Provo • A couple of defensive players are taking a leap of faith at BYU’s spring football camp this year, but coach Bronco Mendenhall says it is not as big of a gamble as it would appear.
Defensive back Mike Hague and defensive end Eathyn Manumaleuna are practicing without knowing for certain that they will be eligible to play this fall. The seniors have petitioned the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility because they suffered season-ending injuries in the fourth game of the season last year, against Boise State.
“It just depends now on what the NCAA says, but from what I can see, it looks like we will get it back,” Hague said. “I can’t be certain on that, but when you are probably 90 percent [guaranteed to get it back], you have no choice but to go 100 percent in practice.”
Manumaleuna also believes the NCAA will deliver a positive ruling.
“The papers have been processed and are ready to be sent in,” he said. “I just have to wait for it, but it looks good.”
Mendenhall said he will be more than surprised if the NCAA denies either player.
“If I were betting, and I don’t, I would bet that they are coming back,” he said.
Hague suffered a 7-centimer tear in the soleus calf muscle in his right leg; Manumaleuna blew out his knee, which cleared the way for fellow senior Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah to become a full-time starter.
Ansah is now projected as a top-10 NFL Draft pick.
“I should be careful about saying that I started ahead of Ziggy,” Manumaleuna joked, although it is true.
While Hague has fully recovered and is participating in all the contact drills and team sessions possible, Manumaleuna is taking it more slowly.
“I have been limited,” he said. “I have just been doing a lot of individual stuff. No team, no one-on-one yet.”
Justin Sorensen is expected to handle the kicking chores again this season, but if the senior struggles again or experiences more problems with his surgically repaired back, the Cougars have a backup plan. Tyler Jackson, a transfer from Itawamba Community College (Miss.), is in camp and already showing off an impressive leg.
“Really good height on his ball,” Sorensen said of the sophomore. “It is great to have him here, because we are kinda weird. We are the only ones who understand a lot of kicker things.”
Jackson was called on to kick a 47-yard field goal as Wednesday’s practice wrapped up, but was wide left.
Mendenhall said projected starting LB Spencer Hadley had offseason shoulder surgery (torn labrum) and is not participating in contact drills at spring camp. … The offense got five possessions in team sessions at the end of practice. Sophomore Taysom Hill was the QB in three of those; Ammon Olsen and Christian Stewart got one apiece. Another QB, Jason Munns, suffered a concussion last week and was held out of contact Wednesday.