Kalani Sitake is entering his sixth year at the helm of the BYU football program. He has seen several solid running backs come and go.
Let’s take a dive into the best running backs to play for Sitake. As a disclaimer, only statistics attained during Sitake’s years as head coach, from 2016 to 2020, are considered for this list. For example, BYU’s all-time leading rusher, Jamaal Williams, played under Sitake for one season. Only that season’s statistics will count for him towards this ranking.
5. Ty’Son Williams
At first glance, some may scratch their heads at this selection. Sione Finau would have also been a sensible pick, given he has more rushing yards than Williams in his BYU career. However, Williams made an enormous impact in such short of a time at BYU. After transferring from South Carolina ahead of the 2019 season, he immediately became one of the feature backs in Sitake’s offense. His game against Tennessee alone puts him into Cougar lore. With the game at stake in double overtime, Zach Wilson handed the ball to Williams, needing a touchdown to seal the victory. Williams would not be denied and shoved his way into the end zone for the dramatic comeback victory at Rocky Top, finishing with 92 yards and two rushing scores.
For an encore, he ran for 99 yards against USC in yet another enormous overtime win for BYU. The Cougars defeated the No. 24-ranked Trojans in overtime, due in part to Williams’ production, accumulating 117 yards from scrimmage.
Unfortunately, his season and BYU career were cut short due to a torn ACL. However, his impact in two of the biggest wins in Sitake’s time at BYU will not soon be forgotten.
4. Lopini Katoa (2018-Present)
If this were a ranking of running backs who made the most impact in the passing game, Katoa might be near the top of it. In three seasons in the backfield thus far, he has amassed 67 catches and 695 receiving yards. He posted three receiving touchdowns last season alone. The American Fork native totaled 737 yards from scrimmage last season, with eight touchdowns. For his career, he has 1,225 rushing yards and 1,920 yards from scrimmage with 22 total touchdowns in three seasons. Among running backs during Sitake’s time, he actually leads the group in yards from scrimmage. He has time to add to it and move up this list.
3. Squally Canada (2016-2018)
Canada makes a strong argument to be higher on this list. He actually owns the top spot in rushing yards during Sitake’s time at BYU with 1,438. However, his single-season high was 710 yards during the embattled 2017 season, including a massive performance against UNLV that saw him scamper for 213 yards. He had a nose for the end zone, with 11 touchdowns in his last two seasons. He also made a big impact in BYU’s big upset win over Wisconsin in 2018, running for 118 yards and two touchdowns. So while his numbers are not eye-popping, he had some big moments for the Cougars.
2. Tyler Allgeier (2018-Present)
It may seem strange to put Allgeier so high after just one full season, but that’s how good he was in 2020. Plus, he has three more seasons of eligibility to build on his strong 2020 campaign. He toted the ball 150 times for 1,130 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, which is the third-highest total ever by a BYU running back. He exceeded 100 yards in six games last season and ended the year with an exclamation point, running all over UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl for 173 yards and 60 receiving yards.
His 1,536 career yards from scrimmage is the second-most after Katoa, who has over 100 more touches than Allgeier in his career. Those two will battle it out once again in 2021. Allgeier is largely considered one of the 10 best running backs in college football heading into the season. Sitake has never had a running back of his caliber at his disposal over the course of several seasons. Allgeier is just getting started.
1. Jamaal Williams (2016)
Williams is one of the greatest running backs to ever put on a BYU Cougars uniform. He is certainly the most successful running back BYU has ever had as far as NFL production. Even with just his 2016 season is taken into account, the numbers are impressive enough to give him the edge as the best running back Sitake has had in his offense.
HIs fourth and final season in Provo in 2016 was one of the record books. He became BYU’s all-time leading rusher while also setting a career high with 1,375 rushing yards, which is third-best in school history. Who could forget his historic performance against Toledo, when he set BYU’s single-game rushing record with a whopping 286 yards? He is truly an all-time great. Even with 2,526 of his record-setting 3,901 career rushing yards coming under Bronco Mendenhall, his talent, production, and big moments in 2016 still put him at No. 1.