PROVO In a way, being involved in a scooter accident has helped BYU inside linebacker Matt Bauman understand the Cougar defense better.
While Bauman was driving his scooter in the days leading up to fall camp, a car traveling in front of him slammed on its brakes. To avoid hitting the car, Bauman swerved and tipped over on the scooter. As a result, Bauman suffered a bone contusion on his left foot, which sidelined him for the first week of fall camp.
But Bauman spent the time away from the field wisely. Not only did he keep up his conditioning by swimming and riding a stationary bike, he also studied the defense during practices. Bauman said he benefited by watching from a new perspective.
"It's been good. You can see stuff a lot more clearly standing back behind the offensive lineman," he said. "I can see better what the (defensive backs) are doing behind me. I have a better understanding of our defense."
For a time, trainers had Bauman's foot in a boot. "It looked worse than it really was," he said. "That was the main thing to rest it as much as I could."
Bauman participated more on Monday than he had done previously in fall camp. He was involved in 7-on-7 drills, but he sat out of 11-on-11 noncontact scrimmage situations as a precaution.
"He's back and he handled it well," coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday. "That was a positive thing today."
The foot "feels pretty good," Bauman said. "In a couple more days, it should be 100 percent."
In Bauman's absence, junior Matt Ah You has received those reps at inside linebacker. Ah You has proven himself and is challenging Shawn Doman at the other inside linebacker spot. "From this point, one week into camp, I think (Ah You) has a slight edge on Doman," Mendenhall said. "You could basically list them as even. But if we went today, it would have been Bauman and Ah You (as starters)."
As for Bauman's scooter, he's been on it only once since the accident. "I've got to get it checked out to make sure it's still safe," he said.
A number of BYU players are riding scooters these days. Bauman said it's because the scooters get 70 miles per gallon and there are twice as many parking spots on campus for scooters as for cars. "There are scooters popping up all over the place," he said.
INJURY FRONT: To this point, the Cougars have suffered relatively few injuries during fall camp. Bauman's foot injury, Austin Collie's stress fracture and center Tom Sorensen's shoulder injury all happened prior to the start of fall camp.
Mendenhall said that's the way fall camp has been designed to avoid injuries.
"It's a delicate balance as the head coach to get enough physical work but also keep your team healthy," he explained. "We're erring on the side of health, knowing how long the season is. It could possibly work against us early in the season. But we'll have to see. I hope the team is mature enough and we're getting enough work to make sure that we're ready."
Meanwhile, projected starting safety David Tafuna complained of nausea over the weekend. Trainers attributed it to helmet-to-helmet contact during Saturday's scrimmage. He was held out of Monday's morning practice.
VAKAPUNA UPDATE: BYU running back Fui Vakapuna, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury sustained back in June, continues to be held out of most drills. But Mendenhall is encouraged that Vakapuna may be closer to being back to full strength.
"The hamstring bled out, which means it came to the surface on Saturday," Mendenhall said. "We were able to get most of that discoloration out of there. He was running and doing better today. It's still going to take some time. But at least that was a positive landmark in knowing where it is and we've been waiting for that to happen. Now that's out of the way, it should progress quicker."
OLSON OUT: UCLA quarterback Ben Olson, the former Cougar who was projected to start for the Bruins this season, broke a bone in his foot and will be out at least eight weeks. That means he will not be available when UCLA visits Provo on Sept. 13.
Mendenhall heard about the news from one of his assistant coaches Monday.
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