Photo courtesy of BYU athletics
The first full position break down before the 2020 BYU football season starts will examine running backs.
Running back is a position that has been snake-bitten with injuries the last three seasons with key players going down throughout the year. The most notable are Squally Canada in 2017 and 2018, Lopini Katoa and Matt Hadley in 2018. Most recently, graduate transfer Ty’Son Williams and freshman Sione Finau went down with ACL injuries in 2019.
Plagued by injuries
For whatever reason, BYU running backs have not been able to stay healthy in head coach Kalani Sitake’s tenure. The Cougars will hope that their fortunes are much better in 2020 with backs Devonta’e Henry-Cole, Katoa, Sione Finau, Tyler Allgeier, Jackson McChesney, and Bruce Garrett.
Who will be the starter?
The competition for the starting running back position will be an interesting one. It will more than likely be a two-man race going into Week 1 at Utah. The starting reps will likely be split between Utah graduate transfer Henry-Cole and Katoa.
With Sione Finau likely to miss the first few weeks of the season, Henry-Cole and Katoa will look to carry the load for the BYU running game during its toughest stretch of the season. With games at Utah, vs. Michigan State, at Arizona State, and at Minnesota, the BYU offense will need to be at its best to able to win those games.
DHC and Katoa: Complementary Skillsets
The task is a daunting one but Henry-Cole and Katoa have complementary skill sets. That could help the Cougar offense during the first four games. Henry-Cole is blazing fast and runs through contact well despite his 5-foot-11, 196-pound stature. He is also a receiving threat out of the backfield that will prove to be an added weapon for quarterback Zach Wilson.
Katoa is killer in the screen game and has proven he is a tough runner between the tackles. They should make for a dynamic one-two punch in the BYU backfield in 2020.
Other backs to watch in 2020
Look for Allgeier to be a short-yardage specialist. McChesney could be used as a change-of-pace back between the 20s. Garrett will likely redshirt as he adjusts to the college game and learns the BYU offense. Still, he could be another weapon that BYU uses in the back half of the season.
Outlook and Predictions
Overall, the running back room has a good mix of youth and experience in 2020. Expect the running backs to provide some excitement this season. It’s reasonable to expect the running game to be more of a focus for the BYU offense in 2020 as the offensive staff wants a more balanced attack.
Also, look for a running back by committee approach once again for the Cougars. Henry-Cole should take the majority of the starting snaps. The staff however, will almost certainly find ways to utilize the strengths of Katoa, Finau, Allgeier, and McChesney.
Fans in Provo will have to hope that the running back group won’t have any major injuries for the first time in Kalani’s tenure. That would go a long way in the run game improving under first-year position coach and former BYU back Harvey Unga.
Though there is reason to expect improvement, BYU will likely not have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2020. Still, expect Henry-Cole to have a solid season if he plays in all 12 games. With experienced and young backs in the stable for BYU in 2020, the run game will take another step forward this season.