on Thursday and asked for a demotion "for the good of the program," Mendenhall said.
"I have never, ever, experienced a conversation like that with a young man in my life, and I was more impressed with him than maybe any other player that I have coached, because of that conversation," Mendenhall said. "It wasn't initiated by me or any other coach. It was a great day yesterday just to be able to have a conversation like that with a young man on our team who wants to help our program."
As a result, when the second-stringers ran onto the field for their 11-on-11 scrimmage time Friday, it was sophomore Riley Nelson directing the offense, and not Gaskins. Mendenhall said that Nelson is now considered starter Max Hall 's backup, while Gaskins is No. 3 on the depth chart.
Gaskins "basically volunteered," Mendenhall said. Gaskins said, "Why would we wait? If I can help him now, and we can help him get the experience he needs, I would be glad to do it.'"
Since Nelson announced he was transferring from Utah State and would return from an LDS Church mission in time for the 2009 season, the plan has always been to gradually work him in to the backup role because he will have two years of eligibility left after this season, and Gaskins none.
Gaskins' concession Thursday just accelerated that plan, Mendenhall said.
"And truthfuly, I don't know if I could have had that conversation at this age, if I was a player," Mendenhall said. "And I am not sure any of us could at that age. That a player actually saw that and responded that way, unprompted, it is the philosophy I had hoped for. To see it come to fruition in that one instance, was one of the most humbling and gratifying things since I have coached."
Working with the twos, Nelson was 7-for-11 for 65 yards in the morning practice. The afternoon practice was closed to the media.
Injury bug bites again
BYU announced after Friday's first practice that freshman offensive lineman Houston Reynolds is likely out for the season with a torn ACL. Reynolds, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound guard from Timpview High, was slated to be a backup this season behind right guard Terence Brown and center R.J. Willing .
Reynolds recently returned from a mission and is the younger brother of starting left tackle Matt Reynolds , the sophomore who is still out with a broken left hand.
Also Friday, starting safety Andrew Rich was taken off the field in a golf cart. Mendenhall said Rich has been suffering from groin tightness and "it might be serious, it might not. I don't know yet."
After practice, Rich said he would be OK and that he left practice early because he was nauseous due to taking anti-inflammatory medication on an empty stomach.
The Cougars will conduct their second scrimmage of fall camp today at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mendenhall said it could go anywhere between 55 and 85 plays, depending on injuries and the health of the team.
He said some of the main offensive players (tight end Dennis Pitta , running back Harvey Unga ) will be held out, but that "defensively, we won't hold many players out."
Hall's first pass Friday morning was intercepted by Jordan Pendleton , but Hall bounced back to complete 16 of 23 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Cornerback Lee Aguirre also intercepted Hall. ... Freshman Riley Stephenson , backup to junior Mitch Payne , was called on to attempt the first field goal. He made the 26-yarder.
What we learned » If Andrew Rich (groin tightness) can't play, one of the team's starting safeties could be true freshman Craig Bills.
Who was hot » Running back Manase Tonga practiced with the team for the first time since the spring of 2008 and caught two passes for 31 yards.
Who was sidelined » Corners Brandon Bradley (groin, knee) and Robbie Buckner (hamstring) missed practice again.