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Provo • Lest any BYU football player isn't sure what the Cougars are up against Friday when rejuvenated Utah State romps into LaVell Edwards Stadium, they have an Aggie expert on their roster.
That would be quarterback Riley Nelson, the former USU star and Cache Valley native who still isn't sure whether he will be able to play in the 8:15 p.m. contest or not, due to lingering back pain.
Nelson and freshman Taysom Hill split the first-team reps in practice Tuesday, Hill said, and coach Bronco Mendenhall said Nelson did "probably double what I expected him to get … so it is moving in the right direction. Still too early to call, as to whether he will be ready or not."
As for the matchup with the Aggies, Nelson said he can't speak highly enough of USU coach Gary Andersen.
"Having been there during a 1-11 season, and then watching the turnaround that he's made, it is absolutely breathtaking and amazing to me," Nelson said.
Nelson is so familiar, and friendly, with the Aggies that he attended their bowl game in Boise, Idaho, last year against Ohio. His younger brother, D.J., signed with USU but is currently on a church mission. Riley Nelson said Monday that he has witnessed firsthand BYU's changed attitude regarding Utah State.
"I grew up with an Aggie perspective, then came down here to BYU where they didn't pay much attention to the Aggies," he said. "It was a rivalry for [USU], and then I come down here and find out it wasn't so much for [BYU]. Now, the Aggies have caused us Cougars to perk up and pay attention, and not just pay attention, but expect a dogfight.
"And if we don't play our best game, we are going to get beat, so it is exciting," Nelson continued. "Like I said earlier, those are the opportunities and the games you look forward to when playing college football."
Nelson said he desperately wants to play, but not just because it is his former school and hometown team.
"Mostly because it is a quality opponent on a big stage," he said. "They are 4-1 and a missed field goal from being 5-0, so those are the opportunities you look for, being on ESPN and it being an instate game, and all the things that come along with it."
The Cougars didn't attempt a field goal against Hawaii last week, but after Riley Stephenson had a PAT blocked and missed left on another, Justin Sorensen kicked the final PAT. Mendenhall said Monday that Stephenson will continue to be the "short" kicker.
"Basically, long field goals, I am talking 35 [yards] and out, really long ones, would go to Justin Sorensen," Mendenhall said. "Most likely anything from there in would be Riley [Stephenson]. And then Riley is our punter and Justin is our kickoff guy. So that's kind of where we are."
Counting on the corners
Adam Hogan, a walk-on junior college transfer, saw some action at cornerback last week, but still hasn't cracked the two-deep, as Micah Hannemann is still listed as Jordan Johnson's backup at field corner and Robbie Buckner is still listed as Preston Hadley's backup at boundary corner.
"Kind of a three-way mix I would say between Micah Hanneman, Adam Hogan, and Robbie Buckner," Mendenhall said. "All three are even."
Mendenhall said safety Mike Hague, who has a torn calf muscle, is doubtful to play Friday. Also, linebacker Zac Stout reaggravated an Achilles tendon injury in workouts Monday and is questionable for the game. … With Austin Holt redshirting this season, Marcus Mathews has been moved back to the tight end position. He has been playing receiver.