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LB Francis Bernard reportedly 'moving forward' with plans to leave BYU

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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PROVO — BYU linebacker Francis Bernard is on track to leave the university, defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said Monday during his weekly radio show.

Head coach Kalani Sitake did not confirm Tuiaki's alleged statement, which was made during his "Coordinators Corner" show on ESPN 960 in Utah County. But the head coach did suggest that transferring away from BYU remains an option for Bernard.

“There are a lot of options that are still out there," Sitake said during his weekly press briefing Monday. "There are some things that have been premature that haven’t been decided yet. All I can tell you is that we love Francis and want what is best for him. It’s his decision, and we are here to help him.”

Meanwhile, across town in Provo, Tuiaki alluded to Bernard's transfer.

“He’s going to leave, but I don’t know where he is going to go," Tuiaki told BYU Football broadcaster Greg Wrubell. "We give him our advice, and he just has to make the decision for what is best for him."

Added Tuiaki, “What you want with a kid like that when he is leaving is to treat him like your son. I don’t think anything is finalized yet, but he’s moving forward with his decision.”

A BYU football spokesman clarified Tuiaki's comment, telling KSL Sports that "no decision has been made at this point."

Bernard was on campus Monday, attending practice in the Cougars' Indoor Practice Facility in street clothes and even stepping outside to watch Monday's eclipse with associate athletic director Chad Lewis. The junior linebacker was not made available to comment on his situation.

Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer added that Bernard and his family are still "figuring out" his current decision, and no official decision has been made yet.

“He’s trying to figure out what is best for him, and we all want what is best for him," Detmer said of Bernard. "I haven’t heard anything official around the office, but there is a lot of thought that goes into redshirting and not playing for a year.

“We want what is best for him; I think BYU is best for him, but we are in the figuring out process with him and his family.”

While not addressing any situation specifically, BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum said the team "wants what is best" for all players — including those who elect to transfer.

"We spend so much time together, and we’re all super close. It’s a brotherhood," Mangum said. "We want all of our teammates to be happy, and what is best for them.

“Regardless of the situation, we want them to know that we are here for them.

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior from Herriman High had previously agreed to take a redshirt season last Thursday when the school announced he would return in 2018. Those plans reportedly changed as multiple media reports over the weekend alluded to a further schism within the BYU locker room.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported late Friday night that Bernard had requested a release from his scholarship so that he could transfer to Utah, according to Bernard's older brother, James H. Bernard Jr. The former Utah walk-on who finished his college career at Winston-Salem State in North Carolina also took to Twitter to blast BYU, its athletic department and the Honor Code Office for its handling of his younger brother's situation.

A source within the BYU athletic department told the Deseret News on Saturday that the Bernard family was blowing off steam at the situation.


"Francis is contemplating some options about his future right now but, at this point, it's premature regarding a decision," a BYU football spokesman told the Deseret News at the time.

Bernard, who finished third on the team with 80 tackles in 2016 despite sitting out the Poinsettia Bowl against Wyoming, has two seasons of collegiate eligibility remaining. He played briefly as a running back upon returning from a two-year mission for the LDS Church in Atlanta in 2015, then moved to linebacker during spring football camp prior to the 2016 season.

Because of his age and eligibility, Bernard could also be eligible for next April's NFL draft following the 2016 season. He has a redshirt available, which it was initially thought he would use for "personal reasons" in 2017.


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