Provo • It is still definitely his team and his starting position, but quarterback Riley Nelson is clearly an unhappy camper through the first few weeks of BYU spring football camp.
With the exception of the left-handed senior, BYU’s offense doesn’t look anything like it will this fall — or did last fall — as injuries and offseason surgeries have decimated the unit to the point where Nelson says he recognizes only a few familiar faces: receiver Cody Hoffman and running back Mike Alisa.
“It is rough, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so we gotta find a way to start making plays,” Nelson said after Cougars wrapped up a workout on Monday in the Indoor Practice Facility. “Guys got to start stepping up. Man, those are opportunities you kill for, to get reps and get better in the spring. You shouldn’t shrink from that; you should rise to the occasion. We need to fix that quick, because we are running out of practices.”
Promising receiver Ross Apo is the latest offensive star who has to watch from the sidelines. He suffered a dislocated shoulder last week and will have surgery on Tuesday after an MRI revealed the damage.
The sophomore from Texas will be allowed to begin rehabilitation in about eight weeks, and will have “plenty of time to get ready for fall,” according to BYU head athletic trainer Kevin Morris.
Monday, the defense — which has guys such as starting linebacker Brandon Ogletree (fractured foot) sitting out, but not many others — dominated again. With eight offensive linemen out and playing behind a makeshift offensive line of walk-ons and freshmen, mostly, Nelson was just 2-for-6 for 15 yards, and was intercepted by Mike Hague.
Backup James Lark was just 2-for-4 for 23 yards, while Taysom Hill was 0-for-1. Nelson and Hill threw TD passes in the 7-on-7 drills, to Hoffman and Cody Raymond, respectively.
“[Seven-on-7 drills are] good — but man, we aren’t going to go to South Bend or Boise, or up to Salt Lake, and play 7-on-7. We are 11-on-11, full pads, full go, so we got to start getting more quality reps,” Nelson said.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall acknowledged that Nelson has reason to be frustrated, but said the quick whistles that are cramping Nelson’s style are happening so he doesn’t get hurt.
“The picture looks a lot different with eight of the offensive linemen back, and the tight ends back, and [fullback] Iona Pritchard back,” Mendenhall said. “All of a sudden, we are going to be hard to stop.”
Mendenhall reiterated that Saturday’s scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium, which is open to the public, will be a “short scrimmage, not a spring game,” and will be limited to players who won’t be counted on this fall to avoid more injuries.
“Starts at noon, and will be over by 1 p.m.,” Mendenhall said.
• Trevor Brown, a walk-on tight end from Timpview High, suffered a torn ACL in practice last week and will miss the entire 2012 season while he recovers.
“I have never seen anything like it,” Mendenhall said of the rash of tight end injuries over the past year.
• Receiver JD Falslev is still battling tendinitis in his ankle and probably won’t see any action in contact drills this spring; another receiver, Jordan Smith, has been sidelined by a quad strain and also won’t see action this spring.
• DeQuan Everett, who has had a strong camp as he battles for a starting cornerback spot, suffered a high ankle sprain that had him in a walking boot on Monday.
McCoy Hill, a walk-on quarterback from Jordan High, has been moved to tight end because so few repetitions are available to him at quarterback. The 6-foot-6 Hill will probably go on a mission this summer and compete again for playing time at quarterback when he returns. ... O’Neill Chambers worked with the cornerbacks and came up with an interception on Monday in 7-on-7 drills. He has changed his number to 15. ... Running back Ryan Folsom has quit football to concentrate on academics and hopes to attend medical school.