Ronney Jenkins knows a lot of things - just ask him.

The BYU running back is confident no one can beat him in a 40-yard dash; he blamed the Cougars' disappointing 6-5 finish in 1997 on a lack of leadership; and he even claims to know who'll be BYU's starting quarterback this fall (though he wouldn't say if it's Kevin Feterik or Drew Miller).What the 1996 WAC Freshman of the Year can't explain, however, is how he wound up gracing the cover of BYU's 1998 football media guide. After all, he's not the latest model off the quarterback factory assembly line. And besides, Jenkins missed all of last season because of an unspecified violation of the school's strict honor code.

"It's an honor. Don't get me wrong. I like it," Jenkins told reporters Saturday at Cougar Stadium. "It's just too much hype. I don't like the hype."

The sophomore, who rushed for 733 yards and scored 14 touchdowns in his first season with the Cougars, joined his teammates for Media Day before the team's first full-squad practice. BYU opens the season Sept. 5 at Alabama.

"The players have come back in good shape and I think they're ready to go," BYU coach LaVell Edwards said. "We should have a good ball club."

All-American candidate John Tait, an offensive lineman, said the team has plenty of motivation. Last year's 4-4 conference mark placed the Cougars fifth in their division, the lowest finish in Edwards' 27 years at the helm.

"We definitely have a sour taste in our mouth. And we're tired of people asking us if this is it for BYU football - if we're going downhill," Tait said. "We want to show people we are just as good as any team that we've had here. That we're going to come back, practice well, play hard and win our games."

In accordance with NCAA rules, BYU will not begin practicing with pads on until Wednesday. For now, Edwards and his staff will center workouts on teaching and group activities. Two-a-day practices will run from Aug. 17-28.

"We're real excited about the challenge that lies before us," Tait said. "We know how we're capable of playing and we're ready to do that."

Enter Jenkins, who once rushed for a national-record 619 yards in a high school game. His return has confidence within the program soaring - as is speculation that BYU's once-potent passing game will return to full strength.

"It's exciting. With a guy like Ronney in the backfield, it's going to open up things and hopefully with our passes we can open him up a little bit running the ball," Miller said. "In a good solid offense, you've got to have an equal amount of run and pass. This year, we're definitely going to be able to do both."

Edwards said one can't exist very well without the other. Feterik, who is competing with Miller for quarterbacking duties, agreed. He sees Jenkins as an extra threat both in the air and on the ground. The versatility is wel-comed.

Injuries limited BYU offensively a year ago.

"This is a real plus for us," Edwards said. "Ronney is a very special athlete. He's got great speed. He catches the ball. He can do a lot of things. He's a great kick returner. He's just a guy who's got a lot of ability."

Tait said BYU fans can expect to see Jenkins all over the field. He expects defenses to account for his whereabouts on every play. The 6-foot-7, 305-pound lineman said his teammate not only turns corners quickly but is patient waiting for holes to open up.

"He totally changes your offense," Tait said. "You always feel more confidence when you have more options."

Choices are nothing new for Jenkins. The California native opted for BYU despite recruiting overtures from several national powers. And when he had the chance to pursue them a second time after his honor code violation in Provo, Jenkins chose not to run from his troubles. He broke the rules and freely admits it. And he paid a price for it.

"I think it was good for me that I sat out," said Jenkins, who made the most of his time away from the sport. "I'm stronger. I'm faster. It's probably hard to believe, but you'll see."

At BYU, having No. 16 back on the field is a sight for sore eyes.

"I have full confidence in myself and in my ability," Jenkins said. "As long as I work hard I know I can do anything out on this field. . . . I don't really have any goals. I just want to perform my best. That's all I want to do."

After taking Sunday off, the Cougars will resume practice Monday.