Provo • When Harvey Unga got off the phone with Chris Brooks in the days after New Year’s, the first thing he did was hop in the car and start looking for housing.
Brooks, the former Cal standout, had unexpectedly told BYU’s running backs coach he was transferring to the program. He was getting on a plane the next day, he said. And he warned he was en route with no car, no housing and in the middle of a holiday.
So Unga was left to figure out the logistics of it all. Two weeks prior, he had never talked to Brooks. But within the span of 15 days, he had seen the senior go from committed to Purdue, to de-committed, to coming to BYU without ever visiting campus.
“It was one of the fastest recruiting processes I’ve ever been a part of,” Unga said. “I’m not going to lie, I was struggling. I was trying to find a house everywhere. We found some players who had a house and a room available. So that worked out great.”
And while so much about Brooks’ recruitment has been dizzyingly fast, it’s fitting for how BYU envisions his role this season. In his final year of eligibility, BYU is hoping Brooks can come in and immediately stabilize a running back’s room that has lost Tyler Allgeier. The plan is simple for him: Come in, learn the playbook and eventually carry the load of BYU’s rushing game.
If it can happen as fast as his recruitment, it will be a successful experiment.
“It was so crazy,” Brooks said. “Probably the craziest experience. It was stressful but I just tried to make it easy. … BYU runs a lot of the same scheme as Cal.”
Unga spent much of this offseason grappling with BYU’s biggest question mark in 2022: How do you replace Allgeier?
The junior set BYU’s record with 23 rushing touchdowns. He ran for 1,606 yards and became the Cougar’s most reliable offensive weapon. For a team that won many weeks by simply winning shootouts, Allgeier was the cog that drove BYU to a 10-win season.
And when Unga looked around for answers, he quickly settled on a transfer. BYU had returning players like Jackson McChesney and Lopini Katoa. But between a lack of experience and injuries, Unga felt an experienced player could help bring in guaranteed production.
Brooks, in three seasons at Cal, ran for 1,734 yards and appeared in 38 games. He played in 10 games as a freshman and was a three-year starter.
“Experience is huge,” Unga said. “To me, the biggest thing is depth. He has elevated our room already.”
So far, the experiment has worked. According to BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, Brooks knows the offensive playbook better than the returning players.
He has taken first-team reps in practice and is slowly becoming a voice of maturity on a team still looking for answers without Allgeier. Brooks doesn’t compare himself to BYU’s former back. He says everyone has their own styles. But he also knows his role is to replace a player who accounted for nearly 30% of the team’s offense.
“[He] knows it is his last go-round,” Sitake said. “[He] knows more about our offense in a short amount of time than guys who have been here for years. A little bit embarrassing for those guys but also shows not everyone is going to have a spot on the field.
For Brooks, the speed of his transfer and move is starting to settle in. When he first got to BYU, and he was driving to practice with fellow transfer Houston Heimuli he would always take pictures of the mountains.
They don’t have those in California, he says.
But now, those mountains are becoming normal. And as his surroundings become familiar, so too is his voice on the team.
For BYU, the faster he acclimates the better.