It’s hard. It would be harder if I didn’t think he would have a chance to play more football. ... I think he’ll have an opportunity to play professionally. I don’t know if he’ll be drafted or be a free agent, but he’s too good a player to not have an opportunity. —Bronco Mendenhall, BYU head coach
SAN FRANCISCO — BYU senior linebacker Spencer Hadley won’t play in Friday’s Fight Hunger Bowl against Washington due to his lingering knee injury.
Hadley hurt his knee (MCL) in the first half against Wisconsin on Nov. 9, and hasn’t played since.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that Hadley won’t play in what would have been his final collegiate game, explaining that the knee “took a long time” to heal.
The Cougars will miss Hadley’s experience and talent, and it’s unfortunate for him that he won’t be able to join his teammates on the field one last time.
“It’s hard. It would be harder if I didn’t think he would have a chance to play more football,” Mendenhall said. “I think he’ll have an opportunity to play professionally. I don’t know if he’ll be drafted or be a free agent, but he’s too good a player to not have an opportunity.”
Earlier this season, Hadley was suspended for five games for violating team rules and the school’s Honor Code. Ultimately, that suspension was shortened to three games.
“Maybe this year’s life experiences and challenges will maybe prepare him even more for what that will be because (the NFL) it’s a cold, hard business type of experience," Mendenhall said.
NFL PROSPECTS: Several BYU players are drawing considerable attention from NFL scouts, according to Mendenhall.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver Cody Hoffman have been invited to the Senior Bowl, while safety Daniel Sorensen will play in the East-West Shrine game.
Linebacker Uani Unga, defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna and tight end Kaneakua Friel are also drawing interest from the NFL, Mendenhall said.
“A lot of teams like what (Friel) looks like at tight end,” Mendenhall said. “He’s been under the radar, but the amount of attention he’s getting has been interesting.”
CHANGES FOR FIGHT HUNGER BOWL: Friday marks the final time the Fight Hunger Bowl will be played at AT&T Park.
Starting next year, the bowl will be played in the new 68,500-seat Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, future home of the San Francisco 49ers and site of the Super Bowl in 2016.
The Fight Hunger Bowl will pit the No. 4 team from the Pac-12 against a Big Ten opponent.
"Our objective entering negotiations for the next bowl cycle was to elevate the game," said bowl executive director Gary Cavalli. "Specifically, we wanted to move up in the Pac-12 and secure the highest quality opponent possible. We're thrilled that we've been able to achieve both goals. With a Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup and a new world-class stadium, we've positioned our game very well for the future."
BEST MATCHUP: Cavalli said Friday’s game is the best pairing in the bowl’s 12-year history.
“Fittingly, in our last game at AT&T Park, we probably have our best matchup. I don’t know if we’ve ever had two better teams than this year," he said. "We’re very excited about the game.”
He’s thrilled about this matchup.
“I’ve had my eyes on BYU for years. When we started the game we (had a contract with) the Mountain West. I like the great tradition of the program, they travel well and I like what they stand for. But we could never get them. They were either too good or not good enough for our bowl. Then we went to a Pac-12 affiliation. We’ve always had our eyes on Washington. We wanted to get the Huskies down here. So this year is kind of a fulfillment of a dream on both sides for us.”