Di Luigi expecting to play big role

Running back J.J. Di Luigi seems to be all over the field these days and will play a larger role in BYU's offense this season. The senior has big expectations this year for the team and for himself, and feels the offensive changes will help those expectations be met.

It may have been a while ago that the BYU coaching staff was recruiting a running back out of Canyon High School who scored a league-record 43 touchdowns his senior season, but it doesn't seem that way to him.

"It just seemed like yesterday," said J.J. Di Luigi, a member of the 2007 recruiting class. "Time has flown by fast since I've been here. It's amazing to see how things have changed since the day I first got here."

When it comes to change, Di Luigi has seen the Cougar offense go through a wide range of fluctuations over his time at BYU, but no change has been more dramatic than the one he's seen from last spring to this fall.

"We've improved this offense so dramatically," he said. "I mean, the way our offense is now running in comparison to what it used to be is so much better. Our level of execution is now at a much higher level and I think that's because the way our offense is designed now, it has helped the players."

An area of improvement Di Luigi has seen is how the receivers are blocking.

"Our receivers are more involved in downfield blocking and executing that part of our scheme much, much better," Di Luigi said. "It's really helped our running backs and our run game become that much better. Now, we're seeing the running backs get to the second level and be matched up one-on-one with a safety or just a corner. Before, the running backs had to beat both and that was a disadvantage for us. It's not that way anymore, and so we'll have more success from the run part of our game."

It's all part of Coach Doman's objective to make the running game a more viable option in his offense.

"I think the reason why we're seeing more involvement from our receivers in the run game is because of Coach Doman stressing more the downfield blocks," Di Luigi said. "Also, I think Coach Cahoon and Coach Doman have worked hard together on better developing that part of our offense.

"It's also the coaching by Coach Cahoon in making sure that his receivers get into their routes and are getting to those safeties or cornerbacks to get their blocks. If the receivers don't get out and into position to make the blocks, they're on the sidelines. That's just how Coach Cahoon is and I think it's really pushed a lot of the guys in different ways that we haven't seen here before.

"It's the same way with Coach DuPaix, but in the opposite way. I mean, it kind of goes both ways. The receivers block for us in the run game and we block for the quarterback so they can have time to get into their routes to catch passes. Our number one goal is to make sure we are able to pick up blitzes and help with the pass protection. It's why we've had a lot of success and is something that attributes to a lot of our success."

Coach Doman recently mentioned that pass protection was an area that needed to be cleaned up a little and further improved on to reach his level of expectations.

"Blocking in the backfield has been taken to a whole new level," Di Luigi said. "I mean, our coaches have always stressed blocking in the backfield, but this fall camp it has been taken to a whole new level."

One reason why pass protection is being stressed is because there will be a lot more deep passes thrown this year, the likes of which haven't been seen since the days when Todd Watkins and Austin Collie both stretched the field back in 2004.

"Before, it was stressed a lot for everyone from the running backs to the fullbacks, but now with the way our offense is, Coach Doman is stressing it more," Di Luigi said.

As the Cougars inch forwards to their opener against Ole Miss on September 3, the multi-threat scatback has his eyes on some personal goals for his final season in a BYU Cougar uniform.

"I want to be a 1,000-yard rusher. I also want to have a ton of receiving yards. My goal is to have 500 or more receiving yards this year, and then around 13 or more touchdowns.

"If I don't have as many touchdowns as I would like, it just goes to show you how much talent we have on this team, but those are some of the goals I have for my senior year. I'm looking forward to this season and think the best is yet to come."

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