PROVO BYU opened fall football camp a little shorthanded.
Conspicuously absent during drills was star wide receiver Austin Collie, who underwent an MRI Friday night that revealed a stress fracture in his right leg below the knee. Yet nobody around the program seemed to be overly concerned about the injury.
After the conclusion of the Cougars' first practice of fall camp, Collie, who sported a bone stimulator taped to his leg, downplayed the severity of the stress fracture.
"It's really not that serious. It's just a minor setback that I'm going to have to get over," he said. "It's going to take some extra time in the weight room and in the training room. It's nothing serious or bad. It's something that we want to make sure doesn't linger on throughout the year."
He also assured everyone that he would be ready to play in the season opener against Northern Iowa.
"No doubt. We'll be ready," Collie said. "Hopefully, I'll have a week to prepare, maybe more than that, to prepare for Northern Iowa and be back with the team."
The injury was not the result of a specific incident, Collie said, but something that transpired over time. "It was a gradual process from cutting on that leg all the time," he said. "There wasn't one specific moment that it happened, it just gradually happened and got worse and worse."
"With Austin, it's a stress fracture that's not serious in terms of limiting his chance to play," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Two weeks of rest is probably what will happen. He'll be involved a little bit out here with the younger receivers. We're not concerned about his readiness to play this season nor in our opener."
Quarterback Max Hall isn't concerned about Collie's status either.
"I'm not worried about it at all," Hall said. "Austin's a tough guy. He'll get rehab and whatever he needs to do. He's just a little dinged up. He's a great competitor, a great player. I'll be excited when he gets back, though. He could practice right now, but I'd rather have him healthy and good-to-go than have a nagging injury bugging him."
Still, Hall acknowledged that he missed being able to throw to Collie. "Austin's my go-to guy, so it's a little different not having him out there. But other guys are stepping in and catching balls," he said. "When you have other guys stepping in, it's OK, but I definitely miss him."
Mendenhall said Collie's injury will present an opportunity to see what the backups at that position can do.
"It's a great chance for us to develop other players in Luke Ashworth, O'Neill Chambers and Spencer Hafoka," he said. "It might be a blessing."
Collie had been suffering some pain recently in the leg and underwent an MRI Friday. When he learned the result of the MRI, Collie said he was surprised.
"You could say (the situation) was my fault because I didn't pay much attention to it. It hurt off and on," he said. "Finally, when I came in for my physical, (team doctors) wanted to make sure it wasn't a stress fracture. Sure enough, it was."
Collie has been advised to rest his leg. In the meantime, he is working with head trainer Kevin Morris by logging time in an underwater treadmill and in the pool in order to maintain his cardiovascular performance.
Morris ruled out surgery for Collie and said the risk of Collie sustaining a full-blown fracture is very low.
"But if it went unchecked, it would progressively get worse. Now's the best time to take care of it," he said. "It's an optimal time for us to get it healed."
When asked if Collie will indeed be ready to play in the Northern Iowa game, Morris said, "I hate to put a definite time frame because you're held to it. We hope he's back for the opener. Stress fractures are tough to predict. We've got a bone stimulator on him. He wears it 24 hours a day. It's more of a pain-type thing. As the pain subsides, he'll increase his activity. It's basically a day-to-day, week-to-week type thing."
Collie suffered an ankle injury early last season that slowed him down, though he still managed to catch a team-high 56 passes for 946 yards. "I'm comforted to know that I've been through this," Collie said. "I don't think it's as serious as my ankle injury last year. It's really something I'm just going to have to work hard at and get over. It won't take that long."He added it wasn't easy watching his teammates practice without him. "It's tough," he said. "I had just gotten over my ankle injury and had just started feeling right again. I started to feel like I was back and ready, and then this happens. Like I said, it's a minor setback. We've got a great group of trainers who are going to take care of me and make sure I'm back on the field as soon as possible."