PROVO, Utah (AP) _ Maybe University of Utah running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala will have Eric Bateman, a lineman at arch rival Brigham Young, blocking for him in the NFL next season.

Two days after Utah's 6-foot, 270-pound sophomore fullback announced he would forgo the rest of his college career to enter the draft, the 6-7, 315-pound BYU tackle was reported set to do the same.

Bateman, a two-year starter for coach LaVell Edwards, scheduled a Thursday afternoon news conference at BYU's Marriott Center. The Deseret News reported Wednesday that Bateman is giving up his senior year for professional football.

Robert Saunooke, a sports agent and former BYU player in the late 1980s who has also represented ex-Cougars Mo Elewonibi and Kurt Gouveia in the NFL, alerted reporters of Bateman's news conference.

Other than acknowledging his association with Bateman and the news conference, Saunooke declined comment.

``We'll support him in his decision,'' said Norm Chow, BYU's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. BYU coaches had known for several weeks that Bateman was seriously considering such a move.

However, Chow was quick to add that he thinks any college player is foolish to make an early exit for the professional ranks.

``I'm not in favor of any player leaving early,'' he said. ``Obviously, I think getting to the next level is very difficult, even after four years in school, let alone just after three ... It's difficult to make the jump. It's an in extremely high level of football.''

A sophomore starter in 12 games in '96, Bateman broke his ankle in the final regular-season game at Utah. This year, he won second-team All-WAC honors.

Age and financial considerations are thought to be two determining factors for Bateman, who turned 24 on Dec. 28 and has been married for 1 1/2 years.