Injuries Galore as Cougars Prepare for USC

BYU will play without three starters and with a number of other key players banged up when they line up Saturday against the No. 4 ranked USC Trojans at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.

Not surprisingly, USC is early 21-point underdogs, according to Las Vegas odds makers.

Three-year starting linebacker Paul Walkenhorst was sidelined before the season started and will redshirt this year.

The Cougars top running back, Marcus Whalen will likely miss at least two more games because of a hairline fracture in his foot caused when a teammate stood on his foot during pre-game warm ups before the Georgia Tech game. Whalen could not continue after only one play in last Thursday's 24-13 win over Georgia Tech.

BYU head coach Gary Crowton said Whalen may be back for the New Mexico game (two weeks), but he'll definitely be ready to go against Stanford the following week. "He has a hairline crack in his foot, similar to what (Reno) Mahe had a couple of years ago."

Meanwhile, key defensive contributor and starting cornerback Brandon Heaney is out for the season after injuring his left shoulder during the Georgia Tech game. Crowton noted Heaney will have surgery, "but he's done for the year. He's out. We'll try to get him a medical hardship."

Crowton plans to move and use Nate Soelberg and Chad Barney to replace Heaney at the cornerback slot opposite Jernaro Gilford. "Nate Soelberg is real fast and he's a good cover corner, while Chad Barney has good size and some experience. I think we'll be all right there."

He added he is also contemplating moving James Allen or Kip Nielsen back to corner. "We haven't decided that yet. We might do that with Kip, but we like Allen at Kat. We'll just have to see, but I think we're OK at corner right now."

Gilford, the other starting cornerback, will play against USC with a chipped bone in his wrist.

He participated in today's practice with a hard cast on his hand, but that will be replaced with a rubber cast before Saturday's game. "I can't even feel it now. It feels fine. I think I'll be good to go. I saw USC play and they'll definitely be a challenge," Gilford said.

Commenting on his expected match up with USC's super sophomore Mike Williams, Gilford said, "It's not a big deal. That other guy is pretty good. I like the competition and they're pretty good from what I understand, but I don't prepare for them any different than anybody else. I prepare hard for anyone."

Freshman tight end sensation Daniel Coats also has a bruised wrist and knee from the Georgia Tech game. "He is just a little beat up. I'm anxious to see how he does today. That bone in his knee is a little bruised, but he should be good to go," Crowton said.

Another key defensive contributor, defensive tackle Manaia Brown sat out today's practice with his shoulder wrapped, but he is expected to play Saturday.

Crowton said Brown underwent shoulder surgery about three weeks ago and has yet to fully recover from that. "Just having surgery, I thought Manaia did very well against Georgia Tech. He was very physical in that game. Having had surgery and being that physical in a game is very impressive to me. He's very sore today because of playing on Thursday so he won't do much, but he should be practicing tomorrow," Crowton said.

Asked whether he will use Brown more against USC than he did in Georgia Tech, Crowton added: "It just depends on how that shoulder goes. The stronger the shoulder gets, the more he'll play."

Defensive end C.J. Ah You was suspended for last week's game because of an off-season incident with former BYU quarterback Brett Engemann, but he will play against USC.

Running back Naufahu Tahi, who will be suspended one game this season because of another off-season non-football-related incident, will play against USC. Crowton has not selected which game he will sit out.

"Fahu will play. I'm going to wait and just kind of play it by ear in regards to when he serves his suspension."

Crowton confirmed he will use a running back rotation of Reynaldo Brathwaite, Taufui Vakapuna and Tahi for the USC game. He said he would like to get speedster Thomas Stancil some game reps, noting that Brathwaite will see the majority of the reps.

The BYU head coach will continue to bring back up quarterback John Beck along slowly and will play a predetermined series in the USC game like he did against Georgia Tech.

"I think John is a real good football player and we need to get him some experience. He'll play a series in the first half against USC," Crowton said.

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