BYU football coach LaVell Edwards has been reluctant to forbid his players from playing basketball during the off-season, but he might want to reconsider his policy in light of recent events.

Bob Davis, BYU's outstanding all-conference inside linebacker and undisputed defensive leader, broke a small bone and ruptured ligaments in an ankle a couple of weeks ago while playing in a pickup basketball game. The injury required surgical reconstruction to repair."He should be all right (for the upcoming season)," says Edwards, who admits that off-season hoop games "make me nervous. We get more injuries playing basketball than anything else, it seems. It's tough when you've got all those big bodies jumping around in there."

During last year's off-season the Cougars lost Mike Empy, a promising young offensive lineman, for the season after he blew out a knee in a pickup basketball game.

So why not put hoops off-limits? "Because, one, they're going to do it anyway, and, two, I loved to play when I was young," says Edwards.

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RECRUITING UPDATE: Timpview High School's Dave Spence, arguably the best prep miler the state has ever produced, has signed a national letter of intent with BYU. Spence, a non-Mormon, chose BYU over Kansas, among other schools.

"Staying close to home was a big factor," he says.

Since the Utah prep season ended in Mid-May, Spence has done nothing to hurt his reputation as a budding talent while competing in two national prep invitationals. At the Great Southwest Invitational in Tempe, he won the 1,500 with a time of 3:56 and took second in the 800 in 1:53.3, making him the second fastest Utahn ever at that distance, behind Alan Parker (1:52.01).

Spence also competed in the Keebler International invitational in Elmhurst, Ill., and finished third in the mile with a time of 4:12.44.

Spence has two more meets remaining - one in New York and one in Los Angeles.

The signing of Spence means that BYU has successfully recruited two of the nation's top milers right out of its own back yard. The Cougars also signed Provo High's Kristi Brown, who won the 1,500- and 2-mile runs at the Southwest meet and was second in the Keebler 2-mile.

***> RATING UTAH'S MILERS: Just how good is Spence? His 4:12.44 mile at the Keebler meet is the fastest ever run by a Utah prep outside of the state (read: at sea-level). However, his best instate time ranks No. 3. His 4:13.3 at the BYU Invitational was over 1,600 meters, which is approximately 1.7 seconds short of a true mile.

Jeff Creer, who attended East High School in the mid-70s, produced the fastest prep mile in Utah - a 4:14.4 run in the old Deseret News prep invitational. Strangely, the state high school association refuses to recognize the performance as a state record. Blaine Anderson, another prep star of the mid-70s who ran for Hillcrest High, is No. 2, at 4:14.8, which is the listed 3A state record. Both times would convert to something in the 4:10-4:11 range at sea-level.

MITCHELL'S GETTING THE INK: Bruce Woodbury, Utah's long-time sports information director, has found his job of promoting the Ute football team much easier this year, thanks to Scott Mitchell, the team's record-setting 6-foot-6, 230-pound quarterback.

According to Woodbury, Mitchell will be one of three players appearing on the cover of the western edition of Athlon magazine and will be featured inside, as well. Sport Magazine also is considering him for a cover later this fall, and USA Today will interview Mitchell later this month for a future feature story.

"He's the most publicized guy we've had since I've been here, and that's 17 years," says Woodbury. "The only one who comes close is (Danny) Vranes. We've never had a football player get this kind of attention. But he deserves it. He's the best player we've had."

And Mitchell is only a junior.