A banged up BYU offense prepares for Utah State

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BYU has a few questions to sort out due to injury as it prepares to take on the Utah State Aggies (4-1) Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The question regarding who fans should expect to be the main quarterback for BYU has been the predominant question lately, but new questions have arisen about the running back position after leading rusher Michael Alisa went down in the first half against Hawaii last Friday.

Alisa had surgery on his broken arm and is out for six to eight weeks. Stepping into the void left by Alisa is 17-year-old true freshman running back Jamaal Williams.

Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman is excited for what he saw from Williams against Hawaii. Williams had a career day with 15 carries for 155 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

“He runs the ball really good,” Doman said. “But he is also humble, he works hard, he doesn’t beg for playing time. He is a team guy.”

Coaches are at times hesitant to play true freshmen because they lack the instinct and experience necessary to play against high-level competition. Williams, however, seems ready to take on his role, where he will be expected to produce immediately.

“He is ready to run the ball, and he is ready to catch the ball,” Doman said in assessing Williams’ readiness to be the lead running back. “I don’t know if he is ready to protect yet though … but as he gets more and more reps he will learn how to protect. We ask our backs to do a lot, and we have some other guys who will help out. We have a strong backfield.”

In that strong backfield are senior David Foote, sophomore Paul Lasike and sophomore Iona Pritchard.

Lasike got his first significant playing time last week and turned in his 10 carries for 40 yards and two scores.

At quarterback, senior Riley Nelson said his back is feeling better and he’s working hard to be ready for Friday night’s game against the Aggies from his hometown of Logan.

“I want to play extremely bad (this week),” Nelson said.  “Mostly because it’s against a quality opponent on a big stage. Being on ESPN, it being an in-state game, I’m going to do all I can to play. I am working with the medical staff, just try and preparing myself, and then I will leave the decision up to the coaches and trust in their decision.”

In practice, Nelson has been more active, but coaches are still being cautious.

Freshman Taysom Hill took the majority of repetitions with the first-team offense on Monday.  With the outcome regarding who will be the starting quarterback unclear, Hill says he is not focused on challenging Nelson for the starting spot.

“That is one of those things where coaches coach and players play,” Hill said. “I just play and not worry about those things out of my control. We will see what happens.”

The depth chart still indicates Nelson as the starter, but for the second consecutive week, it appears that Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall will not indicate who will play quarterback until game-time on Friday.

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