The BYU Cougars face off against the struggling Aggies of Utah State this Thanksgiving weekend, and they look to continue to re-establish their struggling running game against one of the top rushing defenses in the country in Logan on Saturday afternoon. While the Cougars ran the ball very well against the Fresno State Bulldogs last week, they have struggled against good rush defenses, and need to prove that they can establish the run and keep the pressure off of Tanner Mangum.
Ever since Adam Hine was injured in BYU's 31-0 loss to Michigan back in September, it has been, for better or for worse, the Algernon Brown show. Hine had filled in quite nicely for Jamaal Williams, who left the team prior to the season, and might return to the Cougars next season. He provided a great option, and had looked to add some power to complement his explosiveness. Brown, while being a fantastic short yardage bulldozer who can get loose and do some damage downfield, is not exactly explosive. He's more reminiscent of Harvey Unga and Fui Vakapuna. Both fantastic running backs, but neither was a threat to break an 80 yard run on a draw play. Anae seems to prefer the big backs who can grind out the tough yards, and wear down a defense. The fact that he's leaning more upon Brown and fellow big back Francis Bernard speak to that. Even though he had a poor showing against Fresno State, true freshman back Riley Burt has a chance to show that the Fresno State game was a fluke by having a strong game against the Aggies.
With the position of running back of the future wide open to competition, Burt has a great chance, along with running mate Bernard, to be part of BYU's next great thunder and lightning combination. Before coming to the Cougars, Burt was a standout for Box Elder High School in Brigham City, Utah. While with the Bees, Riley rushed for 1109 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. He's also got the potential for great explosiveness, as he was a standout track star as well, running both the 100 and 200 meter dash. He complements his speed with a good frame to put more weight on at six foot, one inches tall as well.
Prior to the game against Fresno, Riley had amassed 57 yards on only four carries for a whopping 14.3 yard per carry average. Now, most of those yards came on a 41 yard burst against lowly Wagner, but you can't coach speed, and Burt has the speed to be a division one running back. He does need to work on his elusiveness, as he was bottled up against Fresno State, only running for 29 yards on 10 carries, dropping his yard per carry average to 6.1.
Utah state's defense is much stiffer than that of the Bulldogs, but Burt has the ability to be able to break out against the Aggies, if he is able to make the first tackler miss and get loose in the secondary, he can make his runs count, particularly as a change of pace from the punishing Brown. I think that this game will be big for Burt to build his confidence moving forward, and if he can pick up around sixty yards and a touchdown to complement Brown's usual steady production, he'll be in a great position to continue to evolve as a complete back and a contributor in BYU's backfield.