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Provo • BYU will honor 18 players on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium prior to the Cougars' final home game of the 2015 season, but that doesn't necessarily mean all 18 of those players will be playing the final home games of their college careers.
At least two players listed as seniors on the BYU roster quarterback Taysom Hill and defensive tackle Logan Taele are expected to be eligible for another season of competition if they choose to take it. Hill is on the list of players who will be honored, while Taele is not, perhaps meaning that Taele plans to return. A BYU news release said "we still don't know on Taysom, but [are] planning on honoring him either way."
No offense to Taele, a former walk-on linebacker who was once cut from the squad before he added weight and muscle and returned as a defensive lineman, but the most impactful decision belongs to Hill. The quarterback began the season as a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate, but suffered a season-ending Lisfranc sprain in his foot against Nebraska and is still reportedly trying to decide whether to return to BYU, transfer to another school using the NCAA's graduate-transfer eligibility exception, give up football completely and begin a career in corporate finance, or throw his name into April's NFL Draft.
Hill has not spoken publicly about his decision in more than a month. He said in September he was still undecided. Monday, coach Bronco Mendenhall reiterated that he doesn't plan to talk to Hill about it "until the end of the year."
Mendenhall said, half-jokingly, that when a player is in doubt, the school has no problem awarding him a senior blanket the final home game of the year and another one the next year if he returns, and will let him keep both.
Wednesday, quarterbacks coach Jason Beck said that Hill has remained involved in the program by attending practices and games and providing encouragement and feedback to the three freshmen quarterbacks in the program: Tanner Mangum, Beau Hoge and Koy Detmer Jr.
"I just approach [Saturday] as the normal Senior Day experience for him, and then if he comes back, it is kind of like Christmas," Beck said. "So we will see how that goes. We want it to be a special day for him and acknowledge what he has done for the program."
Beck said he doesn't know what Hill will do.
"If you guys hear before I do, let me know," he quipped to reporters as he walked away from a group interview.
Hill's decision will have a big impact on Mangum, who has gone 6-3 as a starter since taking over for Hill in the eventual 33-28 win at Nebraska. He said Wednesday that he is just focused on this season and hasn't even thought about what the QB depth chart will look like next year.
"I have no idea," he said, when asked about Hill's decision. "I haven't talked to him about it."
Senior receiver Mitch Mathews, one of Hill's best friends on the team, said he doesn't know, either.
"Wherever he goes, he is going to do great [things]," Mathews said. "I trust his decision, but I wish I was in his head to know. Unfortunately, I can't decode that for you."
What isn't subject to conjecture, Mangum, Mathews and Mendenhall said, is that this senior class is full of leaders who worked together to ensure that the team didn't splinter this year like it did last year when the Cougars dropped four straight games after Hill suffered a season-ending leg fracture against Utah State.
A win against 3-7 Fresno State would give them a spotless home record for the first time since 2008.
"I recruited every one of them," Mendenhall said. "They have been really helpful in establishing a really strong, winning tradition. And especially this year, just handling not only on-the-field business really well, but off the field and what they are representing and how they are acting. I have been really impressed. I want them to win, and I want them to have success because of that. I think they are trying really hard to represent BYU and the standards besides playing really well."
Defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, perhaps the biggest star in the group, and a senior that Mendenhall said Monday "is the perfect BYU player" because of his success on and off the field, said the senior class will be remembered for its leadership.
"I would also say this senior class knows when to have fun and when to get your hands dirty and work," Kaufusi said. "Having that balance, I would say, is a huge part of this senior class and, I think, something this senior class will be known for."
There are two surprises on the list: tight end Theodore King and defensive back A.J. Moore. Both are juniors in eligibility who rarely play but are leaving the program because they are graduating.
BYU's 18 players who will be honored Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium • WR Devon Blackmon; RB Nate Carter; WR Kurt Henderson; QB Taysom Hill; RB Adam Hine; WR Terenn Houk; LB Teu Kautai; DE Bronson Kaufusi; TE Theodore King (graduating junior); LB Jherremya Leuta-Douyere; WR Mitch Mathews; OL Ryker Mathews; DB A.J. Moore (graduating junior); TE Remington Peck; LB Manoa Pikula; DL Graham Rowley; K Trevor Samson; DL Logan Taele; DB Michael Wadsworth.
Note: Hill will be honored although BYU says it still doesn't know if the QB will return or not for his final year of eligibility.
BYU's record last four seasons
Year Record Bowl result
2015 7-3 Will play in Las Vegas or Hawaii Bowl, TBD
2014 8-5 Lost to Memphis 55-48 (2OT) in Miami Beach Bowl
2013 8-5 Lost to Washington 31-16 in Fight Hunger Bowl
2012 8-5 Defeated San Diego State 23-6 in Poinsettia Bowl
Fresno St. at BYU
P Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • BYUtv