PROVO — Typically, spring football practice serves as a battleground for quarterbacks fighting for the starting job. But BYU's 2001 spring drills have been more like a classroom setting than a competitive setting for the QBs.

"It's not so much a battle," said coach Gary Crowton. "I'm trying to get them to learn the offense."

While the coaches are teaching, the quarterbacks are absorbing — new schemes, new formations, new terminology. When the signal-callers are not on the field, they're usually somewhere with their noses in the playbook. Call it Crowton 101 — an honors-level course.

"The cloud started dissipating," said senior Brandon Doman. "This week, the offense started to make sense."

Saturday, Crowton's spring QB class got a little smaller. During the latter part of a 75-play, morning scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium, senior Charlie Peterson bolted out of the pocket and instead of heading for the sideline, he took a crushing hit, courtesy of the Cougar defense. As a result, Peterson suffered a fractured left clavicle (collarbone) and is done for the spring.

The star of the day was running back Brian McDonald, who, operating out of a one-back formation, rushed for 54 yards on 12 carries and scored four TDs on the ground. He also caught a screen pass that went for 42 yards.

"We have a ways to go, but things are coming together. It's very encouraging for the offense," Doman said. "It helps when McDonald's running like a horse."

Doman, who mostly faced the first-team defense, completed 7 of 14 attempts for 100 yards, highlighted by a touchdown run and a TD pass to wide receiver Justin Anderson. Peterson went 8 of 17, including an interception, for 87 yards. He was sacked four times.

Freshman Todd Mortensen, a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder from Tempe, Ariz., was 3 of 11 for 17 yards. Mortensen, who recently returned from an LDS Church mission to Venezuela, will be taking even more snaps with Peterson on the shelf.

"They're getting the feel for getting the ball off quicker," Crowton said of the quarterbacks. "I'm happy with their progress."

Meanwhile, Luke Staley sat out of the scrimmage with a thigh bruise, leaving most of the work to McDonald. "Everybody likes being the guy," McDonald said. "I hope it translates like that in games this season."

To what does he attribute his success? "Me being so little," said the 5-10, 210-pounder, "I don't like getting hit."

Suffice it to say, neither does Peterson.

It will take Peterson four to six weeks to recover. He and Bret Engemann, who attended the scrimmage but did not participate (he's rehabbing his throwing shoulder), are expected to be healthy come August. That's when the real quarterback battle begins.

SCRIMMAGE NOTES: Sophomore wide receiver Toby Christensen caught two passes for 50 yards. He sustained concussion but he is expected to be back practicing again next week . . . Sophomore cornerback Isiah Joiner did not participate in the scrimmage. He injured his ribs in a minor car crash several days ago . . . The Cougar defense combined for four sacks, including two by freshman defensive lineman C.J. Ah You. Ah You, who will leave for a mission this summer, also had a fumble recovery . . . Linebacker Bill Wright recorded an interception . . . BYU will conclude spring drills April 7 with the annual Blue-White game.