BYU’s New Mexico Bowl hero will miss remainder of spring practices with ‘not serious’ knee injury
Also, former Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo gives address at high school coaches clinic, talks about his future
Towards the end of last Friday’s outdoor practice, BYU running back Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters went down without contact while carrying the football.
It appeared to be a right knee or hamstring injury, but the former quarterback was able to get up and walk gingerly off the field.
Thursday, after Maiava-Peters watched practice from the sidelines with his right knee wrapped in a back elastic brace, running backs coach Harvey Unga said the native of Kahuku, Hawaii, will miss the remainder of spring camp with the injury, but noted that it is “not serious.”
“I am going to have him sit out the rest of the spring, just to be safe. He could possibly make it back in about a week, but I just told him, like, ‘we are not playing any games right now, so it is not worth it.’” — BYU running backs coach Harvey Unga on Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters.
Maiava-Peters, who quarterbacked the Cougars to a 24-23 win over SMU in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 17, sustained some sort of knee injury six days ago.
As a policy, BYU coaches will discuss injuries when they are season- or camp-ending, but not get into specifics. Maiava-Peters was not made available for post-practice interviews, as is often the case with injured players.
“I am going to have him sit out the rest of the spring, just to be safe,” Unga said. “He could possibly make it back in about a week, but I just told him, like, ‘we are not playing any games right now, so it is not worth it.’”
Unga said it is not an ACL or MCL injury and it is “nothing long-term, but we just felt like it would be best if we just let him rest and let the thing heal on its own. He will be good.”
Filling in for the injured Jaren Hall in the bowl game, Maiava-Peters rushed 14 times for 96 yards and a touchdown and was named the bowl’s offensive MVP. Linebacker Ben Bywater was defensive MVP after returning an interception for a touchdown.
Maiava-Peters completed 7 of 12 passes for 47 yards, with one interception.
When the Cougars returned to school in January, he was called into the coach’s offices and asked to play running back. The Cougars are stacked at the quarterback spot, with Pitt transfer Kedon Slovis and junior college transfer Jake Retzlaff joining a group that includes returnees Cade Fennegan and Nick Billoups.
At running back, the Cougars are not as deep, especially considering UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins recently had wrist/hand surgery and is also missing the live portions of practices.
Unga said he was skeptical at first that Maiava-Peters could play running back, but so far he has been pleasantly surprised.
“Having Sol-Jay come into the room has been a cool addition,” Unga said. “The kid can do so many good things. He’s a natural football player, a natural playmaker.”
Unga said the one-time three-star QB recruit has also been an adequate pass protector.
“Man, it has been fun to have him in there. He’s taking it all in, owning it, whether it is pass protection, running the ball or anything else, he has been awesome.”
But he will be watching from the sidelines the rest of camp.
Here are a few other observations and happenings from Thursday’s practice in the Indoor Practice Facility, which was also observed by high school football coaches participating in a daylong clinic:
• Former Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo spoke to the prep coaches before the practice, then chatted with reporters as the drills were winding down. Wearing a UCLA warmup jacket because one of his sons is a graduate assistant on the Bruins’ staff, Niumatalolo said he has given television a try but would like to get back into college football in some capacity.
Asked if that means becoming involved in BYU’s program, he said nothing was imminent. He was invited by head coach Kalani Sitake, a lifelong friend who is also from Laie, Hawaii, to talk at the clinic and he accepted.
Asked if he was ever offered the BYU job that went to Sitake in 2015, Niumatalolo deferred and said the Cougars have the “right man” in place now with Sitake having been the head coach since 2016. Niumatalolo, who is featured in the movie “Meet the Mormons,” said his wife is tired of going on long walks with him in the Annapolis, Maryland, area where they still live and wants him to get back into coaching or the like.
He said he was recently released as a stake president in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but said said being a stake president is easier than being a head football coach in Division I college football.
• In the media-viewing portion of practice, Slovis continued to impress, throwing touchdown passes to Keanu Hill and impressive walk-on Dom Henry, a redshirt freshman.
Cade Fennegan was intercepted by Ammon Hannemann in goal-line drills and by Caleb Christensen on an underthrown deep pass into traffic.
Retzlaff also got some reps in the last 20 minutes — he’s been slowed by a tonsillectomy and some side effects from that surgery — and threw a nice pass to tight end Isaac Rex. He was “sacked” by Atunaisa Mahe.
* The Cougars will have their pro day on Friday at the IPF, and several former players in the pros have already arrived in Provo to show their support. Among Thursday’s visitors were New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson and Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier.