BYU: Running backs will share the load
Provo • Powerful running back Harvey Unga battered Washington two years ago when BYU edged the Huskies 28-27 in Seattle, grinding out 136 yards on 23 carries.
It's probably safe to say that when BYU and Washington go at it Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (5 p.m., CBS College), no Cougar running back will get close to 23 carries or 136 yards.
"It's going to be by committee this year," running backs coach Lance Reynolds said. "There's not a Harvey Unga in the bunch, but J.J. DiLuigi is capable of making huge plays. He's active, and slippery, with great feet. Bryan Kariya does a lot of things really well, too."
Those two backs DiLuigi and Kariya will get the bulk of the carries against the Huskies, while freshman Josh Quezada could get a couple, Reynolds said. By comparison, Unga got 208 rushing attempts last year (despite sitting out the first two games), while Kariya had the second-most with 55 (not counting quarterback Max Hall's sacks, scrambles and rare rushing attempts, which totaled 72).
"I am comfortable with our backs," Reynolds said. "We are talented, and we have worked hard. We are going to be OK."
DiLuigi, who had 45 carries for 248 yards last year, said he is ready to get Unga-like rushing attempts, if that's what it takes.
"I am capable of whatever they need me to do," he said. "If that means 15 or more carries a game, then that's fine. I have no problem doing that. Whatever they need my role to be, that is what I am going to do."
Kariya stepped in at the start of the season last year when Unga couldn't go against Oklahoma due to a hamstring injury and played his best game as a Cougar, picking up 42 yards on 17 carries and catching four passes for 76 yards.
"No question, the team has confidence in Bryan," Reynolds said. "They've seen what he can do."
Then there's Quezada, nicknamed "Juice" by his teammates.
"Juice is a freshman, but he is going to be a really, really good player for us," Reynolds said. "Getting him to his potential is going to take some time, but he's pretty darn good right now. He can do everything. He is a Harvey kind of guy. He has enough size, he's physical, he's fast, and he can catch the ball. He can do a lot of things for us, but he is a pup."
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said he has never had a team enter a season as healthy as this one.
"I am learning a lot about managing [fall] camp," he said. "Hopefully, we gave gotten enough work in to where we are ready to play."
Of the players listed on the two-deep chart, only tight end Devin Mahina is listed as questionable, with an ankle sprain. He will be a game-time decision, trainer Kevin Morris said.
Backup cornerback Robbie Buckner has a soft cast on his broken hand, but has been cleared to play.
About the only question mark remaining for the Cougars is who will start at tight end. Mendenhall said it could be either Mahina, Richard Wilson, Mike Muehlmann, Marcus Mathews or Austin Holt. "You could see up to four tight ends get in the game, based on a given play or personnel group," he said.
Washington at BYU
P Saturday, 5 p.m.
TV • CBS College