Huckvale's Running Back Preview & Report Card

As BYU approaches its season opener against Georgia Tech, we'd like to take you back in time to when <b></b> first ran this 2003 running back preview and report card about players no one had seen in college (yes, even before spring practice began). We know enough about these players now to gauge how accurate this report is…

February 23, 2003: Call it early optimism. When we tell you that BYU will have an outstanding backfield next year, remember where you read it first -- and why. Sure, BYU only has two experienced returning starters in Marcus Whalen and Fahu Tahi, but our projection is the Cougars are stacked and well stocked at running back this season.

And this factors in the strong possibility that last year's true freshman standout, Curtis Brown, will redshirt. Indeed, there is good reason for Cougar fans to be excited about BYU's offensive backfield. reviewed game film of Thomas Stancil, Taufui Vakapuna and Reynaldo Brathwaite and here is a breakdown of the talents and strengths of each.


Standing at 5-7' and weighing in at 165 pounds, one would think he was a fragile speed back who might gets tossed around like a sheet of paper in the wind. Wrong.

Stancil may weigh 165 pounds, but 164 of them look like solid muscle. Game footage revealed something special and lethal about this young man. He is strong.

We saw Stancil knocking linebackers flat on their backs. We saw him using his shoulders and punishing defensive backs who stood in his way. However, those were rare instances when he had to resort to making contact with opposing defensives.

Stancil brings to BYU something that Cougar fans have rarely seen before – real, raw and ultimate blazing speed. Stancil was recorded running a 4.31 40 last year. Because of his diminutive size, he picks up and accelerates like nothing else.

Compare Stancil to a Honda Civic, small, light and even with a 4-cylinder engine, Stancil can pick up fast. Stancil led Bakersfield High School to a CIF title, an undefeated season, scored 20 touchdowns and rushed for 1,772 yards in his senior year alone.

We watched about 15 of those touchdowns on film. In 12 of them, he went untouched. Once he finds an opening, he is gone. Literally. Stancil was also named the Pepsi Athlete of the Year and earned team MVP honors. As a junior, he carried the ball for 1,995 yards. Add to the already impressive resume, he was also named Bakersfield Californian Offensive Player-of-the-Year with 1st-Team All-CIF honors.

These weren't little high schools either. We are talking class 5A. Stancil played on a team loaded with NCAA talent, including 4-star WR Blake Mackey; top OL in the nation, 5-star Nathan Rhodes; 2-star Mike Montgomery and Josh Shirley who signed with Fresno State. According to Bakersfield High School football coach Jason Oliver, Stancil was probably the most valuable to the team of all of them.

"People underestimated Thomas because of his size. However this kid has more heart and leadership than any on the team. He can hurt you in so many ways. Because of his blazing speed and surprising strength, we attribute a lot of our success in our undefeated season to Thomas," says Oliver.

Had Stancil been a few inches taller and 10 pounds heavier, Stancil would be considered a top prospect on the West Coast -- and even nationally. If we could compare Stancil to any opponent that BYU has faced, we would compare him to Joe Igber of California. Agility and quickness define the likes of these two players. He had the ability to "cut on a dime."

Cal obviously was aware of Stancil's talents as they were recruiting him since his sophomore year. California, Arizona and Fresno State along were the other schools to offer Stancil.

Of the three we are previewing, Stancil was, by far, the most exciting back to watch. We think he will be a perfect fit in Crowton's offense. It appears the Cougars got a real steal with this talented Californian.

Thomas Stancil's report card:

Raw Speed - A Break Away Speed - A Agility - A Field vision - C+ Awareness - B Hands - C- Strength - B OVERALL - B+


There are unconfirmed reports that Brathwaite will be moved to WR this season – which might prove to be a wise choice. At 5-11 and 185 pounds, he moved more like a wide receiver. He didn't display flashy moves like Stancil, but he can hurt you in the open field. Brathwaite has breakaway speed.

The problem isn't his speed (4.38). He just didn't seem to move like a running back. While we feel that Brathwaite would still do fine at the tailback slot, we think BYU can benefit more with him at WR. We saw many plays where Brathwaite would run out and catch screen passes, but only a few plays where he caught deep balls. Clearly, his game film established he can and will be catching footballs wherever he is placed on offense.

Fans should be excited about Braithwaite. While prepping at Monte Vista High School, Braithwaite rushed for 314 yards and scored seven TDs in a 64-30 win over Granite Hills High School. With that performance, Brathwaite set a CIF scoring record for touchdowns scored in a single game. Brathwaite also tied Marcus Allen for the FIC single-game rushing record.

Unfortunately, Brathwaite missed part of his senior season with a knee injury. He underwent surgery last season and is back up, running and ready to go. Brathwaite feels he is 100% and will participate in spring practice. He was offered by Colorado and Arizona.

Reynaldo Brathwaite's report card:

Raw Speed - B+ Break Away Speed - B+ Agility - B- Field vision - C Awareness - B- Hands - B OVERALL - B-


Another player that Cougar fans should get really excited about is Taufui Vakapuna.

While Vakapuna does not possess blazing speed or flashy moves, he is just one of those players that seems to make it happen. We can tell you this young man is an athlete.

A native of Salt Lake City, Vakapuna is the oldest of eight children. He played at East High School, where he was a three-year letterman in football and track. He finished fourth at State in the 100 meters as a senior. He consistently clocked in 40-yard times of 4.4 at the Nike and Jamal Willis camps.

Vakapuna was honored as the Most Valuable football player at East high school and was an All-State and All-Region selection. As a senior, he was credited with 112 carries for 1,107 yards; 20 receptions for 215 yards; and tallied 15 punt returns for 434 yards; and 11 kick returns for 293 yards.

Named the MVP of the national championship rugby game when he played for Highland High School club team alongside Oregon's standout defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, Vakapuna has moves and plenty of speed to go with his size. Vakapuna is a big kid and his size and strength masquerades his deceptive speed.

He can pull away from defenders; he just takes longer to accelerate. Compare him to a BMW 750, big and strong and durable with a powerful engine. What's more, Vakapuna registered 12 touchdowns as a senior, including two defensive touchdowns, and was credited with three interceptions and four sacks and two forced fumbles. He also earned defensive MVP honors as a junior and team MVP honors as a senior.

Vakapuna was recruited by Nebraska, Utah, Oregon, Utah State, Washington, but he chose BYU early.

We feel Vakapuna will see plenty of the end zone and, ultimately, Cougar record books by the end of his career at BYU. We feel it safe to say that Vakapuna has the chance at an NFL career.

Taufui Vakapuna's report card:

Raw Speed - C+ Break Away Speed - B+ Agility - B Field vision - A Awareness - A Hands - B+ Strength - A OVERALL - B+

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