PROVO — BYU looks locked and loaded in the offensive backfield as it gets ready for fall practices. Optimism abounds, and with good reason, with the return of starting quarterback Taysom Hill along with the top four running backs from last season.
Last season, the Cougar backs ran for a stellar 5.2 yards per rush despite running behind a largely inexperienced offensive line. With all major running backs and offensive linemen returning, it's very reasonable to expect even greater returns in the ground game this year.
Hill also appears poised to make good strides in the passing game. He'll likely receive better protection and better pass protection to work behind in order to improve on his 2013 season pass efficiency rating of 118.15.
As mentioned, the offensive backfield returns a wealth of experience starting with junior quarterback Taysom Hill (6-2, 221.) The experience behind Hill is minimal, however, which puts Hill's health at a premium.
Coaches have placed a lot of faith in senior Christian Stewart (6-2, 201), who will start the practice session as Hill's primary backup. Stewart isn't the runner Hill is, but presents that same dual-threat quality to keep opposing defenses off-balance.
Junior Jamaal Williams (6-0, 200), and his 2,008 career rushing yards, leads the way for the running backs. He'll be joined by senior Paul Lasike (6-0, 227) and sophomore Algernon Brown (6-1, 219) as the three running backs on top of the rotation at the start of fall practices. Junior Adam Hine (6-1, 202) will round out the two-deep roster at running back at the start of camp.
Those looking to break into the rotation this fall will be hard-pressed to break into the two-deep roster, but hey, that's what the month-long practice session is for.
At quarterback, coaches will welcome the addition of true freshmen Hayden Griffitts (6-1, 195), Hunter Moore (6-2, 190) and McCoy Hill (6-5, 230.) All three players likely won't be alloted many reps, but it will certainly be worth noting each player's development throughout preseason practices and into the regular season.
Those looking to make an impact at running back include a slew of walk-ons, including juniors Jeremiah Burr (6-0, 200) and Nate Carter (5-9, 185.) Carter was a standout during spring and should see plenty of reps throughout the August practice session. True freshman Marcus Case (6-0, 200) will also attempt to make an impact.
Sophomore AJ Moore (5-9, 195) is recently returned from mission service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will compete for playing time this fall.
Running backs coach Mark Atuaia mentioned his top "three guys" as being Jamaal Williams, Paul Lasike and Algernon Brown during media days, but don't count out Adam Hine.
Hine mostly started on kick return last season, and will likely do so again, but when he saw time at running back, he impressed. The talented Snow Canyon product rushed just 38 times last season but netted 224 yards and scored a touchdown.
Hine has some ground to make up but has enough athleticism and upside to become one of Atuaia's "three guys" at the end of fall practices.
The outlook is a rosy one for all offensive backfield spots which return the services of two of the most dynamic offensive players (Hill and Williams) in BYU history. With the backups to both players relatively secure in their spots, don't look for much turnover on the established two-deep roster out of spring practices or at the other running back spot opposite Williams.
The story of fall practices for the offensive backfield is how the established players will improve. For Hill, it's all about his improvement as a pocket passer while Williams, and the other RBs will work to improve their pass protection and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.