While the 2012 football season might not be going exactly the way Cougar fans would like, the play of freshman running back Jamaal Williams has certainly been a bright spot.
In fact, Williams' numbers compare favorably to the two most recent Cougar runners who excelled as freshmen: Harvey Unga in 2007 and Luke Staley in 1999.
On the surface, Unga's numbers appear far superior; he tallied 1,227 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns as the feature back in the 2007 BYU offense. But he received three times as many carries as Williams has this season. Their per-carry averages are much closer, with Williams at 5.2 yards per carry and Unga at 5.0.
Also, when looking at Unga's totals over the first eight games of the 2007 season, the comparison becomes closer. Over that span, Unga had 142 carries for 735 yards and a 5.17 yards-per-carry average.
Going back to 1999, Staley split time in the backfield with Fahu Tahi, so he also got far fewer carries than Unga. Staley also battled injuries throughout the year (and throughout his career). He finished the 1999 season with 432 yards on 92 carries, for a 4.7 yards-per-carry average.
As for Williams, he was not elevated to the starting role in the Cougar backfield until a few games into the season, when Michael Alisa suffered a season-ending injury. So while his 409 rushing yards are fewer than either Unga or Staley, his 5.2 yards-per-carry average is the best of the three.
Williams has also not been as big a part of the Cougar passing game as Unga or Staley. He has the fewest receiving yards and yards per reception of the three. But that may be a result of BYU's unsettled quarterback situation in 2012.
Comparing statistics from different players on different rosters is not an exact science, but the numbers are certainly promising for the 17-year-old Williams. And in a season where so many things have gone wrong for the Cougars, that's one thing to be optimistic about.
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