PROVO -- BYU's running game took another Honor Code hit Friday.
Six months after losing rushing leader Ronney Jenkins, the Cougars bid farewell to his backup and projected replacement. In the midst of an unspecified review by the school's Honor Code office, sophomore tailback Junior Mahe has withdrawn from BYU. As such, he won't be playing for the Cougars this fall."It's a huge loss. We were counting on Junior a lot. It's going to hurt. We'll have to find something different to do," said BYU offensive coordinator Norm Chow. "I don't know what else we can say. We'll miss him, but we have to march on."
The Cougars will do so without their two top rushers from a year ago. Jenkins, a two-time offender who has since transferred to Northern Arizona, and Mahe combined for 1,699 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns in 1998. No other BYU runner had more than 140 yards on the season.
It'll be tough, acknowledged Chow, but any program dependent on just one or two guys is in trouble, anyway. Despite the loss of Jenkins and his 1,216 yards and 15 touchdowns, the Cougars are projected by many preseason publications to win the inaugural Mountain West Conference championship.
Losing Mahe will make things more difficult, but Chow said BYU has no choice but to move on -- even with a depleted and relatively inexperienced backfield featuring the likes of Jaron Dabney, Kalani Sitake, Donny Atuaia and freshmen Fahu Tahi and Luke Staley.
Chow, who said the Honor Code is something BYU firmly believes in, feels the Cougars must find a way to run the ball effectively. Though he anticipates a more pass-oriented attack this season, Chow said it'll only work if a ground attack can also beestablished.
"If not," he said. "We'll be very predictable."
What isn't known, however, is whether Mahe will return to BYU next year. Specific details regarding the Honor Code review were not immediately known.
Sources close to the situation said the former Brighton High star could re-enroll within the next year. A statement from university spokesman Carri Jenkins seemed to back that belief.
"Junior Mahe has made the decision to leave the university," said Jenkins. "Just like any other student, he can apply for re-admission."
Chow is hopeful that'll happen. He said the player and his family, who are grieving the death of a relative, are hurting and feel badly about the situation.
"Obviously, we'd like to have him back and hope he comes back," said Chow, who couldn't say for sure what Mahe's plans were.
KSL radio, though, reported Friday evening that the 5-foot-11, 180-pound running back plans on returning to the program. Mahe could not be reached for comment, nor could BYU coach LaVell Edwards, who is out of town. Newly named athletic director Val Hale told reporters he had not been briefed on Mahe's departure.
"Junior is a great running back and a fine young man. We hope the best for him and I hope to see him back in Cougar blue as soon as possible" outgoing athletic director Rondo Fehlberg told KSL. "As to how soon, I really don't know yet. Quite frankly, we in the athletic department are not involved at all in the Honor Code process. . . . He will go through a process of getting himself squared away and back with us as soon as possible."
Starting defensive back Heshimu Robertson, who was suspended for violating the Honor Code just prior to BYU's appearance in the Liberty Bowl last December, is expected to be re-instated and play for the Cougars this fall. Jenkins wasn't as fortunate. As a two-time offender, he wasn't invited back.
BYU's Honor Code prohibits students from participating in activities deemed inappropriate by LDS Church standards. This includes, but is not limited to, premarital sex, academic dishonesty and the consumption of alcohol, coffee, tea and tobacco products.