Provo • There was legitimate concern among BYU football followers before fall camp began about one of the two cornerback positions, especially after highly regarded junior college transfer Trenton Trammell went down early in spring camp with a knee injury that will cause him to miss the 2013 season.
Well, preseason camp started on Saturday for BYU, and those concerns just got worse. A lot worse.
Another junior college transfer, Sam Lee, injured his back earlier this summer and likely will miss all of camp, coach Bronco Mendenhall said, calling Lee “an early-season return ... we just don’t know how early.”
Junior Jordan Johnson returns as the starting field corner, and the Cougars are fine there as long as he stays healthy. Senior Mike Hague was listed as the starting boundary corner coming out of spring, but Mendenhall said he’s been slow to recover from the calf injury that sidelined him last season and probably won’t be ready for the opener on Aug. 31 at Virginia.
“He’s ahead of schedule, but I don’t know what his estimated return is,” Mendenhall said.
Another possible contributor at cornerback, Trevor Bateman, has also been slowed by offseason ACL surgery.
True freshman Dallin Leavitt ran with the ones at boundary corner on Saturday, and senior Skye PoVey also saw some time there. Mendenhall said he was “really impressed” with Leavitt’s play, along with the play of juco transfer Robertson Daniel.
Last year’s starting boundary corner, Preston Hadley, was on the practice field Saturday — but as a student assistant coach, having used up all his eligibility.
The lack of depth there “is a concern,” Mendenhall said.
Overall, Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae said they were pleased with how the first practice went, especially with the conditioning level of most of the players who got a taste of it last spring.
“Yeah, it was a long, hard practice. It is nice to have some more bodies and more depth than we had in the spring,” Mendenhall said. “And I was impressed that they could sustain the pace. The execution wasn’t as clean as I would have liked. But I thought their conditioning looked strong.”
A lot of time was spent on conditioning, but there was still time for Anae to roll out his up-tempo offense, with sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill directing the first-teamers, as expected. Hill was intercepted by Daniel Sorensen, but also threw a 50-yard pass to Skyler Ridley.
“Boy, Taysom has done his work,” Anae said. “His body, it is a machine. Man, that guy looks like an NFL safety. Conditioning test was no problem. He’s fast, he’s mobile, and has a nice little touch on the ball.”
Hill wore a bulky brace on his surgically repaired left knee, and said the plan is to wear it during every practice this season.
“For a first day, we made a lot of plays,” Hill said. “We made some mistakes, too. .. But as a whole, I was pleased, and am looking forward to getting back out there Monday and improving.”
All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy also just watched practice the first day and did some mild conditioning work and stretching on the sidelines. Van Noy had what Mendenhall called “a slight hamstring tweak” prior to camp and will be eased into live action.
“Possibly two weeks from now we will ramp him up, give him possibly the last week of camp and game week and he should be ready,” Mendenhall said. “But the risk versus return right now — hamstrings take a long time [to heal], and I would rather not make it worse, if possible.”
Senior running back Mike Alisa watched as well, a noncontact cast on his broken arm.
“Mike is expected to be able to play for the Virginia game,” Mendenhall said. “Two more weeks with noncontact cast on, and then he will be ready to go.”
O Receivers Skyler Ridley and Mitch Mathews impressed with some nice catches.
• Linebacker Kyle Van Noy tweaked a hamstring in offseason conditioning work and did not participate.