The Brigham Young Cougars used a running back by committee approach in 2010. J.J. Di Luigi, Bryan Kariya, and Joshua Quezada shared reps as BYU replaced its all-time leading rusher a year earlier than expected. While the numbers didn’t show any drop off, the run game came up short at key moments early in the season. However, it was the strength of the run game that carried BYU to wins over San Diego State and Wyoming. These two wins proved crucial in the Cougars late season push to qualify for a bowl.
Di Luigi finished just shy of 1,000 yards, which was the first time since 2004 BYU did not have a 1,000 yard rusher. Perhaps some consolation to that fact was that Kariya and Quezada both reached 500 yards rushing, which was the first time since 1971 that BYU had three 500 yard rushers.
The other consolation prize was that all three picked up valuable experience that should help this year. Each back better knows his strengths and his role in the run game. A return to having a 1,000 yard rusher might not be part of 2011, but BYU backs will pick up significant yardage on the ground. Opposing defenses must account for the run game if they want to beat BYU.
Di Luigi has been named to the Doak Walker Award watch list. He ran for 917 yards last year, which is the 17th best single season in BYU history. He is currently 21st on the career rushing list. With 742 yards in 2011, he would move into the top 10. Di Luigi is a shifty back who does best in space outside the tackles. He is also a good pass catcher.
Bryan Kariya has been elected a team captain for 2011. He is the power back of the three. During 2010, he became automatic at picking up first downs when BYU faced a third and short.
Quezada was a true freshman in 2010. He scored a touchdown the very first time he touched the ball. After getting acclimated to the college game during the first half of the season, “Juice” finished the year strong leading the team in rushing, and going over 100 yards, twice in the final three games. He is expected to be a bigger part of the offense this year. A minor ankle injury has limited his reps the first week of fall camp, but he is recovering well and should be ready for the season opener.
Ryan Folsom and David Foote were among others who played spare minutes at the end of blowouts. They both showed potential in their limited playing roles. Mike Hague has switched to defense. The speedster Drew Phillips redshirted in 2010, and he was a scout team standout. Some personal issues look to limit his role in 2011. Highly touted Adam Hine has returned from his mission very recently, and a redshirt is likely.
Zed Mendenhall, Michael Alisa, and Iona Pritchard will handle the fullback duties.
Other 2011 Previews: Season Preview, Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers, Running Backs, Offensive Line, Defensive Backs, Linebackers, Defensive Line, Special Teams
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