Tialavea and Mahina anxious to rejoin team

Tight end Devin Mahina has been out on the practice field running through player drills but not team scrimmages. Cougar defensive lineman Russell Tialavea is home and excited to get going, but he'll have to wait to practice due to an injury he suffered while serving out in the mission field. Both Mahina and Tialavea should be back in full action by fall camp.

It's getting closer for tight end Devin Mahina, and he's counting the days until he'll be allowed to participate fully.

"I'm still in the process of healing and can't do any contact," said Mahina. "I can do routes on air, catching ball, position drills and bags are fine. Anything that involves snapping of the neck or contact, I have to stay away from that. I can't do team scrimmage stuff or anything like that. I just can't wait to be able to fully go."

So, Mahina has been preparing in other ways.

"I've been spending a lot of time in the film room," Mahina said. "I've been studying the plays and I'm still learning coverages. I can still do everything else like run and lift. That's about it.

"I've been training with the team on Tuesdays and Thursdays doing routes on air. I feel fine. I just wish I could be out there again, but we're getting there and I think the offense is coming along. We still have some things to do but, like I said, we're getting there. I just wish I could be out there hitting guys."

So when will Mahina be able to rejoin his teammate?

"Probably in fall is when I'll be back," he said. "Don't worry, I'll be back and I'll be ready."

When Mahina does finally get back, he'll be joining a new teammate, although he'll be on the other side of the ball. It's been two years since Russell Tialavea has suited up in a Cougar uniform, and two years since he's stood on the sidelines of a BYU practice.

"Oh man, I can't explain how I feel right now," Tialavea said. "Watching them play together, cheering together and working together, there's a fire in there and it's getting brighter, and I've got that fire inside too and can't wait to get back out there with the boys."

Standing on the sidelines, Tialavea was all smiles and cheers. He was anxious and his excitement was visible.

"I want to be out there, but I just love seeing all the guys back out there because it's like me coming home," said Tialavea. "Especially seeing Eathyn [Manumaleuna], Ian [Dulan] and Romney [Fuga] out there playing together.

"I just can't do nothing but cheer for those guys because I love them so much, but at the same time I've got to think, ‘Aw, I've got to beat them to play.' I just have to do all that I can to be there to play with them and support them."

Tialavea's foot is currently healing and in a black boot.

"I'll be out a couple more weeks, well, probably a month," he said. "It's been five weeks since I had the surgery, so probably in about a month or so I'll be running. Hopefully by the end of spring."

Tialavea didn't even know how bad his injury was when he initially sustained it.

"Oh, it's a long story and I broke it on the mission," Tialavea said with a laugh. "I came back and found out that there was a small fracture and had to get pins in it. It's nothing big. I'm bummed out about my foot, but I'm happy to be out there cheering the team."

Tialavea already received a medical redshirt after suffering a knee injury during fall camp of 2007.

"Yeah, I have to play this year because I already received a medical redshirt," he said. "My time is up and I'll play and will be supporting my boys on the line."

While playing prior to his mission, Tialavea weighed around 290 pounds, but lost a lot of weight while serving in Santiago, Chile.

"I lost a lot of weight as you can tell," Tialavea said smiling. "When I got back I weighed around 260, so yeah, I lost a lot of weight."

Being unable to do much due to the surgery, Tialavea has been adding weight back.

"Ever since I had my foot surgery I've just been sitting down eating all day," he joked. "I weight around 275 right now, but I'm working hard in the weight room. I‘ve been working hard on my bench to try and get some muscle in and get that football body back. It's not that hard for me to gain weight, you know."

Since returning home, Tialavea has noticed a few changes in the program that he believes will further improve the Cougar program.

"Oh, big time!" Tialavea said. "It looks like the coaches are getting a lot better and are changing a lot. I've noticed a lot of little new things that they've changed in order for us to become better football players. The one thing that I like and noticed is the attitude. You know, with Coach Mendenhall that attitude hasn't changed since I left, but I can see how this team has bought into it."

The last time Tialavea was playing football at BYU, his defensive coordinator was Jaime Hill. While he was gone, there was a changing of the guard with Coach Mendenhall taking over coordinator duties.

"One of the biggest changes, or I should say improvements, that I've seen is how the team works together and their effort," Tialavea said. "You know, at BYU we work hard. But we were watching film from last year, and what I saw was all 11 guys on the field were running has hard as they can to make plays and supporting each other. That's what I've seen as a big improvement is the heart and the team working hard. Coach Mendenhall is always talking about effort, but seeing the team buy into it is the biggest improvement."

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