Provo » Friday night's stunning announcement that star running back Harvey Unga has voluntarily withdrawn from BYU for violating the school's strict honor code has naturally raised questions regarding Unga's future in football, and also BYU's prospects for the 2010 season.
The leading rusher in school history, with 3,455 yards in his first three years, has not commented publicly on the situation.
"I'm not sure what he is going to do," said Unga's cousin, former BYU and Philadelphia Eagles player Reno Mahe. "My advice to him would probably be to turn pro, maybe look at the supplemental [draft]. He might have to be a free agent. I think he has what it takes to make it there."
Unga seemingly has three options, according to former players and an agent who counts several BYU graduates among the players he represents. It is too late to get into this week's NFL Draft, an idea Unga toyed with last winter before opting to return to BYU for his senior season.
» He could transfer to an NCAA Division II school (as BYU linebacker Matt Ah You did last year, landing at Central Washington), or even a D-III school or NAIA school, and play immediately.
Unga cannot transfer to a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS, formerly Division I-AA) program such as Weber State due to an NCAA rule implemented in 2006 that prohibits seniors-to-be in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs from transferring to an FCS program and playing right away.
The rule was changed four years ago due to concern that players were transferring for athletic reasons only and a market was being created by FCS schools looking for one-year "hired guns," especially in the skill positions.
» He could put his name into the NFL supplementary draft and turn pro. That mid-July draft is for players who missed filing for this NFL Draft or whose eligibility status has changed.
David Lee, agent for former BYU running backs Fui Vakapuna and Fahu Tahi, told The Tribune it is difficult to get selected in the supplementary draft because if a team uses a pick in that draft, it must forfeit its pick in the corresponding round of the following year's NFL Draft.
"You have to be one heck of a prospect for them to use a pick on you" in the supplementary draft, Lee said, speaking generally.
Unga said last month that a report from the NFL Draft Advisory Board indicated he would likely be drafted if he came out early, but probably not in the early rounds.
» He could try to get reinstated into BYU, perhaps even in time for the Cougars' opener on Sept. 4 against Washington.
School spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said Friday that if Unga and/or his on-again, off-again girlfriend Keilani Moeaki, a senior-to-be on BYU's women's basketball team who also withdrew from school, seek readmission, the decision will be made by dean of students Vern Heperi.
That is the standard procedure when students voluntarily withdraw from school due to honor code violations.
The Cougars' running back situation without Unga is not ideal, but not in dire straits, either.
Junior J.J. DiLuigi likely becomes the primary ball-carrier, backed up by junior Bryan Kariya, redshirt freshman Malosi Te'o and January enrollee Josh Quezada.
Quezada, who graduated from high school in December so he could participate in spring camp, was impressive in the 15 practice sessions, and could zoom up the depth chart when fall camp begins in early August.
|J.J. DiLuigi||Jr.||5-9/198||Made big strides sophomore season, seeing time at slot|
|Bryan Kariya||Jr.||6-0/214||Can also play some fullback, reliable and dependable|
|Malosi Te'o||Fr.||5-10/203||Redshirted last year, shines in practice|
|Joshua Quezada||Fr.||5-11/210||Early enrollee turned heads in spring camp|
|Mike Hague||Jr.||5-10/223||Slowed by ankle injury, still not 100 percent|
|David Foote||So.||5-11/212||Walk-on adds depth and is solid practice player|