By Danny Holmgren
Friday night in Provo was a coming out party of sorts for Jamaal Williams, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cougars. Those who follow BYU’s recruiting process have been aware of the speed, explosiveness, and natural “big play” ability of Williams for some time now. His highlight videos on YouTube are impressive to say the least. Being just 17 years old has led some to wonder whether he had the maturity to handle the speed of big time college football this season. Prior to Friday night’s explosive performance, Williams had carried the ball just 18 times for 83 yards and one TD, including just one carry for six yards last week vs. Boise State.
Whether Williams was part of the game plan in Taysom Hill’s first start or he saw increased playing time and carries due to the injury to starting RB Michael Alisa, Williams broke out in a big way Friday night, rushing for 155 yards on just 15 carries while reaching the endzone twice. What was most impressive about his performance was the patience and maturity that he displayed. His versatility was evidenced by his ability to move the ball down the field in a variety of ways. He ran well between the tackles, waiting patiently for blocking assignments to be made. He showed athleticism as he made defenders miss, cut on a dime, and accelerated back to full speed. He showed strength in putting his head down on the goal-line and keeping his legs churning into the endzone. Critics have questioned his pass catching ability out of the backfield, but he caught the ball well, finishing with two catches for 30 yards, including an impressive 24 yard scant.
With the uncertainty of Riley Nelson’s return, the role of a solid running game will be vital to Taysom Hill’s development. If Williams can continue to run like he did against Hawaii, look for Hill to feel more comfortable in the pocket and the passing game will follow suit. One thing is for sure, it appears that the YouTube sensation is no fluke and that BYU has a future star lining up in the backfield.