Provo • BYU’s football program will honor 18 players Saturday before they play their final home game of the season, against the UMass Minutemen.
Linebacker Fred Warner and offensive lineman Tejan Koroma, ironmen who have combined to play in 96 games — 47 for Warner and 49 for Koroma — are definitely the faces of this senior class and the players with the best prospects of making it to the NFL.
“Those two, they are the hardest-working and best leaders of our class,” said fellow senior Kesni Tausinga, a defensive lineman. “It was awesome to go four years through BYU with those guys.”
Warner and Koroma are the only members of the 2014 signing class who are in their final seasons at BYU, having taken the traditional route without redshirting or going on a mission.
The other 16 who will be honored before the 1 p.m. MST kickoff at LaVell Edwards Stadium either signed in earlier years and went on church missions, or are junior college transfers or transfers from other four-year programs.
UMass at BYU
When • Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Obviously, this is not how Warner pictured going out, the Cougars sitting at 3-8 and not going to a bowl for the first time since 2004, he said Monday.
“It hasn’t been the season that I wanted or that the fans wanted, but hopefully we can get a pretty good turnout for the last home game,” Warner said. “I am sure there will be some emotion for me. I am excited.”
Koroma, who will be making his 50th career start, has chosen to not do interviews with reporters not affiliated with BYU the past two seasons, despite being a team captain in 2017. He told BYUtv his final home game “will be crazy” and emotional.
“These four years have gone by really fast,” he told the station owned by the school. “I am excited to be with my teammates, but it is also a sad time.”
Warner, who was Bronco Mendenhall’s prized recruit in 2014 and a four-star prospect from the San Diego area, picked the Cougars over USC, Washington and several other national powers. He said he has no regrets, even after captaining a team his final season that will post its first losing record since 2004.
“It has been a long journey, but a good one,” Warner said. “There have been some highs and there have been some lows. But you can’t really enjoy the good times unless you’ve faced some adversity. You never think you are going to have a coaching change, and we did. You never think we will have the season we have had this year, but we did. And I think we are making the most of it. We are coming out every week and we are still playing hard. I wouldn’t take it back for anything.”
Other seniors who will start on Saturday after receiving their senior blankets include safety Micah Hannemann, offensive linemen Tuni Kanuch and Keyan Norman, receiver Jonah Trinnaman, punter Jonny Linehan and defensive linemen Tausinga and Handsome Tanielu.
Linebackers Grant Jones and Matt Hadley were starters before suffering season-ending injuries; Hadley will be honored although BYU has petitioned the NCAA to get his season back due to a medical hardship.
“It hasn’t been the best of years for them, with wins and losses, but they have done a great job of keeping the team together and leading by example and staying with it,” offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said. “It would have been easy for those guys to shut it down and go through the motions, but not a one of them has done that. They will be missed.”
Norman, who transferred from SUU and played his final two seasons at BYU, said he will take a month off after the season to ponder his future and whether he wants to make a run at the NFL. He might put his plans to enter law school next fall on the back burner.
So, counselor, what went wrong in 2017?
“We have had a mix of bad play, injuries, and just plain bad luck,” Norman said. “That’s how football goes sometimes — things just don’t go your way.”