What was a full stable is now down to its final workhorses.
BYU started the season with no shortage of runners, but injuries shrank the Cougars’ bruising backfield with Nelson, Alisa, and Hill all going down in consecutive weeks. With upcoming challenges against top 10 opponents Oregon State (10) and Notre Dame (7), Bronco Mendenhall needs a reliable running back now more than ever.
BYU hopes Jamaal Williams is the answer.
Williams raced for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns against Hawai’i after starter Michael Alisa broke his forearm in the first quarter. It’s the best performance by a freshman running back at BYU since 2007, and Williams officially became the starter last weekend against Utah State.
His stat lines are impressive, but the number that jumps off the page is Williams’ age. He is only 17 years old, and while most students his age are preparing for high school graduation, Williams is starting his legacy in college football.
Skipping the second grade allowed him to enroll at BYU a year earlier than most freshmen. He was only 16 when he signed his letter of intent, and teammates don’t miss an opportunity to joke with him about his youth.
“I know there’s little jokes on the side that ‘He can’t sign for himself. His parents got to pay for him,’ and stuff, but it’s OK,” Williams said. “I just like maturing faster. It’s really helping me.”
Injuries to older players shot him up the depth chart, but Williams knows his teammates are confident in his ability and know he will continue to succeed.
“It felt pretty good to come in as 17 and have them trust me like that,” Williams said. “It seems like they really believe in me, and I’m glad to be a part of this team.”
Williams says regardless of age, any back will slash through defenses behind his offensive line.
“Even when you’re 16, you can be 14, 15,” Williams said, “holes like that are just wonderful to have when you have linemen like them.”
Cougar fans just hope Williams stays healthy and keeps on running.
Be sure to catch the Freshman phenom this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. when our Cougars take on #10 Oregon State at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and don’t forget to come dressed to impress for the black-out.