Jamaal has withdrawn from school for personal reasons and will redshirt the 2015 season. We plan on Jamaal returning for the 2016 season. —BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall
PROVO — BYU’s offense will be missing a key component when it takes the field this fall.
The school announced Thursday — just two days before the Cougars open fall camp — that senior running back Jamaal Williams will not play in 2015.
“Jamaal has withdrawn from school for personal reasons and will redshirt the 2015 season,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a news release. “We plan on Jamaal returning for the 2016 season.”
Williams suffered a devastating knee injury last fall and was planning to play this year. In late June, when BYU held its media day, Williams, 20, spoke extensively about how excited he was to get back on the field and the prospect of becoming BYU's all-time leading rusher.
Williams needs 930 yards to break Harvey Unga’s school career rushing mark of 3,455 yards.
But now, the Cougars will have to fill a major void in their backfield.
Fortunately for BYU, the offense returns quarterback Taysom Hill, wide receiver Mitch Mathews and an experienced offensive line.
With Williams out, BYU will count on junior Algernon Brown, and seniors Adam Hine, Nate Carter and AJ Moore at running back. In 2014, Brown rushed 68 times for 324 yards; Hine had 40 carries for 154 yards; Carter gained 290 yards on 46 attempts; and Brown ran 10 times for 62 yards.
Last spring, Carter was asked about the possibility of Williams not being able to play this season. “We have depth and hopefully Jamaal’s back as soon as he can be,” he said. “If not, we’ll be ready to roll.”
Freshman Riley Burt, who just graduated from Box Elder High, could also get reps at running back during fall camp.
BYU’s roster also boasts junior Harvey Langi, who was one of the top prep running backs in state history. Langi rushed for 4,289 yards and 55 touchdowns during his career at Bingham High, but Langi was converted to inside linebacker after transferring from Utah a year ago.
On the first day of fall camp last year, Williams announced to the media that he was going to be suspended for the season-opener at Connecticut. The 6-foot, 206-pounder from Fontana, California, ended up playing in seven games and rushing for 518 yards before sustaining a season-ending injury at Middle Tennessee on Nov. 1.
At media day in June, Williams acknowledged that, given the damage to his knee, that he had considered redshirting this year.
“Me and my mom talked about it. But it’s not something we really thought about doing,” he said. “I brought it up and she gave me the ‘what-are-you-talking-about?’ face. She has the same motive as me. She wants me to play. She never wants her son to be out there chilling, not doing anything. This year is going to be a year that I can show that I’m not injury-prone. I want to show that I can still be the dog, rough, and vicious but still be smart and do smart things and stay healthy for the whole season.”
But on Thursday, Williams chose to put those plans on hold until the 2016 season.