Running Backs Aplenty

BYU's offense has a number of talented running backs with their own individual strengths to choose from. Some of them are young and inexperienced, but nevertheless could find themselves contributing sooner rather than later. Total Blue Sports caught up with Malosi Te'o after Tuesday's practice to talk about the Cougar running backs.

It has to be quite a bit of a challenge for Coach Anae and the offensive coaching staff who are left with developing the core of the offense. The Cougar staff has to break in a new center, and both Braden Hansen and Terence Brown both received work with all three quarterbacks Tuesday. Unlike Monday, Matt Reynolds worked out mostly at left tackle with Braden Brown at right tackle regardless of quarterback. Ryan Freeman received reps exclusively at left guard.

"The offensive line is getting a lot of work done and they're moving along," said running back Malosi Te'o. "Coach has them moving around to find the best combinations while we break in a new center. They're coming along and we have a lot of confidence in those guys up front because they're all talented."

During Tuesday's practice, the running backs received quite a bit of work behind a line finding its identity. Senior Harvey Unga, who has nothing to prove, received some scrimmage reps, while J.J. Di Luigi, Malosi Te'o, Bryan Kariya and Joshua Quezada received a bulk of the carries with Zed Mendenhall practicing at fullback.

"I think we have great diversity in the running back group between Harvey Unga and the younger guys in our group," said Te'o. "Collectively we have the whole package. In terms of team scheme we have a lot of great commodities to work with and will allow us to do a lot of things."

Finding reps and playing time for so many quality backs will pose a challenge this spring.

"It's going to be tough getting in some reps, but you have to make the most of it when you get the opportunity," said Te'o. "We have so many good backs that making the most of the reps you get in practice will be critical. It's going to be tough, but this is a sign of a strong program."

Di Luigi looked quick running the ball on Tuesday and had a lot of spring in his step. Zed Mendenhall received some spot duties at the fullback position while Quezada received a lot of reps carrying the ball.

"We are able to do a variety of things, from Harvey being that experienced bruising back to some of the smaller guys being more quick and finesse," Malosi said. "We've got guys that are little more agile and can spread the defense out more with both the passing side of the offense catching balls as well with the run.

"For the fullback position we have a great kid by the name of Zed Mendenhall who is doing some really good things for us at the fullback position right now. He came off the learning curve really quick and has really picked things up fast. He'll be getting more of the fullback reps and the rest will be spread out between Harvey Unga, J.J. Di Luigi and the rest of us.

"Joshua Quezada has a great mentality in terms of learning his assignment and executing it greatly. He does a great job of learning how to pick things up and applying it in a timely manner. In time and after rep after rep he's just going to become another potent tool within this offense. He had a great day today and has done some good things out on the practice field."

The speed and agility Quezada has shown so far are everything his highlight tape revealed them to be. The Cougar coaches put him through the ringer by giving him reps throughout the 11-on-11 scrimmages.

As for Te'o himself, he personally feels he has progressed in leaps and bounds from the time he first stepped foot onto the practice field last spring. Although it's tough to fully gauge how far a running back has progressed after viewing a limited-contact practice, Te'o figures to be right in the middle of the pack, as he is now more familiar with the nuances of the Cougar offense.

"This spring is a lot different than last spring," said Te'o. "I know a lot more and know what I'm doing. I have a lot more experience and I'm not as worried about doing things wrong. I'm not thinking as much about things, and with knowledge come speed. I'm not perfect but I feel like I've made a lot of strides from last spring.

"In terms of physicality, I feel great. It was good for me to be on the scout team to get that tough skin back and that level of confidence back. I'm ready to rock and roll and just need to focus on the little things. Hopefully I can contribute where I can."

Sideline Notes

There was a new prospect from the state of Texas attending BYU's practice Tuesday. His name is Collin Simpson and he plays both cornerback and safety. He appeared to be about 5 feet 10 inches and 180 pounds, and said BYU and Baylor are recruiting him.

Former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta and fullback Manase Tonga worked out for an NFL Patriot scout on Tuesday. The Patriots are looking for both a tight end and a fullback to add to their roster.

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