Provo • Coach Bronco Mendenhall lightened BYU's practice Wednesday morning, focusing mainly on individual drills and keeping hitting to a minimum. The Cougars didn't even conduct their usual 11-on-11 scrimmage to end the practice.
A wave of injuries will do that to a coach.
"Injuries, fatigue, just general reasons," Mendenhall said. "I thought we started to lose some momentum in camp."
Certainly, the Cougars are losing players.
The latest hit was freshman Dallin Leavitt, who was in a battle to be the starter at boundary corner. Leavitt suffered a strained hip flexor in Tuesday's practice. He will be out for about seven days, Mendenhall said.
Monday, BYU announced that field corner Jordan Johnson, who started in 12 games last year, is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL while returning a kick.
"Planted his foot funny, leg buckled a little bit, and that was all it took," Mendenhall said.
Freshman Tuni Kanuch, who was in a battle with juco transfer Marques Johnson to replace Romney Fuga as the starting nose tackle, is also out for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle in his chest.
Kanuch tore the pec a few days ago, and continue to practice, but his strength never came back.
"So his pain threshold is high," Mendenhall said.
Thornton makes switch
Sophomore receiver Eric Thornton, who was having an outstanding camp playing out of the slot, has been moved to the defensive side of the ball and will play field cornerback, the position the injured Johnson played.
Although Thornton did not play the position in high school, secondary coach Nick Howell said he was chosen because he is quick enough and fast enough to play the position.
"When I look down the roster and we are thinking about creating depth right there, I am thinking two guys Jamaal Williams and Eric Thornton as far as the quick twitch, change direction, recovery, speed [guys] who can actually play that position. The best move for our team is to move Eric over there when you have got depth with JD [Falslev] there and other guys in the slot."
Howell acknowledged with a laugh that when he mentioned Williams, the sophomore running back, as a possibility to the offensive coaches, it was not well received.
Thornton, from Renton, Wash., said he didn't hesitate when he was asked to switch.
"But I was definitely surprised," he said.
Mendenhall said another juco cornerback, Sam Lee, suffered a back injury during summer conditioning sessions and has yet to practice. "It could be where he is ready for the first game, or possibly [not back] until as late at Game 3." ... Running back Adam Hine will get more reps as a returner in Johnson's absence, and Falslev and Cody Hoffman could also be used to return kicks, Mendenhall said.