BYU football notebook: Keeping Riley Nelson healthy and on the field a priority for coaches

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

Riley Nelson passes the ball during Brigham Young University football practice in Provo, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Riley Nelson passes the ball during Brigham Young University football practice in Provo, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

PROVO — One of the concerns for BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman going into the season is the health of his quarterback, Riley Nelson.

And for good reason. Nelson played in just a few games in 2010 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He also missed playing time late last season after sustaining rib and lung injuries.

"I worry about it a lot," Doman said.

The tenacious Nelson will even play when he's injured. On the first play of the Armed Forces Bowl against Tulsa last December, Nelson fractured a rib, but didn't tell anyone — including Doman.

"He was throwing balls in the dirt. I didn't know what was going on," Doman remembered. "I was on the (press box) phone and I was mad. He said, 'I'm good, coach. I'm going to snap out of it.' I was like, 'C'mon, man.' It's a matter of us being really smart and calculated about when we use him to run. Ideally, you'd like him to be running when plays break down and defenses are dropping eight guys into coverage and he goes and gets what he needs to get. But I don't want to take away his grit and tenacity, either. He's going to do that. He's had a great offseason and looks good physically. Hopefully he'll hold up."

Nelson has worked hard to prepare himself for the physical toll that the season can take. On the other hand, he doesn't intend to change his playing style.

"I've learned a lot about my body, and how to train, how to eat and how to sleep and how to recover," Nelson said. "I'm taking care of that. A lot of people ask about playing and protecting myself. There's no way I'm going to change now. If I change now, it would be disastrous for me and the team. Once the lights come on and they kick the ball off, it's going to be the same old me. But I have taken extra measures to ensure that I am in the healthiest, most fit condition of my life going into the season. Hopefully that translates over to increased durability and increased health."

FAMILIAR FACE: WSU's outside receivers coach, Dennis Simmons, played linebacker at BYU from 1993-96. He later coached at BYU as a graduate assistant under LaVell Edwards.

"You kind of get an idea of their history because you were a part of it once before," Simmons told the Spokane Spokesman-Review about returning to Provo. "Other than that, it's (just) an opportunity to go out and play a game. The stands will be packed and the crowd will be loud. It makes for what you see on television as a kid watching college football."

SUCCESS IN OPENERS: BYU has won five straight season-openers, dating back to 2007. Washington State coach Mike Leach, meanwhile, is 9-1 as a head coach in openers, and his teams have won seven openers in a row.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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