Johnson a no-show
Last spring, BYU agreed to give a scholarship to Matt Johnson, a transfer from Citrus Junior College, to focus solely on deep snapping.
However, Johnson has been ruled academically ineligible, leaving the Cougars in the lurch.
"We offered a scholarship to be a deep snapper recognizing a very immediate and necessary need," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I'm very disappointed and, to some extent, frustrated that that young man didn't do what he needed to do to uphold his commitment to our program by getting his work done."
Search is on
Since Johnson is not coming to BYU, Mendenhall said his staff is conducting a "nationwide" search for another deep snapper. "We're looking for the very best guy we can find," he said.
The Cougars currently have freshman defensive lineman Brett Denney and freshman backup quarterback Sam Doman handling deep-snapping chores. But Mendenhall would like to find a specialist, and he's willing to award a scholarship for that job.
"The philosophy is that if that player can fire the ball back within an ideal operation time, we've already made the decision to give a scholarship," Mendenhall said. "We made that decision last year. To win a championship, that phase of the game has to be, without question, no risk. Right now, there's risk."
How important is a deep snapper? During BYU's game at home against TCU last year, the Cougars went on top of the Horned Frogs, 50-44 in overtime but failed on the extra point attempt due to an errant snap. TCU, the eventual conference champions, scored on its ensuing possession and booted the extra point to claim a 51-50 victory.
Both of BYU's returning starting cornerbacks, Kayle Buchanan and Justin Robinson, are battling injuries. Buchanan has a banged-up shoulder while Robinson has suffered a groin injury.
Mendenhall said Buchanan likely won't participate in any scrimmages until late in fall camp. A year ago, Buchanan missed most of fall camp, as well as the early portion of the season, due to a leg injury.
Cornerbacks coach Jaime Hill said Robinson shouldn't miss much time with his injury.
Meanwhile, linebacker Markell Staffieri went down with a leg injury Wednesday, and his status wasn't immediately known. Aaron Wagner took his spot in the lineup.
Mendenhall, who watched an inordinate number of players sustain injury in fall camp and early in the season last year, is being cautious.
"I understand very clearly now after one season that depth and having your best players ready to play at the beginning of the season is very important," he said.
The Cougars will don full pads for the first time today. "I'm as excited as the team is," Mendenhall said.