Losing Jamaal Williams stinks.
No matter what else you read on this page, it was definitely a sad sports day for BYU fans Thursday when the school announced Williams will withdraw from school and not play in the 2015 season.
We still have hope he will return for 2016, which could end up being quite the running back corp depending on how the chips fall. There's still a long way to go before we find out if his return can be reality or just press release wishfulness.
Williams is a talent. Since his freshman year, he's been on track to break BYU's all-time career rushing record. He's a physical, tough runner who gives BYU a swagger not many players bring. I am already sad I won't be watching him tote the rock this season.
With all that said, there are reasons to consider as to why BYU's offense might still be okay without Williams. None of these are to say BYU is better without him, but there are reasons success can still be obtained:
1. Taysom gon' Taysom
Taysom Hill is a singular talent in college football. There's not another player or quarterback like him. As long as Hill is on the field, BYU's offense will be difficult to stop. Slow down? Maybe. But Hill is as competitive as he is athletic, and he will lead the Cougars to wins.
2. Seasoned O-line & Alge Brown
The offensive line -- the starters, at least -- should give the offense quite a bit of consistency and success in 2014. Add Algernon "Flowers" Brown to the mix, and the power run game is a threat for BYU. Brown was easily BYU's best non-Jamaal back last season and with much more game experience could be as much like Harvey Unga as many have hoped.
(And a token shout-out to the apparent Bash Brothers of Steven Richards and Tanner Balderree, defensive ends turned tight ends. The power run game could be quite powerful.)
3. The Trick Daddy Effect
The progressive, proven methods of the new football performance director, Frank Wintrich, could pay big dividends for the entire team. I'm especially hopeful his methods will increase the explosiveness of the offensive skill players. Speaking of Brown, there is some report he has improved the most because of Wintrich.
The news does suck, we could definitely use him but I've heard that Algie is one player that has improved the most from Wintrich's training.— Zak Hicken (@zakhicken) August 6, 2015
I very much expect to see a new level of explosiveness and strength from the Cougars this season.
4. Mathews, Kurtz, Blackmon
BYU should have three really good receivers at Hill's disposal, to say nothing of guys like Mitch Juergens. Mitch Mathews is good enough to grab 8-10 catches per night and should be an easy go-to guy for the passing game.
Nick Kurtz has had two full offseasons (he joined the team in time for spring practice of 2014) of full Division-I strength and conditioning, and that's after BYU beat out USC for his services on the recruiting trail. He's a definite talent and should do big things for the offense.
Devon Blackmon seemed to be on a different page than the offense (and coaches) for much of 2014. But for a guy heralded as a speedy home-run threat, the best thing we saw from Blackmon last season was at Cal. Blackmon nabbed six catches for 60 yards. Nothing flashy, nothing game-breaking -- but solid, consistent contribution that signaled a grasp of the offense and willingness to do whatever would help the offense. In 2015, Blackmon should be a consistent contributor first, possible home-run threat second -- and that will be a big thing for the offense.
5. Newcomers stepping up
Yes, Alge Brown and Adam Hine are the obvious guys who will be tasked with making up for Williams' absence -- as they were last season. Nate Carter likely gets mixed into that group.
But if we're lucky, we'll see a new name pop into the mix who didn't contribute last season.
Riley Burt is my favorite such possibility. A running back/defensive back in high school, Burt initially seemed set to play running back, then for defense with the addition of Charles West (more on him in a minute), and now is a likely candidate to switch to RB to make up the depth lost in Williams.
I saw Burt play as a senior in high school, and my father officiated at a track meet in which Burt ran prior. My dad -- a former state-champion track coach in Utah -- recalled to me seeing how big Burt was at check-in, then his surprise at seeing how well Burt shot out of the blocks. Hearing Burt was a "track guy" paints a picture of speed, which he certainly has, but when I saw him with pads on, he ran with the same physicality we've come to enjoy from Williams. I really hope we get to see him with the rock in his hands.
Trey Dye played receiver as a freshman, but this offseason has been moved to a hybrid receiver/back role and could see time as a ball carrier this season. Dye was an accomplished running back in high school and has the tools to make an impact as a backup running back.
Francis Bernard is back from his mission in Atlanta and has apparently turned some heads in practice, looking much like a ready-to-play athlete despite his two-year hiatus. Bernard was 6-foot-1, 208 pounds out of Herriman High School (UT) in 2013.
Toloa'i Ho Ching is a player who has moved from defense (linebacker) to running back in the offseason. He hasn't made a huge name for himself, but he has worked hard and done everything asked of him, which surely has him in Bronco's good graces.
Charles West has had quite the journey since his senior season of football ended at Coppell High in Texas. (Go here if you need a rundown.) Despite what you may have heard or read recently, I have good reason to believe the door is not shut on West joining the team in time for the season. How likely? I'm not sure, but I'm told there is a lot of misinformation being reported about West's current status. If he were somehow able to join the team, he'd be behind after missing part of fall camp, but it's still possible he does so. A long shot, but possible.
If not, I understand that joining the team in time for spring camp is still very much on the table, and maybe even more possible than not.
There's also a possibility of a late signing of someone like T.J. Roberts out of Mesa Community College, who BYU has been in contact with.