Post-Spring Injury Report For Big 12-Bound BYU Football

Apr 24, 2023, 9:05 PM

PROVO, Utah – Staying healthy will be a significant piece to determining the success of BYU football in 2023.

The Cougars had a large number of different starters last season. Many of which were due to injuries. Some of those injured players had to miss all 15 of BYU’s spring practices this year.

Overall, BYU stayed healthy throughout spring. They didn’t suffer any season-ending injuries to players that competed in practices. But there were still some noticeable absences throughout practice.

Here’s a rundown and the latest intel on BYU football players dealing with injuries and their potential returns as the Cougars get ready for year one as a Big 12 team.

Ben Bywater, LB

Ben Bywater is projected to be a starter within Jay Hill’s revamped defense. Bywater projects as an inside linebacker at the “MAC” spot. Despite the high-impact projections this fall, Bywater hasn’t taken any snaps in a Jay Hill practice yet as he continues recovering from a shoulder injury he played through last season.

Bywater suffered the injury during the loss against Notre Dame but continued to play. He told KSL Sports he’s trying to find that “happy medium” in his recovery, but all indications point to him being ready for fall camp.

“I will be ready for day one of fall camp. … Had surgery in December, and so I’m feeling good, feeling sturdy,” Bywater said to KSL Sports.

Over the past two seasons, Bywater has racked up 200 tackles. Last year, he was the New Mexico Bowl Defensive MVP after putting together a momentum-swinging pick-six.

Kody Epps, WR

It’s hard to believe, but Kody Epps is entering his fourth season with the BYU football program. The former Mater Dei High star in California had a breakout season a year ago before suffering a shoulder injury in the loss at Liberty.

Epps was sidelined during spring ball to recover from off-season surgery. He’s expected to be ready to go for fall camp in August.

Last season, Epps had 39 receptions for 459 yards and six touchdowns.

Micah Harper, DB

BYU had a unique practice schedule this year. They held their public scrimmage on March 31, took a week off, returned to practice for the final week, and wrapped things up on April 14. One of the players noticeably off to the sideline leaning on a crutch was starting safety Micah Harper.

KSL Sports asked BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill if there was anything of concern with Harper, and the first-year DC noted it was just precautionary.

Hill added, “So he had an injection in the knee, had some tendinitis going in the knee, and should be back and running in the next week.”

Harper projects to be BYU’s starting strong safety this fall. In 2021, Harper missed that season due to an ACL injury. During the first part of last season, an ankle slowed him down.

When healthy, Harper is a hard-hitting safety that makes big plays. He will be critical to the success of BYU’s defense on the backend.

Caden Haws, DL

One of the noticeable absences during the spring scrimmage on March 31 and the last week of practices was Caden Haws. Haws projects as a potential starter at defensive tackle along BYU’s defensive front.

According to him, the undisclosed injury was a non-issue at the end of spring ball.

“I just had a minor little injury. Nothing serious, just felt it was better to be safe and take it easy the last couple of weeks of spring ball,” said Haws to KSL Sports. “I’m totally healthy, ready to go for the offseason, and ready to hit it hard for the upcoming season.”

Haws has changed his body since the end of last season. He’s down 27 pounds from a season ago.

Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters, RB

New Mexico Bowl Offensive MVP Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters switched from quarterback to running back during winter conditioning. Through the first week of practice, he showed some flashes of athletics from his new position.

Then on March 17, Maiava-Peters went down near the end of practice with a knee injury. BYU RB coach Harvey Unga told the Deseret News that it was “nothing long-term.”

Max Tooley, LB

Like teammate Ben Bywater, senior linebacker Max Tooley also missed spring due to a shoulder injury. Tooley missed the remainder of the season after the loss at Liberty. Last season, he had three interceptions, two of which ended up as pick-sixes.

Tooley told the KSL Sports Zone’s Unrivaled that he is targeting a June return date. But did note it has taken time to get back to full strength.

“It’s been a process, and it has taken some patience. I just want to get back as soon as I can. But I realize it’s a process to come back from labrum surgery. So I’ve been more patient as time has gone on, but I’m getting ready to come back.”

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Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Post-Spring Injury Report For Big 12-Bound BYU Football