This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • Every year, it seems like there is always an injury du jour afflicting the BYU football team.
One year, it was torn labrums and other shoulder injuries. Another year, several players were sidelined by foot injuries, such as plantar fasciitis or Lisfranc fractures or dislocations.
This season, it is sprained ankles.
"At one point, we had 10 [sprained ankles], and that number has gone up," coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday as the injury-riddled Cougars (4-2) prepared for Saturday's 8:15 p.m. game against Nevada (3-3) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Running backs Jamaal Williams and Adam Hine, safety Dallin Leavitt, linebacker Alani Fua and offensive lineman Brayden Kearsley are all likely to miss the game with ankle sprains. Some are more severe than others.
"They have happened mostly in games," Mendenhall said. "Trainers are researching it, trying to find what the answer is. But really, there's not much commonality other than most of them being rolled up on by someone else. Very few of them out in the open."
Although it hasn't made new head athletic trainer Steve Pincock available for interviews this season (mostly due to Pincock's reticence), BYU generally divulges and discusses injuries more openly than most schools. The consensus is that the sprained ankle epidemic is just one of those coincidences that can't be explained.
"Mostly bad luck," is Mendenhall's guess.
Offensive lineman Solomone Kafu sprained his ankle in the final preseason camp scrimmage and missed the first few games and fellow blocker Brayden Kearsley went down with one the last series against UConn and has battled the ailment off and one ever since. It worsened against Utah State. Running back Algernon Brown and linebacker Bronson Kaufusi suffered them against Texas and missed the next two games.
Receiver Jordan Leslie sprained his ankle trying to catch an off-target pass from Taysom Hill against Virginia, but didn't miss a game because the Cougars had a bye the following week. Still, it was wrapped heavily for Wednesday's practice.
"It is kinda like a day-to-day thing. I feel better every day. So I kinda work through it. No one is 100 percent in college football," Leslie said. "So you just got to push through it. I have never missed a game, and I never plan on missing one."
Whatever the reason, the Cougars probably lead the country in ankle twists and sprains, so much so that they have inspired some dark humor amongst the players.
"We kinda joke around about them," said Brown, the running back. "We say we are the ankle crew, just in the training room, all the time. It is pretty funny."
It is not a laughing matter to defensive coordinator Nick Howell, who has had to shuffle his starting lineup in almost every game this season due to the nagging sprains.
"We have had our share of ankle injuries," Howell acknowledged. "It is crazy."
Freshman linebacker Fred Warner, who played the entire game against Central Florida because Fua couldn't go, called the situation "a little freaky" and something he's never seen before.
"We've been talking about that," Warner said. "I don't know what it is. It must be the cleats, or maybe the tape jobs, or just guys not having strong enough ankles. … But it has hurt us a lot with some of these guys that missed games. It is just something we are trying to fix, I guess."
BYU players who have suffered sprained ankles in 2014:
Jamaal Williams RB
Algernon Brown RB
Adam Hine RB
Dallin Leavitt S
Alani Fua LB
Bronson Kaufusi LB
Jordan Leslie WR
Brayden Kearsley OL
Ryker Mathews OL
De'Ondre Wesley OL
Solomone Kafu OL
Nevada at BYU
O Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPN2