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BYU football: Recovering Riley Nelson on track to play against Hawaii

Published November 29, 2011 11:02 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said after practice Tuesday that a CT scan came back clean and that it will pretty much be junior quarterback Riley Nelson's decision whether he plays or not on Saturday against Hawaii (5:30 p.m. MST, ESPN2).

So count on Nelson playing.

"I want to take advantage [of every opportunity to play]," Nelson said. "So if there is even a chance I can play, and the coaches believe I give us the best chance to win, I want to take advantage of that, and I want to be on the field. "

Head athletic trainer Kevin Morris was a bit more tentative than Mendenhall or Nelson, saying he wants to see Nelson continue to progress and perform some tasks such as weightlifting to make sure he's totally ready.

"I still think we want to see some things, but the way he is progressing, I think it looks really good [that Nelson will play]," Morris said.

The training staff has ordered a "custom-made shirt" to give Nelson's chest and lungs some protection and it will be delivered to Hawaii by Saturday. Asked if he could play today if he had to, Nelson said, "with some injections and medicine, yeah, I think so."

Mendenhall said Cougar coaches "are practicing [Nelson] like he's the starter. Jake [Heaps] is still getting plenty of work, but if Riley is able to play, we will play him."

Nelson acknowledged he's not 100 percent healthy, but said that doesn't bother him.

"Not quite, but at this point in the season, this is game 12, I don't think anyone is. So I am no better [off] than anyone else," Nelson said. "Guys on our defense are playing at 70 [percent] right now, but they don't tell anybody."

Thin at tight end

The Cougars have lost three tight ends to season-ending injuries — Austin Holt, Devin Mahina and Richard Wilson — so they are naturally thin at the position, but Mendenhall said they should be OK this weekend barring another setback.

"Kaneakua Friel will take the majority of the share of regular tight end [reps]," he said. "Marcus Mathews will take the majority of the flex tight end reps."

Briefly

Morris said the bye week gave the Cougars a chance to heal up and that Nelson's injury is the only significant one that could keep someone from playing. He said offensive lineman Houston Reynolds (torn labrum) has been practicing and will play. … Mendenhall said he's followed the Conference USA race a little bit to get an idea which C-USA team the Cougars will face in the bowl game, but said he doesn't have a preference which team that is. … The Cougars will practice in Provo again Wednesday, then board a flight for Hawaii early Wednesday evening.

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay