PROVO — For many football players, spring practice means it's time to study the playbook, impress the coaches and compete for a starting job.
BYU's Margin Hooks doesn't need to do any of that.
"This is for the young guys, not the veterans," said the veteran receiver.
So what is Hooks' No. 1 priority this spring? Staying healthy.
Heading into his senior season, Hooks, who has started every game since he was a sophomore, has nothing to prove. But come fall, he has a shot at becoming the Cougars' all-time leader in receiving yardage.
With 2,123 career yards, Hooks is just 943 short of Eric Drage's school record of 3,066. A year ago, the Waco, Texas, native caught 60 passes for 1,067 yards and became the first Cougar receiver to reach the 1,000-yard plateau since Drage did it in 1992. He also owns a streak of 24 consecutive games with at least one reception.
Anticipating a big year for Hooks, the BYU publicity machine is promoting him for All-America and Biletnikoff Award honors.
Aside from avoiding injury, there are a few things Hooks hopes to accomplish this spring. Namely, he wants to get into a rhythm with the quarterbacks and other receivers. But of most importance to him right now are the cerebral aspects of the game, knowing that by the time spring drills end, there's a four-month layoff before two-a-days begin in August.
"The only things that carry over into the fall," Hooks said, "are the mental things."
OUT FOR SPRING: While running back Luke Staley is still healing from shoulder and knee surgery and might redshirt next fall, several other key Cougars are not participating in spring drills due to injury.
Sitting out are right tackle Ford Poston, who has suffered back trouble; defensive end Setema Gali Jr., who had shoulder surgery; linebacker Jeff Holtry, who underwent reconstructive knee surgery in November; and fullback Kalani Sitake, who is still recovering from a broken fibula (leg), which he suffered in the Wyoming game.
LASER-TAGGED: Add the following incident to Hans Olsen's dossier of wacky behavior.
On Thursday night, the eve of the opening of spring practice, BYU's offensive and defensive linemen played laser tag against each other. The defensive line won the game and to celebrate, Olsen hugged his fellow D-linemen. While attempting to embrace Chris Hoke, the 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior accidentally sliced Hoke's forehead with his laser gun.
Hoke is OK and the cut did not require stitches. Team trainers treated the injury, and Hoke showed up at practice on Friday sporting a large bandage on his head.
OLD FRIEND, NEW IDEAS: Every winter, the BYU coaching staff pays visits to various college programs and NFL teams to keep up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques.
Last month, the Cougars' offensive coaches traveled to Chicago to meet with Bears' offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who happens to be a leading candidate to replace LaVell Edwards when he retires. Crowton, an Orem native and former Snow College and Colorado State quarterback, served as a student assistant at BYU in 1982.
"The big thing we went back there for was to learn how they use their wide receivers, how they run screens and to look at their quarterback protection packages," said BYU offensive coordinator Lance Reynolds.
"We found out there's only so many ways you can run routes," said quarterbacks coach Robbie Bosco. "There were some subtle things we learned. We picked up on little things here and there that we'll use. That's what we were looking for."