Sean Covey, BYU's starting quarterback last season, underwent major knee surgery last weekend to repair a previously undetected ligament tear he probably sustained midway through last season.

Covey was operated on Saturday in Provo by Dr. Robert Jackson, who reconstructed an anterior cruciate ligament with a graft from the patellar tendon. Covey says he will miss spring practice, which is held in March, but he expects to ready to play football by July."The surgery was very successful," said Covey. "They used some new technicques that will cut a month off my recovery time."

Covey expects to begin biking in one month and running in six weeks.

Covey originally injured the knee in the seventh game of the season, against Hawaii, but an arthroscopic examination revealed that the ligament was intact. He sat out the following week's game against New Mexico, then played the following week against San Diego State and reinjured the knee.

"I guess I injured the ligament there," says Covey, who wore a brace the remainder of the season. "The knee never felt right. It was loose and it hurt. I never had confidence in it." Covey finally decided last week to have the knee examined. "The doctors were surprised by what they found," says Covey. "The anterior cruciate was completely deteriorated. I played the last five games with no ligament."

By missing spring practice, Covey will be unable, at least immediately, to defend the starting job he held all of last season. Freshman Ty Detmer made a serious claim for the job with his performance late in the season, particularly after rallying BYU to a victory over Colorado in the Freedom Bowl.

Covey, nevertheless, has not given up hope of winning the starting job again. Before undergoing surgery, he asked Coach LaVell Edwards and quarterback coach Norm Chow if they would give him "a fair chance to go for the starting job next summer. When a player has knee surgery, it's easy to forget about him. But they both said yes."