Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson (13) runs against Idaho during NCAA football in Provo Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. Nelson was injured and taken to the hospital for treatment.

HONOLULU — Just three weeks after suffering lung and rib injuries against Idaho, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson could start today against Hawaii.

"Everything shows that physically he should be able to play," Cougar offensive coordinator Brandon Doman said earlier this week. "We'll wait for the last-minute word from the doctors. Ultimately, it will be Riley's decision, because you can't really get a percentage of risk in this situation. … Ultimately it's up to him. I would suspect he'll want to play."

While Doman is concerned about Nelson's health, he is confident the junior QB will be OK.

"There are a lot of players who have suffered that injury and have been fine. You can play with it," he said. "It's just pain tolerance and mental and physical toughness. … I told Riley that he does not have to play because I talk about being mentally tough. This has nothing to do with that. This has everything to do with being smart and following your heart and doing the right thing. If he plays, it will be because he wanted to."

BYU trainer Kevin Morris said he ordered a special shirt that will protect Nelson's lungs and ribs.

Senior running back Bryan Kariya said he's confident the offense will play well no matter who's at quarterback — Nelson or Jake Heaps.

"Whether it's Riley or Jake, either way, both guys are great athletes, great quarterbacks, and have shown that they're able to lead the team throughout this season," he said. "Either way, I think we're going to be fine. I think our team is behind them."

NEW ROLE: BYU sophomore tight end Kaneakua Friel finds himself a starter now that Richard Wilson and Austin Holt have gone down with season-ending knee injuries. The Cougars will rely heavily on Friel in their final two games.

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"My role has increased a little," Friel said. "There's not much depth right now. I just want to keep my body healthy. I want to make sure I don't get hurt, and execute with the chance I've been given."

HOMECOMING: Friel, who hails from Kaneohe, Hawaii, was scheduled to speak at the team fireside Friday night.

"Some members of my family aren't members (of the LDS Church), so I'm taking the opportunity to speak at the fireside," he said earlier this week. "Hopefully I'll be able to share my story a little bit more with them and it will help them be touched by the message that we share as part of BYU football as a message of Christ."