Summer Preparation: RB Harvey Unga

BYU junior running back Harvey Unga gives BYU fans an inside look at what he and other running backs on the squad do over the summer during voluntary workouts to keep the momentum that was gained over spring practice.

Due to the nature of the position, the running backs don't have the luxury of being able to simulate game or practice conditions like the wide receivers, but they can still do thing during the summer that allow them to work on some aspects of their game.

"We can't really simulate the same conditions that we get during spring or fall practices," said Harvey Unga. "It's a lot different for a running back because we can't really run the ball between the tackles like we can during practice or games, so that part of our game we can't really work on over the summer, but there are other things we can do.

"Since we can't really work on our running game in a similar way the wide receivers can get a good look by working out with the cornerbacks, we usually work on other things that help in our run game. We'll get with Coach Omer and he'll help us work on our speed and quickness, and those things are what helps the running backs in our run game during practices and in games."

Building up their speed, quickness and agility are basically the only real offseason work the running backs focus on in terms of improving their run game. The lack of being able to run behind their offensive line with a defense in pursuit is something that is hard to simulate during voluntary workouts.

"Yeah, in that regard we can't really get a good look during summer workouts like other positions can," said Unga. "You just can't really recreate the same look and feel as in a game or practice, you know, and on top of that you can't really create the hitting aspect as well, and for running backs that part of the game has its role in helping you get better also. The wide receivers can practice against a physical cornerback and that helps them, whether getting off the line of scrimmage or in coverage. We don't have that when we work out."

So in the meantime the running backs' development within the run game is in the hands of the ‘torturous' Coach Omer who, according to most testimonies by those that stay for summer workouts, is like a mad man looking to invent new techniques, gadgets and way to make those muscles burn.

"Man, Coach Omer always seems to find new ways to do things," said Unga jokingly. "He really puts us through some tough workouts every year, but whatever he does always seems to help us physically improve."

Running back Malosi Te'o has also been putting in time over the summer. In his case, he's been doing personal workouts with his father Ephraim. According to Ephraim, Malosi has been working hard - aside from summer wedding activities that is - to prepare himself for the upcoming fall camp and regular season.

"Malosi has been pretty much working out every day," said Ephraim. "He's been doing a lot of calisthenics that has really helped him on his speed and agility. He's looking really good. He's trying to shake off that missionary rust from his legs, but he's coming along really well."

So aside from personal workouts and voluntarily being put through a high-performance gauntlet of workouts by Coach Omer on the practice field, what can running backs do to help further improve their game? According to Unga, there are a number of skills required in order to be a successful running back at BYU, and during the summer offseason a running back can participate in seven-on-seven workouts that will help during practice and game-time situations.

"Usually when Max [Hall] calls the receivers, we'll get together with them," said Unga. "We can't really work on our run game but we can work on our passing game. In order to be a successful running back at BYU you have to be able to do more than just run the ball. You have to be able to block during passing downs - and that part of the game we can't really work on during the summer - and you have to be able to run routes and catch the ball out of the backfield. So usually during seven-on-sevens we'll work on this part of our game."

The seven-on-seven scrimmages set up by the players allows both the receivers and the running backs to become more polished within the passing portion of the offensive attack. To further help in providing a more accurate defensive look, the linebackers will participate in the seven-on-seven activities as well.

"Sometimes we'll call up Terrance [Hooks] or Matt [Bauman] and let them know we're going to be out there," said Unga. "That happens sometimes. Sometimes they'll just come on their own so they can get some work in by staying fresh by covering the wide receivers, but mostly by working out with the tight ends. It's good that they're out there because it really helps us as running backs go up against someone who is covering you. It just provides more competition and that's what getting better is really all about."

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