PROVO — With the pounding that a college linebacker dishes out and takes each game, it's almost a necessity for a team to be deep at that position.
This season, the BYU Cougars are not only experienced and solid in starters at linebacker — with seniors Matt Bauman, Coleby Clawson and Shawn Doman, and eventual star Terrence Hooks healthy, hopefully — but they also have a host of backups with experience and several young guys who are already showing they deserve some attention as well.
"We're a senior-laden linebacker group and we have a lot of good experience and have guys who know what they're doing. We're really pretty deep," inside linebacker coach Paul Tidwell said.
Hooks missed practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury, but will be back at the "buck" inside linebacker spot before BYU's opener Sept. 5 versus Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Doman — who saw significant time as a starter last season — is filling in nicely and is sure to see plenty of time as well this season. With senior Jeff Bell, the Cougars are really three-deep at the position.
Bauman, at the "mike" inside position, will be the defensive quarterback. But should he need rest or get hurt, junior Shane Hunter has looked good so far in camp, as has redshirt freshman Brandon Ogletree.
"Both of those guys are learning the system, but they both look good. And we're trying to bring Brandon along a little faster by putting him in with the twos," Tidwell said.
Clawson will continue to deliver vicious hits at the outside "wheel" spot, with junior Jordan Atkinson making a strong case for playing time.
"I think we're going to be really good," Clawson said. "We just need to try not to get hurt, stay aggressive and keep learning."
The biggest linebacker question, coming into the season, was who would replace the departed David Nixon at the "sam" outside spot. Sophomore Jordan Pendleton, who switched from defensive back, is currently No. 1 on the depth chart, but the Cougars wouldn't lose much, if anything, should junior Grant Nelson get the call.
"I'd feel comfortable with any one of us in there," Clawson said. "Actually, the guys behind (the twos) are still learning, but they're learning quick."
Beyond the twos at linebacker, and proving worthy at practices so far, are sophomores Chase Hansen and Jameson Frazier, and freshman Masi Tuitama and Richard Wilson.
"We had a really good summer and had a lot of really good player-run practices," Clawson said. "We came in more prepared this year than we did last year."
REYNOLDS SIDELINED WITH HAND INJURY: Sophomore left tackle Matt Reynolds, BYU's only returner on the offensive line, injured his left hand Wednesday in team drills. X-rays, taken after practice, revealed the hand is fractured. Reynolds will be evaluated by a specialist, and team officials are expected to know more about his status today.
BYU camp report
Day 4: Star prep quarterback Jake Heaps, who committed to the Cougars over the summer, showed up to watch practice. On the field, Max Hall completed 21-of-27 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
Injuries: The big news of the day was starting left tackle Matt Reynolds breaking his hand. More will be learned today about the extent of the injury and how long Reynolds — BYU's only returning starter on the O-line — will be sidelined. Linebacker Terrance Hooks will be out two weeks with a hamstring injury.
Next: The Cougars are expected to don full pads today for the first time.