My plan yesterday was to write an article for Tuesday's newspaper about BYU's tenuous situation at boundary corner, which is why I asked coach Bronco Mendenhall about it after practice on Monday. I planned on including only a sentence or two about the field corner spot, because returning starter Jordan Johnson has had that spot wrapped up for more than a year.
Of course, that all changed a few hours later, as a BYU spokesperson confirmed rumors that Johnson had indeed torn his ACL that morning. An MRI revealed the tear, and Johnson has been lost for the season, as this article explains. Of note, two sources told me last night that Johnson suffered the injury while returning a kick. There was no contact on the play. He simply planted his foot wrong, and the injury happened.
It should also be noted that -- contrary to my initial report on Twitter -- Johnson probably won't get this year back and most likely won't get two more seasons to play at BYU.
That's because he redshirted his first year in the program, 2010, and it was not due to injury.
In order to get a sixth year, a player must miss two seasons due to injury or other uncontrollable circumstance. If Johnson were to get hurt next year, then BYU could petition the NCAA for a sixth year, because then he would have missed two participation opportunities.
Of course, there was other BYU news on Monday. Here's a notebook recapping some of that.
Mendenhall and defensive backs coach Nick Howell will undoubtedly discuss the cornerback situation the next media availability period, which is after Wednesday morning's practice. Here's what Mendenhall said Monday morning when I asked him how the boundary corners performed on Saturday:
"One player that is battling really, really hard and emerging is Dallin Leavitt, a true freshman. His expectations for playing time, and his expectations for himself are very high. It would be like [he was] maybe an existing junior in the program, expecting to have that role. And so he had a really strong day.
We love Rob Daniel as well at corner. So those two have really done a nice job. Mike Hague is ahead of schedule even though he didn't play in the scrimmage, and Skye PoVey as well.
So two players [Hague and PoVey] we weren't sure would be back, or how long, I think we are going to get both of them back, which is great. Other than that, I think more depth, still [is needed].
I think Rob Daniel could possibly start at boundary corner. However, he could also spell Jordan Johnson at field corner, i think that's a big help."
Now it appears that Daniel is the favorite to replace Johnson. Adam Hogan, a senior who walked on from Southwest (Los Angeles) Community College a year ago, will battle with Daniel for that spot; he was listed as Johnson's backup coming out of spring camp.
By the way, Mendenhall went on to say Monday that if the season started that day, Daniel would have gotten the starting nod over Leavitt.
"Dallin then would be the next guy in, or possibly [play] the nickel. So if there is a difference, it is not much. Rob has a little bit better top-end speed. That's the only difference at this point."
Mendenhall said that Howell's comparison of Leavitt to former BYU receiving great Austin Collie was spot on, in terms of attitude and work ethic.
"That is a great analogy. Different body type, but very similar [work ethic, football knowledge]," Mendenhall said.
I spoke to Howell last Thursday at the now-infamous BYU photo day. He said that contrary to what has been reported, juco cornerback Trenton Trammell most likely would have been a field corner and not a boundary corner. Of course, Trammell blew out his ACL the first day of spring camp.
"Everyone kinda said [Trammell would have started at boundary] but we recruited three JC corners. I mean, I see Trent as a field corner all the way. He is like Jordan Johnson -- he is lean, super-athletic, so that's what I thought," Howell said. "I think Sam [Lee] is a boundary corner. Physical. Tough. I think he can also play the field but all three of those guys -- Rob, Sam and Trent -- probably have the ability to play both, but I see Trent more as a field guy."
Another defensive back who fans may have forgotten about is Trevor Bateman, a sophomore/returned missionary from Palm Desert, Calif.
"He's a corner. He can play both sides. Trevor is really athletic. He is just coming off knee surgery, and we are bringing him back slowly," Howell said. "He is doing a nice job so far. Had knee surgery a year ago. He is just building confidence. He is going to be a good player for us."
In the practices I've viewed, the secondary doesn't seem to be as wed to the boundary corner-field corner system as much as it was before. In many cases, the corners have stayed put before each play.
"That's just because of the tempo [of BYU's offense]. When we are playing regular games, it will be based on the opponent we are playing. Because there is definitely a difference," Howell said. "The field corner needs to be on his own. The boundary corner needs to show up in the run game more. So it is kind of going to be what we feel is best for the opponent that we are playing. I am trying to teach them all both right now, and they are learning well. So it is good."
Speaking of Howell's reference to Collie when discussing Leavitt, here's what he said Thursday:
"Dallin's a good athlete. He's tough. He lives for football, and that's what I meant. I think he's really good. The comparison was that he came to BYU, and his dad played at BYU, just like Austin. He came in super-prepared mentally. He's not afraid of anybody or anything. So that was kind of my comparison right there."
What about the safeties? Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills seemingly have the spots locked up.
"I think so, but I also think there are guys that are pushing them," Howell said. "So I wouldn't say set all the way. I mean, I think there are guys fighting for time out there, so I do feel comfortable there. But there are other guys that can help us. ... I think Skye [PoVey] is playing really well. He's had a great camp. I think Blake Morgan has had a great camp. I think Drew Reilly is coming along. Kai Nacua has a lot of potential. Michael Wadsworth, I would include him in there, too."
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