PROVO — Three weeks of spring football practices are in the books, and certain BYU players and position groups have started to emerge. Cougar coaches have spoken in positive terms about most positions, but according to coach Bronco Mendenhall, one group in particular has stood out.
The running backs.
“Running backs are, I would say, the steadiest, the deepest and most productive group so far in spring,” Mendenhall said.
BYU's running backs rising to the top shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The group returns almost entirely intact from last season, with two-year starting junior Jamaal Williams leading the charge with his aggressive style of running.
Joining Williams are standouts Paul Lasike and Algie Brown, both of whom began to emerge last season before taking it to another level this spring.
Mendenhall says he likes the combination of Williams, Lasike and Brown and their aggressive and physical brand of running. Running backs coach Mark Atuaia largely agrees with Mendenhall’s assessment.
“They’re doing good, real good,” Atuaia said. “We’re down a little bit in numbers right now, but my top guys are getting it done and we’ve had some others step up. Paul Lasike is playing good and physical and so is Algie. They’re both very self-motivated and are working hard. I like what we have, but we also know we can get better.”
Atuaia currently has five running backs to work with with, while junior Adam Hine is sitting out spring recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Hine is expected to return in the fall. His absence has given more reps to walk-ons like Nate Carter.
“He’s been playing well and has a lot of energy and works very hard. He’s fun to coach,” Atuaia said about Carter.
As for Williams, he’s working to improve his already stellar play — focusing on a specific part of his game this spring.
“Back cuts and vision,” Williams said about what he's trying to get better at. “Just keeping my eyes open for any hole I can see back side or front side and just being patient.”
Williams still plans on being aggressive with his style of getting into holes quickly, but wants to identify which holes are best.
With Williams’ improvement, along with strides made by Lasike and Brown, Atuaia feels confident heading into the season.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “We believe we need to be leaders on this offense and I think we’ve done a good job of getting to that goal. We just need to keep it going now and not back down, ever. We always get better and we’re working hard to get to be the best we can as a group.”