San Francisco • Everyone knows that BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy and receiver Cody Hoffman are receiving plenty of attention from NFL scouts as they prepare to play their final games as Cougars on Friday in the Fight Hunger Bowl (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
But what about the other BYU seniors? Who else has a chance to play professional football?
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that “a lot of NFL people love” safety Daniel Sorensen (who will play in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Jan. 18).
Inside linebacker Uani Unga, defensive tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna and linebacker Spencer Hadley are also getting some attention, Mendenhall said.
Then he brought up a name that might surprise those who have followed BYU closely this season: Kaneakua Friel.
“There are a lot of teams that like how he looks at tight end,” Mendenhall said. “He’s been under the radar, but the amount of attention he is getting has been interesting. That has sustained it from the beginning of the year all the way until now.”
Mendenhall said there might be a few others, but those half-dozen are receiving the most attention right now.
Of course, Van Noy is likely to be the first Cougar drafted in April. But Mendenhall isn’t predicting when the two-time All-American will be taken.
“Man, I have never guessed right on that,” Mendenhall said. “Man, how do you know? I just know he will have an opportunity, and I just hope it is with the right team that needs him and wants him and that will treat him well. That’s all I could hope for any of our players.”
The father of Washington interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo, Manu, was a teammate of BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe on the San Franscisco 49ers team that won Super Bowl XIX in 1985 over the Miami Dolphins.
Manu was a starting defensive lineman and Holmoe a defensive back on the team that also included former Cougars Bill Ring and Todd Shell and ex-Ute Carl Monroe.
Manu Tuiasosopo and the father of Manumaleuna grew up together and are close friends.
Holmoe has been in the Bay Area with the team all week, but he wasn’t able to attend the 49ers’ final regular-season game at Candlestick Park on Monday because he had a bowl function at a restaurant across the street from AT&T Park.
Still, Mendenhall said the athletic director was enjoying his return to San Francisco and was also making sure the BYU coaches were doing the same.
“I am sure it is a great experience for him to reconnect, and come back to San Francisco,” Mendenhall said. “I am sure there are a lot of fond, fond memories. Tom treats our coaches really, really well, not only in terms of great incentives, but making the bowl experience great for them. I just express gratitude to him for that. He makes it a meaningful and worthwhile experience to achieve postseason play, and so not only is my job to help us qualify, but he does a really nice job of making us feel special once we do that.”
Um, no comment
Mendenhall usually takes every question head on, and rarely opts to decline comment.
When he was asked Monday if he knows new Utah offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, Mendenhall said he has met the former Wyoming head coach on several occasions and went head-to-head with Christensen before the Cougars left the Mountain West Conference.
He said he knows Christensen, but not well.
Asked for his take on Utah coach Kyle Whittingham making another offensive coordinator change, Mendenhall said: “I don’t know if I could share a take on that.”