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Bronco Mendenhall revealed at his Monday morning press conference that a "significant" hamstring injury suffered by WR McKay Jacobson will put him on the sidelines for the next four to six weeks.
We were previously told Jacobson had a hamstring "tighten up" last Friday night before the Utah State game, but Bronco says an MRI later revealed a hamstring pull suffered during pregame stretching, "way, way up high, at the origin part of the muscle."
Mendenhall said it was "pretty rare" for this injury to happen during stretching, and that it was "different" from the hamstring injury Jacobson suffered during spring ball.
Without Jacobson, Bronco said to look for Brett Thompson to be the next receiver in, behind Luke Ashworth at "Z." Spencer Hafoka is already playing behind O'Neill Chambers at "X."
Chambers is the new #1 punt returner, while he and J.J. DiLuigi are the new #1 kickoff return tandem.
Mendenhall added that a fifth wide receiver would be special teams regular B.J. Peterson.
You can hear all of Bronco's comments by clicking on his audio link in the "Cougar Cuts" box to the right. You can also access group interviews with Matt Reynolds, Manase Tonga, Romney Fuga and Terrance Hooks.
Mendenhall identified BYU's return game (KOR: 100th nationally; PR: 76th nationally) as one of three areas in which BYU needs to improve to go from a "solid" team, to a "great" team.
He said the other two areas are ball security (15 turnovers, -6 margin; 106th nationally) and third down defense (45% allowed; 104th nationally).
The coach said he anticipated that UNLV would have an "increased urgency" at home this week v. BYU, following the Rebels' 63-28 loss at Nevada last Saturday. He likened UNLV's inability to stop the run in Reno to his experience as New Mexico's defensive coordinator when facing Air Force for the first time.
Bronco said he thought the Rebels would feel "they can compete well with" BYU, after the way UNLV played the Cougars last year in Provo. In referencing UNLV's game with Nevada, Bronco brought up BYU's game with Florida State, to point out a game that was "out of character."
We knew that CB Robbie Buckner started at field corner versus Utah State because first-stringer Brian Logan was late for a walk-through last week. Today Bronco told us that Corby Eason was also late for the same walk-through, meaning Robbie Buckner was the only field corner eligible to make the start versus Utah State.
As BYU hasn't attempted a field goal since the Tulane game, I asked about the coach's comfort level with that phase of the game, lacking recent actual game experience to test Mitch Payne's abilities. Bronco said the kicking is "much improved" from the end of fall camp, through each successive week of practice. He says Payne is "more and more and more" consistent, and Bronco "wouldn't hesitate all to put him out there and kick right now." He says "Mitch is certainly capable, and the team knows that."
Mendenhall talked about Max Hall's "aggression and competitive spirit" being a strength, and one of the reasons BYU has won so many games with him at quarterback. He says those same qualities "if remaining unchecked," can also result in unwise decisions. The coach says he has no issues with Max taking risks, "as long as they are educated and calculated risks." Bronco says the coaches' job is to "educate," and to "have any stronger hand in it than that" would "carry over" into the other things Max is "doing great" right now, and he doesn't want to do that.
Relative to criticism of the more visible positions in the program (head coach, quarterback and cornerback, to name three), Mendenhall says the "level of criticism usually matches the level of education," so he's learned "not to take it personal, and has "tried to help Max do the same." Bronco acknowledged that considering BYU's visibility and expectations, criticism will always be there.
Bronco noted that Hall wanted a 10-yard race with Riley Nelson for the right to run BYU's quarterback draw package that the Cougars instituted with Nelson during the Utah State game. Bronco says he stepped in to prevent said race from happening.
I spoke with Bronco on this morning's "Coach's Corner" on KSL Newsradio, and informed him of Austin Collie's touchdown catch for the Colts on Sunday. Bronco then went on to talk about the Colts happiness with Collie, former BYU safety Aaron Francisco and even their past history with ex-Cougar Rob Morris. You can hear the "Coach's Corner" interview in "Cougar Cuts."
At the press conference, when told by someone else that Collie and Bryan Kehl (Giants) had played well Sunday, and when asked how much he is able to stay up on their careers, Bronco said "not at all," and said he "didn't know" they had played well. He did say he is "glad to hear they are doing well."
I was going to write the BYU has now been ranked in the Top 25 for 26 consecutive weeks. Before I could do so, Cougar fan Paul Pocock e-mailed me to kindly inform that the streak is actually at 27 games.
The streak is the 6th longest current AP poll run in college football trailing only:
Oklahoma-56 consecutive weeks
Not bad company...