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PROVO -- BYU junior quarterback Riley Nelson will have season-ending surgery to repair a shoulder injury suffered Saturday during the Florida State game.
An MRI revealed the need for surgery on Nelson's non-throwing shoulder. The anticipated recovery time is four to five months.
"We will miss Riley's leadership, toughness and playmaking ability," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We lose experience, we lose leadership, and we lose another option at QB that we were going to continue -- to keep playing two and shift a lot more of the critical repetitions and situations to Riley."
"Unfortunately," Mendenhall added, "injuries are part of football. Riley is a great young man and we will look forward to his return."
Nelson, who transferred from Utah State, started each of BYU's first three games while sharing time with true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps. Nelson has completed 20-of-40 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns while adding 148 yards and one touchdown on 31 rushing attempts.
After playing the majority of the game against Air Force, Nelson didn't return against the Seminoles after throwing a second quarter interception. He finished 1-4 passing for one yard; he also rushed three times for eight yards.
"It's never fun to be injured," Nelson said. "I'm getting it taken care of as soon as possible so I can start my recovery and be back to help the team in the future."
Meanwhile, Tuesday's practice marked the first this season where Cougar players knew who their leader and starting quarterback is and will continue to be.
"I came here to hopefully be the guy and hopefully, when the time was right, lead the team," Heaps said. "Right now it happened; and it was unfortunate circumstances, but it's an exciting opportunity for me and I'm going to work as hard as I can, and it means a lot to me."
Mendenhall said he is ready to see what Heaps can do and promised his team would make the quarterback transition a positive one.
"We've always liked Jake's talent and the potential there," Mendenhall said. "I like two options, and I was hoping to continue a compliment of some sort along the way, but now there is one."
When Heaps takes the field Saturday against Nevada, he will be the first freshman to start at BYU since John Beck in 2003.
"It's a special opportunity, and one that I am so grateful for," Heaps said. "I'm not going to take it very lightly at all. This means a lot to me."