As the season quickly approaches, the BYU Cougars will rely heavily on their offense in their quest for a successful season. Although the Cougars will have a number of weapons at their disposal, the running game will be front and center in the attack.
Yesterday, that running game took a major hit when it was announced senior running back Jamaal Williams has withdrawn from school and will redshirt in 2015. Although this could be great for 2016, it hurts the offense this year.
Say it ain't so, Jamaal
Say it ain't so, Jamaal
The changing landscape in the backfield will be interesting to watch as previously expected role players may need to take center stage and become the face of the running backs. Initial indications may point to a committee of running backs shouldering the load during the season, as one running back hasn't truly stood out in their limited time, but that can change depending on what each player does with given opportunities.
The Cougars have a number of options as they enter fall ball, and below we will break down the group and what they bring to the team.
Key Runners: Brown, Hine, Carter, Moore
Algernon Brown: Brown is a junior out of Magna, Utah and gained some experience last year as he filled in for Jamaal Williams. However, Paul Lasike took a good chunk of snaps, which took away carries from Brown. Algernon should be the starter as he has the most experience and will be given a chance to win over the coaches. He will most likely receive the majority of the snaps.
Brown comes into the season with 116 career carries for 558 yards rushing and two touchdowns and also has 16 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown. He will need to show the coaches he can protect the quarterback first and for-most, and still hit the holes.
Adam Hine: Hine is a senior out of Santa Clara, Utah and also has some experience in the backfield, but will need to step up his game if he wants to make an impact. As a fan special teams favorite, he is exciting to watch on kick returns and will need to bring some of that to the backfield. He has 78 career rushes for 378 yards and three touchdowns and could possibly carve out a place as a speed back, but he has struggled to run through contact and can't forget about blocking for his quarterbacks.
Nate Carter: Carter is a senior out of Saint George, Utah and came on strong near the end of last season and should be given a shot to show coaches what he can do. He is smaller than the first two and will have to make sure he puts an emphasis on finding the gaps that are provided by the offensive line. He returns this year with only one reception for eight yards but does have 47 rushes for 291 yards and a touchdown. The 6.2 yards per rush is impressive, as Carter has made a habit of tearing off big runs, and he will have to keep that up in order to become a featured back.
AJ Moore: Moore is a junior out of Murrieta, California and has very limited experience as he has only played in two games for the Cougars. He has a total of 12 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown that came against Savannah State last year.
Wildcards: Trey Dye, Joshua Whippy, Riley Burt
Trey Dye: Dye is a sophomore out of Abilene, Texas and is currently listed as a wide receiver but saw time as a running back in spring camp. He had limited action in his first year but is hoping to contribute more as a sophomore and may take the chance in whatever way he can.
Josh Whippy: Whippy is a junior that is back for his second year out of Fiji. Many in the football world don't know him, but he was a key player for the Cougars Championship Rugby teams in 2014 and 2015. He loves to be physical but the question is if he can make the transition to football as quickly as Lasike did. He could find himself on the field as a blocker if the other running backs fail to protect the quarterback, so don't sleep on him this year.
Riley Burt: Burt is a freshman out of Brigham City, Utah that hasn't officially been added to the running backs group but there is a very good possibility of this happening this year. He probably won't be pressed into action early but has the potential to do great things. He has speed and seems to have an eye for hitting the hole, so he could be a great addition to the team as he becomes more comfortable.
Along with the running backs the Cougars will also rely on their quarterbacks to compliment the running backs and spread the field. As long as senior quarterback Taysom Hill stays healthy, the quarterbacks will continue to be a part of the running game in some form. If he does face an injury during the season, the key concern becomes what offense will be put on the field. Currently the Cougars have Hill has their established starter but the backups have yet to take a snap in college.
Although the running backs will miss the leadership and play of Williams, the key to their success will of course lie with the offensive line. If they don't create holes for the backs it will be almost impossible to have a successful run. This season, there will be a lot of pressure put on the running backs to perform at a high level, and if someone can step up early, the offense could be another juggernaut.