By Nate Slack
RB Michael Alisa left the Hawai’i game early with a broken arm, and it practically went unnoticed. Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams gave a spark to the offense and put up numbers that BYU hasn’t seen in years, namely, a pair of 100-yard rushers. Even though the 396 rush yards were against a questionable Hawai’i team, the fact that the majority of those numbers didn’t include the starting running back is pretty impressive. Maybe the weirdest part of all–I haven’t seen or read anything about Alisa all week.
Newcomer Jamaal Williams caught the attention of fans and coaches early in the spring when he showed his speed and ability to make smart decisions on the field. The 17-year old was way under the radar coming out of high school and only had offers from San Diego State, Boise State, Utah, and BYU when he committed to the Cougars. There’s not much of a doubt that he will be the main back tonight vs Utah State, which makes you wonder what this could this mean for guys like Paul Lasike, David Foote, and Adam Hine.
Battling hamstring issues, Adam Hine was rumored to have been the fastest player listed on the team and to make an instant impact to the offense. Without a carry this season, it’s fair to say that his situation has been extremely disappointing to those who were excited to see him play. His injury may have left him as low as 5th on the depth chart, but that may now have been offset by the injury to Alisa. Hine could now find himself in the battle for significant playing time if/when he returns. In the mean time, Paul Lasike and David Foote will presumably get more touches and see more time on the field.
But that’s not where the problems with the run game ends.
BYU has typically been dominant at the fullback position. Names like Fahu Tahi and Fui Vakapuna have made fans breathe a sigh of relief when the Cougars are in a 3rd and 1 or goal-line position. Almost always, BYU would be able to use the big offensive line and fullback to power the runningback through to gain the yards needed. However, since Doman took over as offensive coordinator, the fullback position has essentially disappeared, along with the size of the offensive linemen.
During spring camp and the beginning of fall camp, fans and media had high expectations for Iona Pritchard that probably wouldn’t be met. He was being compared to Manase Tonga and other Cougar greats, and that isn’t very fair to Pritchard. It’s also a good illustration that BYU fans haven’t stopped awarding the annual Potential Player of the Year Award, even after the disastrous Jake Heaps era.
Tonight, BYU’s offense will be up agaisnt the best overall defense they have faced so far. (Utah’s secondary was extremely thin when BYU visited Rice-Eccles because of the absence of Rowe and Blechen). The offensive line will be tested. They will have to find a way to handle the late shifts the defensive line will make, just as Utah and Boise State did. Hopefully they have overcome their propensity for false starts by now. In order for BYU’s passing game to be effective, dump passes, quick screens, and slants will need to be called, because I can’t see Hill having enough time to drop back and sit in the pocket. Tight ends will need to be effectively worked into the passing game, which was something that really hurt Utah State in the 2nd half against Utah. Most importantly, BYU will need to win the turnover battle. It’s no secret that the game will most likely be decided by the turnover ratio. Utah didn’t turn the ball over, but BYU did twice, and Boise State had a 5-0 turnover advantage.
One thing’s for sure, we will find out just how good our group of relatively untested runningbacks really are, as they get thrown into the fire against a tough Utah State defense. If there are any questions remaining regarding the RB depth chart, they should be settled tonight.
My prediction for tonight: BYU gets their offensive act together and wins it 24-10.