PROVO — Freshman Taysom Hill is out for the season with a knee injury, senior Riley Nelson will reprise his role as the starter, and senior James Lark is the backup once again.
That's the latest on BYU's crazy quarterback carousel.
Hill suffered a torn LCL in his left knee and damaged his hamstring after absorbing a hard hit on the third-to-last play of the game in the Cougars' 6-3 win over Utah State last Friday. Hill is expected to undergo surgery in the next week and will be sidelined for 4-6 months, according to head trainer Jeff Hurst.
The injury occurred with a little more than one minute remaining in the game after a "miscommunication," said coach Bronco Mendenhall.
The coaching staff signaled to Hill that the clock was running and Mendenhall said Hill thought that meant he should run the play that was called — a quarterback draw. The coaches wanted Hill to line up in "victory" formation and kneel down with the ball.
"He took his eyes away. Victory was signaled in right after that and he got hurt," Mendenhall said. "I'm responsible for anything that happens when one of our guys gets hurt. It's really unfortunate. Cleaner communication on our part needs to be done. It's not his fault, it's our fault."
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said he told Hill to let the clock run, but Hill "misinterpreted" the signal.
"It's a great excuse, or a great explanation, but it doesn't make anybody feel any better," Doman said. "He called a play and went running to the line of scrimmage. I asked (Mendenhall) to call a timeout, and he didn't get to the ref in time. … It's my fault, at least that's how I feel. I'm responsible for that, and I don't know that I'll ever get over him getting injured the way he did and the circumstances of how it happened."
Hill knew after the game that he was hurt and he met with medical personnel, said Hurst, BYU's trainer. Hurst scheduled an MRI for Saturday, and that's when the extent of the injury was revealed. Mendenhall said he didn't know that Hill was hurt until he found out about it on Saturday. More medical tests were conducted on Hill's knee Monday.
Asked about Hill's prognosis, Hurst said, "He should recover fully and be able to play and contribute and do everything he set out to do."
It's too early to know if Hill will be able to participate at all in spring practices in March, said Hurst, who added that the LCL injury is "less significant" than an ACL, which requires 6-10 months of recovery.
Now, Nelson — who acknowledged Monday that he was playing with "fractures" in his back before he was sidelined — will lead the Cougar offense Saturday (1:30 p.m. MT, ABC) against No. 10 Oregon State.
"I'm full-go. I'm excited," Nelson said. "We have a top-10 opponent in our house on Homecoming. It's a great opportunity."
Even before the injury, Mendenhall was planning on Nelson starting this week, and Nelson took all of the snaps in Monday's practice. He did not play the past two weeks due to his injury.
"It's been hard, but I needed it to get healthy," Nelson said about being sidelined. "It was tough. I left that decision was up to the coaches. I told them if they needed me I was available, but their decision was to rest me. It definitely worked wonders as far as healing me up."
Nelson played against Utah and Boise State with his injured back. Though he doesn't regret playing, he acknowledged that the pain related to the injury seriously hampered his abilities in those games. "(The injury) affected my decision-making and my play and my confidence level," he said. "That's all gone, because I don't feel pain anymore. I don't feel hurt. I'm back to myself."
How did Nelson look Monday in practice?
"He looks as good as he looked since the injury occurred," Hurst said. "I wouldn't let him play unless I felt very comfortable with him playing."
Nelson said he can empathize with what Hill is going through right now.
"My heart goes out to him. My prayers are with him," Nelson said. "A season-ending injury is tough. I've experienced those before. They're frustrating and hard to get over. It's a big blow to our team. He's a playmaker and one of our best offensive weapons. To have him go down leaves a hole in our offense. Other guys are going to have to step up and fill it, like happens every year."
Lark will be Nelson's backup, while junior Jason Munns will be the third-string quarterback, Mendenhall said.
"He's one hit away from playing," Doman said of Lark, "and the way this season has gone, gosh, the percentages are high that he'll play."
Ironically, Oregon State will be without its starting quarterback this week due to a knee injury. Sean Mannion will have knee surgery and is out indefinitely, Beavers coach Mike Riley said Monday. Mannion suffered the injury on a handoff during last Saturday's 19-6 win over Washington State, though Mannion did not leave the game because of the injury.
With Mannion out, backup Cody Vaz, who hasn't taken a snap in a game in two years, will start for Oregon State.
Cougars on the air
No. 10 Oregon State (4-0) at BYU (4-2)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MT
LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM