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Having missed one game and most of another with an injury to his ribs and lung, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson is on pace to make his return this Saturday at Hawaii.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said after Tuesday's practice that "we are practicing Riley like he is the starter," although he has not yet been officially cleared to play.
"If he feels like he's ready," said Mendenhall, "then I'll support that."
The first step toward playing versus Hawaii was being cleared to fly, and Nelson had earlier received that clearance. The second step was a Monday CT scan to ensure that Nelson's injury is healing properly.
"His results were clean," Mendenhall said Tuesday. "They're recommending that most take four weeks to recover, but based on how he feels on game day, if he feels like he can play then we will play him."
Nelson hasn't played since leaving early in a Nov. 12 home win over Idaho, but he says he feels healthy enough to return to action.
"At this point in the season I don't think anybody is (100 percent healthy)," said Nelson.
When asked if he could play if the game were on Wednesday, Nelson said, "with hopefully some injections and medicine, yeah, I think so."
Head Trainer Kevin Morris told reporters that BYU has custom ordered a special protective shirt/vest for Nelson in case he plays. The equipment will be shipped directly to Hawaii.
With only one remaining year of eligibility, Riley Nelson wants to capitalize on every opportunity to play competitive football.
"The reality of it is I have two games left this season and then our season next year, then I'm probably done with football," said Nelson. "Any opportunity I have to strap it on and go out there and play and have fun, I'm going to take advantage of."
Mendenhall noted that sophomore QB Jake Heaps is still getting "plenty of work" as both signal-callers are being prepared to play at Aloha Stadium.
"Jake is a good guy and really mature for his age. He's doing well, it's not a fun thing. I've been through it," said Nelson. "It's not fun, it's not all smiles, sunshine, and rainbows, but his work ethic has stayed consistent and he is getting better as a player and his mindset is right where it needs to be."
Running back Joshua "Juice" Quezada has returned to the team after spending time with his family in California following the death of an older brother in an automobile accident.
"I check with him every day and he's recovering," Mendenhall said. "His family is still grieving; it's hard to lose a brother. Our team is doing the best they can to surround Juice but it's not easy and it's going to take time."
Mendenhall told reporters that Quezada has been practicing with the team and will travel to Hawaii.
About the Warriors' defense, Nelson said "they're very good, very physical up front and intense. They fly around, their aggressiveness gets them in trouble a little bit, in that, every once in a while a team will find a wide open guy. We're hoping to take advantage of those opportunities."