PROVO The BYU quarterback derby couldn't have taken a more dramatic turn.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall named Arizona State transfer Max Hall the starter coming out of spring drills on Monday, and Snow College all-American Cade Cooper is not only out of the race but will miss the 2007 football season with a serious foot injury suffered Saturday during his brief appearance in the team's final scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Cooper's injury is similar to the Lisfranc injury suffered by former Cougar and Philadelphia Eagle All-Pro tight end Chad Lewis in the NFC championship game several years ago. The injury is serious enough to sideline Cooper for a year and involves a tear of a major ligament in the middle of the foot.
"I felt something pop," Cooper said on Saturday, describing his injury. Initially, Cooper thought he had an ankle sprain.
The Lisfranc injury is named after Jacques Lisfranc, a French surgeon in Napoleon's army. At the time of the Napoleonic wars, soldiers who fell off their horses and had their foot caught in the stirrup of their saddle as they were dragged tore a ligament in their foot. At times it was so severe it meant amputation. Modern day surgery can repair the ligament, but it is considered more serious than ACL surgery on the knee, Lewis said in a 2005 article in the Deseret Morning News.
On Monday, Lewis spoke about Cooper's situation.
"He's looking at one year at least, and that's busting his butt," Lewis said. "He's not going to be doing much for the next three months because it's not weight-bearing. Normally athletes want to speed things up, but you can't speed this up; you have to keep off of it. I came back for part of a season. But it takes time and hard work and a lot of effort. A lot of people have had it and have come back; that should give him some hope."
According to Mendenhall, the quarterback race between Hall and Cooper was "very close" before Cooper's injury. The coach praised Cooper's work and said the announcement shouldn't take away from the work the Snow College transfer has put in.
"The entire team is saddened by what's happened to Cade," Mendenhall said.
The news on Cooper turns BYU's quarterback depth chart upside down behind Hall. Cooper and Hall had split almost all the meaningful reps in spring practice.
Brenden Gaskins, a 6-foot-5 native of New Mexico who signed with Nevada out of high school but played at Glendale Community College following an LDS mission, now appears to be Hall's chief challenger and backup after a sterling effort in the Cougars' final scrimmage.
Gaskins completed 19-of-22 passes and led the squad to 10 points.
"I couldn't be more happy for him and the way he played," said quarterback coach Brandon Doman.
While Gaskins will be the backup entering fall camp, incoming freshman Jason Munns could also challenge for the position in August.
The shocking end to Cooper's spring underscored a point Doman has preached to the quarterbacks all winter and spring.
"I preach to these guys, when preparation meets opportunity it equals success. If they're not prepared when they get an opportunity, they won't have success. Brenden didn't get hardly any reps during spring, but when he got the chance, he knew what he was doing, knew where the defenders were, made good decisions, marched us down the field and got scores. It showed that he listened, studied and learned."
Hall, said Doman, moved the offense, chose the right targets most of the time and had a pleasing performance Saturday aside from throwing an interception when at the goal line.
With Hall, Cooper, Gaskins and Sam Doman all rookies this spring, coach Doman said the group actually performed better than his expectations going into spring drills a month ago.
"It's been better than I thought it would be," Doman said. "Now, they've got a long ways to go, but I was very pleased with how many passes they completed. We turned the ball over more than I wanted to see in spring, but I think it was reasonable in comparison to where they are in their careers. Now they know the offense, I hope they come back from spring and in the summer don't make those mistakes."
BYU conducted more reps in 11-on-11 team scrimmages this spring than a year ago and scored 25 touchdowns in those situations compared to 19 a year ago. The big difference, however, was the offense with veteran senior John Beck had only eight turnovers, and this spring the Cougars had 13."But any time you can have a two touchdown to one turnover ratio with new quarterbacks, you should be happy," said Doman. "That's the way it has started. We want to cut it down to three to one when we get to the fall."