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BYU football: Cornerback likely to play Saturday

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UNLV's Casey Flair gets pounded by BYU's Scott Johnson earlier this season.

UNLV’s Casey Flair gets pounded by BYU’s Scott Johnson earlier this season.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

LAS VEGAS — BYU cornerback Scott Johnson got his first full-bore workout Wednesday since tearing groin muscles in a win over Colorado State on Nov. 1.

Johnson ran full speed, underwent a complete bevy of change-of-direction drills and did the dreaded splits by "opening up" his legs and testing the muscles during Wednesday's practice at Bishop Gorman High School in west Las Vegas.

"I did a regular practice, maybe a few less reps than I did before I was hurt," said Johnson. "It felt good.

"I did everything. I have a tape job that prevents it from opening up all the way, but it felt normal."

Run as per demand? "Yes."

No problems? "No, none," he said.

Johnson had his legs spread out preparing to take on blockers when two CSU players hit him high and drove him down, splitting his stance and tearing both sides of his groin muscles on both legs.

"I don't think I've ever seen that injury before," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall the week after the incident.

"We got to see what he can do. He'll probably get a chance to play in this game, probably about 20 reps, but not much more than that," said defensive coordinator Jaime Hill. "I'm not sure if his legs are completely back."

Johnson missed BYU's games against Air Force, San Diego State and Utah but remains the fourth-leading tackler on the team (57).

Johnson said the goal was to get him ready to run full speed the week of the Las Vegas Bowl.

"We met that goal and now it's a matter of getting up to game speed, and we'll see how that goes now," he said.

The biggest thing BYU trainer Kevin Morris did in his rehab was prevent Johnson from coming back to the field too soon.

"He kept me away from contact and running. The rehab they did is have me come in on the weekends and when we didn't even have practices on weekdays and give me treatment. They are awesome," said Johnson.

Johnson discounted the role he plays on the defense and doubted if his presence on the field made that much difference.

"The defense is going to continue doing its thing. The only thing it gives us is a little more depth and to give a little more experience out there at all times," said Johnson, who said the Cougars have a very good game plan for Saturday's game against Arizona.

Disrupting what Arizona QB Willie Tuitama does is key, he said.

"Any time you can made a quarterback second guess decisions and not play in a rhythm, that's an important part of playing good defense," Johnson said.

Johnson's only bowl experience came a year ago in a win over UCLA here, where he played on special teams.

Senior safety Kellen Fowler said Johnson's return is a positive for the defense.

"First of all, it just shows the character and the toughness he has to be able to rehab," said Fowler. "When he first did that, nobody thought he'd be back, so it's a credit to him.

"For our defense, he is a big playmaker, and it gives us a lot of confidence knowing he will be out there. It also inspires us and fires us up to see how hard he has worked just for the chance to play, even if it's for a few series.

"He just wants to be on the field. It makes you appreciate the opportunity and want to give it your all."

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com