BYU football: Competition intense to replace Williams in Cougars’ backfield – Salt Lake Tribune

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Provo • Star running back Jamaal Williams and more than a dozen of his departing BYU teammates will show scouts from dozens of NFL teams what they can do Friday when the Cougars hold their annual Pro Day at the Indoor Practice Facility on campus.

Meanwhile, competition in spring camp has been fierce among five or so candidates hoping to replace the all-time leading rusher in BYU football history. Or the Cougars may elect to use a group approach after relying on the senior Williams to be the workhorse last season.

Juniors Squally Canada and Trey Dye, sophomores KJ Hall and Riley Burt and freshman Ula Tolutau all are expected to get carries when BYU conducts its annual spring scrimmage Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (1 p.m., BYUtv). Safety Matt Hadley and linebacker Kavika Fonua also could get reps at running back, although Hadley’s tryout on offense has been slowed by a sore left foot.



“I am happy with the numbers at running back,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “We have a bunch of guys. It is just a matter of who is going to get the bulk of the carries. It is hard to replace an athlete like Jamaal. But you do it with numbers and a lot of guys who are skilled.”

All five have had their moments in camp, and Burt, recruited as a defensive back, said Wednesday the running backs will be more involved in the passing game than they have in the past because starting quarterback Tanner Mangum looks to dump off the ball to them more than Taysom Hill did.

“You will see the backs catch more passes this year, for sure,” said Burt, who redshirted, along with Dye, last season. Both contributed in 2015 when Williams was taking off the season and now-linebacker Francis Bernard and Algernon Brown got the bulk of the carries.

“I definitely think all the backs are going to contribute this year,” Burt said. “We all bring something different to the table. We have the smaller, quicker backs, the faster backs, the taller, stronger backs. A little bit of everything.”

Canada, the Washington State transfer, returns with the most experience, having carried the ball 74 times for 315 yards and two touchdowns last fall. He’s been getting some reps at fullback in camp, joining Brayden El Bakri and Creed Richardson in that role.

“Spring camp is going great,” Canada said. “We have been rotating a lot of backs in and making sure everybody gets a fair amount of reps. It has been really good. It hasn’t been taxing on us. Light contact, hardly any contact, so that’s been really fun.”

Canada said he’s added a few pounds and some muscle so he can be the workhorse back if needed and believes he is sturdy enough if called upon.

“I feel like I can definitely carry the load right now, even at this weight of 207” pounds, he said.

The most intriguing back in camp is Tolutau, the former Utah 4A MVP who committed to Wisconsin out of East High before a church mission. Tolutau, listed at 6 foot 1 and 255 pounds, still will play halfback despite his size because he moves like one, running backs coach Reno Mahe said.

“He’s out here running people over, looking good,” Mahe said. “I’m very excited about him.”

Hall burst onto the scene last November when Williams and Canada were injured and finished with 184 yards on 35 carries, albeit against lesser competition.

“We will let them compete and the best will start,” Sitake said. “We are not going to rely on just one guy to carry the load. I think Jamaal deserved that last year and throughout his career. We will see if someone emerges this year, but for now we feel really good with the committee, the whole group. We will just see how they progress through spring ball and the offseason.”

Twitter: @drewjay


BYU running back in spring camp

Player » Year » Ht/Wt » 2016 sushing stats/status

Squally Canada » Junior » 5-11/205 » 74 carries, 315 yards, 2 touchdowns

KJ Hall » Sophomore » 5-9/180 » 35 carries, 184 yards, 2 touchdowns

Riley Burt » Sophomore » 6-1/205 » Redshirted in 2016

Trey Dye » Junior » 5-9/182 » Redshirted in 2016

Ula Tolutau » Freshman » 6-1/255 » On mission in Bakersfield, Calif.

Note » Fullbacks are juniors Brayden El Bakri and Creed Richardson; Defenders Matt Hadley and Kavika Fonua have been getting carries in spring camp on a tryout basis


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