Running Backs Running Hard in Spring Camp

BYU has a talented group of running backs led by Jamaal Williams, Paul Lasike, and Algernon Brown. Along with his teammates, Williams has been running roughshod this spring camp as the ground game continues to improve at every level.

BYU fans will have a lot to cheer for this season. The program has a new offensive system in place under Coach Anae that's now been implemented for an entire year with an infusion of new talent to play in it. When it comes to the ground game, BYU fans should see continued success heading into the 2014 season.

"I feel like we've been doing great," said Williams. "One practice we kind of had a little slump, but after that day it's been peachy. Everyone is catching the ball, executing well, but I'm most impressed with Nate [Carter] and Jeremiah [Burr] the walk-on. I know it's hard trying to walk-on a team and trying to come in and execute, but I've been extremely proud of them the way he's been working and try to learn everything."

The backs are enjoying an unusual amount lot of success on the ground this spring. Much of that success can be laid at the feet of the offensive line, which has made big strides under Offensive Line Coach Garret Tujague.

"I feel like there is a difference from last year to this year," Williams said concerning the offensive line. "Last year I feel like they were a little conservative in how they wanted to block because it was new and everything. This year they're coming in and moving people and doing their thing and making these holes for us. It's a big difference as you see us making big runs every practice. It's getting consecutive and we're just happy to have them get excited to block and know that we are making big runs for them."

Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall adds that the ground game is ahead of the pass game in spring ball so far, but he expects the pass game to catch up

"Come fall, we're ahead of where we were in terms of execution, but run is still ahead of the pass, "Coach Mendenhall said. "And we've giving a lot more emphasis to our pass game so far this spring. It's catching up but the run game is still ahead."

Just about every time during the observable portion of practice a running back will break off a big run. Jamaal Williams has done it quite a few times and so has walk-on Nate Carter. Carter has been a workhorse over spring camp along with Algernon "Algie" Brown and another walk-on by the name of Jeremiah Burr.

"I see them all working hard, and pretty much Nate [Carter] has been working hard in finding those holes and making those long runs too," said Williams. "Algie's coming in and been doing what he's normally been doing, being a playmaker."

While the rise of Nate Carter has come as a pleasant surprise, another walk-on back by the name of Jeremiah Burr has also been making a name for himself in spring camp.

"We have a walk-on named Jeremiah Burr," Williams said. "He's doing a great job of catching the ball and learning the plays. Last Friday he had a touchdown from a wheel route, so it's just great to see players come in and execute and make plays for the team."

Burr has even caught the attention of Coach Mendenhall.

"Yeah, tough!" Mendenhall quickly said. "And right now we need another running back to get through practice, so he's getting an extended tryout, which I think he's doing a really nice job with."

Adam Hine is currently out of spring camp but is expected return to the team during fall camp. Coach Mendenhall said he'll have a hard time breaking into the rotation due to the progress those in spring have made.

"Yeah, he's expected back in the fall but he'll have a hard time breaking in," said Coach Mendenhall. "Each day that he's out Algie, Jamaal, and Paul are doing better and better, and so we expect him back and want him back. But he'll come back as the fourth [back on the depth chart]."

Nate Carter is a short but shifty back who's patience in waiting for a crease in the defensive line to form and then shooting through it for big gains. It's a consistent feat that has caused fellow teammate Jamaal Williams to give him a little nickname.

"I call him the leprechaun," Williams said with a cheeky smile. "Because every time he makes a big run it's like he's running for his pot of gold. So, he's the leprechaun to me. Everybody calls him the penguin, but I say leprechaun."

Coming in at around 5-9, 192-pounds it's easily understandable as to why Williams has given Carter his new nickname.

"Because he's short," said Williams with a laugh. "What else!"

Much of the success the running backs have enjoyed this spring camp can be directly laid at the feet of the offensive linemen who have been able to get after the defensive line. That there is progress being made is a positive, considering the abysmal nature of the BYU offensive line in recent years.

"I feel Tuni [Kanuch] and Dre [Wesley] when he comes back [are performing the best], but when Dre was here he was doing extremely well," said Williams. "Terrance Alletto and mostly the whole front five is doing a great job, but I feel like they do better when they're sliding too. They've been working on that and when we roll out, so they've been doing an extremely good job."

It's becoming apparent that the chemistry between backs and the offensive linemen is increasing under Running Backs Coach Mark Atuaia and Coach Tujague's tutelage. The interactive nature and communication between the two groups has become more apparent. Even during film study the two groups will often interrupt each other's session in a serious but joking manner.

"Yeah, every time we watch film our rooms are right next to each other," said Williams. "When one of us messes up either they'll come to our room to tell us we messed up or we'll go in their room. One time they messed up and I went into their room and threw the chair down and said, ‘Get you stuff together!' They knew I was just playing. I was like, ‘Just kidding guys. Next time let's get this!' But it's cool how we are all working together. After we do something good we all come to the sidelines and talk about it to each other and communicate for the next plays. It's just great communication."

And when the running backs make a mistake the offensive line room will send an ambassador to the running backs room to deliver scolding or lecture.

"Shoot, it's either Dre [De'Ondre Wesley], Tuni [Kanuch], or probably [Michael] Yeck," said Williams. "But Yeck is the soft kind. He'll come in and say, ‘Hey guys can you get this next time please.' He's the nice one."

While Yeck might bring the velvet glove approach, Kanuch and Wesley deliver more of an iron fist approach, much like Williams.

"They come in like me but bigger," Williams said with a smile.

Williams has a lot to smile about this spring.

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