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Countdown to Kickoff (36): Previewing BYU’s Running Backs

Lopini Katoa looks to improve on his season last year, but don’t sleep on the two grad transfers looking to prove themselves as well.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Coming in to the 2019 season, the running back position group was the one with the most questions attached to it. Squally Canada, Matt Hadley and Riley Burt all graduated, leaving Lopini Katoa as the only returning running back with more than ten carries. How will the running attack be different than last year?

The BYU offense supplemented their running game with a lot of jet sweeps to wide receivers last year, and it worked well early on. But, as the season progressed, opposing teams had a better bead on them and it became less effective. I see that number dipping a little bit, and that’s in part because the offensive line the bulk of last year’s unit. That experience, along with a better understanding all around of the playbook, should negate the need for trickery in the running game.

Lopini Katoa is expected to be the starter game 1 this year, and that’s fine by me. He played in 11 games last year, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and rushing for 8 touchdowns. His negative rushes totaled 10 yards. 10! The entire season!! He’s a quality downhill runner who is quick and tough to tackle.

It’s my belief that you wouldn’t transfer to another school after graduating unless you had a good idea you’re going to see significant playing time. That’s why I expect Emmanuel Esukpa and Ty’Son Williams to be next in line. Running Backs Coach AJ Steward recruited Esukpa to Rice University, so rest assured knowing he knows best how to use his talents.

Williams is coming from the SEC, so you already know he’s a tough runner that will help bring attitude to the offense when he’s out there. When healthy, Williams is a good receiver out of the backfield and a dynamic runner out of the backfield.

After those three, I’m not expecting a whole lot from others, barring injury of course. Tyler Allgeier carried 9 times last year, so he could easily show up again. Kavika Fonua is listed as a running back on the roster, but he came to BYU as a defensive player and you shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a position switch in his future. Sione Finau, Jackson McChesney, and Morgan Pyper are all Freshmen, and Beau Hoge is in his senior year.

But, with the three names at the top, these guys will probably only see the field in blowouts or because of injuries. Once practice starts and redshirts are announced, we’ll have a clearer picture to go on.