Spring Practice Preview: The Backfield

The frontline in the Cougar offensive backfield is set heading into spring practices. At quarterback, running back and fullback, the Cougars return very productive starters from a season ago, including team MVP Harvey Unga. Behind the frontline include several up-and-coming players who will be trying to compete for playing time.

With the full backfield of quarterback Max Hall, running back Harvey Unga and fullback Manase Tonga all returning, the Cougars look to be in great shape entering spring practices and the 2008 season. With all three returning and aiming to improve their collective skills, the Cougar backfield is ready to roll.

Regaining his Form

One of the intriguing stories this spring will be another Fui Vakapuna watch. Vakapuna ran rampant in 2006, but has since struggled to regain his form following a high ankle sprain that he sustained as the 2006 season wrapped up.

Vakapuna spent the 2007 season trying to regain the form he showed prior to his injury in 2006. He was able to show some signs of his prior form at times during last season, but was again battered down by injuries throughout the year.

If Vakapuna can regain his 2006 pre-injury form, then he'll help pose one daunting backfield combo with Unga. We'll be watching Vakapuna closely throughout spring practices and look for signs of any resurgence Vakapuna may put forth.

DiLuigi Returns

One player that should warrant as much attention as anyone on the team this spring is J.J. DiLuigi. DiLuigi came to BYU with a lot of anticipation and excitement around him, as he finished off his prep career as the Player of the Year for the entire state of California. He had to opt for a redshirt year, however, as he went down with an injury barely more than one week into fall practices last season.

DiLuigi is healthy now and should see a lot of looks as he tries to earn a spot backing up Unga. We're as excited as anyone to see what DiLuigi can bring to the table, and will be keeping a close eye on him and his progress starting Monday.

Backing up Tonga

Another intriguing story this spring comes with the battle to back up Manase Tonga at fullback. There are a lot of options here, and if and when Tonga can't go during next season, coaches may choose to scrap the FB position in favor of an extra receiver. Other options would include inserting a blocking tight end or other player in the backfield during short-yardage situations, as they did with Vic So'oto a season ago.

One player that will reportedly be battling for the FB position is Kelly Bills. Word is that Bills sees an opening and opportunity for him to contribute most at the fullback position and will be competing there instead of at linebacker this spring.

Backing up Hall

While Brenden Gaskins should remain firmly entrenched as Max Hall's primary backup, there are a couple of very interesting prospects who will be showing their wares to coaches.

Jason Munns showed very well in fall practices a season ago before going down with a season-ending injury. This spring Munns should be afforded a good share of reps as he learns the system as best as possible so he can return from his planned LDS mission (he plans on departing this summer) in the best form possible.

Steven Covey meanwhile has returned from his mission and will be competing for the third spot on the depth chart at quarterback. Covey spent his freshman year learning to play defensive back, but will be competing this spring at the position he played and starred at in high school.

Other players may step up at both the running back and quarterback positions, and we'll note any developments as spring practices go on.

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