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Cougars could be 'well-healed'

BYU defensive back Nate Soelberg, here making a tackle in the Cougars' early season game against Eastern Illinois, could be recovered from the broken wrist he suffered in the EIU game and the broken arm suffered last month against Colorado State and be re
BYU defensive back Nate Soelberg, here making a tackle in the Cougars' early season game against Eastern Illinois, could be recovered from the broken wrist he suffered in the EIU game and the broken arm suffered last month against Colorado State and be ready to play in the Dec. 22 Las Vegas Bowl.
Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

Thanks given for time off by BYU football players, who are sorely in need of healing and rest this week before they play in the Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 22.

They could use some Florence Nightingale TLC this week after finishing the season 6-5, 5-2 in Mountain West play.

BYU's defense, in particular, will greatly benefit from a break — so to speak.

Three Cougar defenders had season-ending injuries: corner Nate Soelberg, linebacker Aaron Wagoner and nose tackle Daniel Marquardt.

It now looks like Soelberg will be restored for Las Vegas.

At the end of the season, this unit was replete with wounded, handicapping schemes and flexibility in what Bronco Mendenhall could put into a game plan.

Mendenhall didn't make it an issue, but his defense had flat tires rolling on rims in November. Decimated is a word that comes to mind. This was especially true in the secondary, where a rash of hamstring injuries started a downward spiral during two-a-days in August. By the Wyoming game, it was a lineup by a draw of straws.

There are sore hamstring muscles, broken bones, strained ligaments on everything from thumbs to ankles and a concussion that should heal the next three weeks. The Cougars will benefit immensely from the time off, including this entire Thanksgiving week, according to head trainer Kevin Morris.

While an opponent has not been identified yet, Morris believes the Cougars will be as healthy as they've been since the season began come the show in Las Vegas.

Until the last play of the Utah game, most all of BYU's woes were on the defensive side of the line. Receiver Michael Reed broke his thumb diving for a lob pass on the final play of that overtime loss to Utah. He had reconstructive surgery to repair a multi-fractured thumb this week and will miss the bowl game, according to Morris.

Quarterback John Beck is wearing a thumb wrap, nursing a sprain on his throwing hand suffered in the New Mexico game. It's called a goalie sprain. "He's been able to go since that game, and he'll be OK," Morris said.

But the guys on the other side will look and feel much different than they did in October and November.

The biggest gain for Morris is the return of former MWC 100-meter sprint champion Soelberg, a starting corner who broke a wrist against Eastern Illinois, played in a cast and then went down for the rest of the regular season when he broke his arm in the CSU game and had surgery. He's been walking around most of the season with each limb in a cast or brace.

"We'll X-ray him next week, but I suspect he'll be cleared to go and all we'll need to decide is what he'll wear for protection," Morris said.

"I really feel for Nate. Being a senior, it will be great for the team to have him back, but to me, it will be great for him to make it back on the field to play one more game as a senior."

Safeties Spencer White (hamstring), Quinn Gooch (hamstring) and K.C. Bills (concussion) are expected to return. Defensive linemen Vince Feula said this week he finally felt like his old self (high ankle sprain) for the first time since he was injured against TCU. Manaia Brown (sore MCL, sprained neck, stingers) will be better.

The 52-51 overtime loss to TCU proved the most costly game for the Cougars when nine defensive starters got hurt. That includes all starters on the defensive line. A few games later, starting noseguard Daniel Marquardt went down with a season-ending ACL injury.

Linebacker Cameron Jensen and Paul Walkenhorst, who both suffered MCL tears in their knees against TCU, have been so heavily taped , their legs look like something from Mummies-R-Us. But they played out the season albeit with limited speed and flexibility.

"Cameron may not have to wear a brace at all in the bowl game, Paul, who had the more serious injury may have to wear his," Morris said. "But they'll benefit from the time off."

Special teams star Daniel Bates has been out with a hamstring pull. Morris believes Bates will heal in time for Las Vegas.

Time off this week for turkey?

"Very beneficial," Morris said. "Very beneficial for this team, and this break couldn't come at a better time."


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com