What the Loss of Unga Could Mean

Brett RichinsSenior Analyst IApril 19, 2010
Harvey Unga

Harvey Unga

The news that Harvey Unga has left school and will likely not be in uniform for BYU this coming season drastically changes the outlook for 2010. It also changes some things coaches had in mind for some offensive wrinkles this year.

With Harvey in the backfield, and considerable depth and talent on the offensive line, the Cougars could have just lined up and essentially run over two-thirds of their 2010 schedule.

Unga was to be the rock that the BYU offense was to rely on. His departure means that there will be much more weight put on the arm of the new starting quarterback. It also means that the Cougars may be faced with a running back by committee situation, at least early on against an opening schedule of Washington, Air Force and Florida State.

Coach Anae’s plan was to utilize J.J. Di Luigi more as a slot receiver in 2010, creating some great opportunities by getting Di Luigi the ball in space and allowing him to make plays in the open field. That changes as J.J. now becomes a key cog in the backfield. It’s quite possible that he will become the primary back in BYU’s single-back sets.

Bryan Kariya will also see more action in the backfield as well. He’s a tough inside runner, has the ability to catch the ball and he’s a good blocker. But he isn’t the kind of player teams need to game plan for, nor does he have the feet and power of Harvey. He also doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of defending linebackers, safeties and corners who were often pummeled by Unga’s punishing running style.

The running back on the roster with the most talent is Joshua Quesada. But “Juice” is just a freshman and playing running back at BYU is more complicated that at many other schools. There is little doubt that he’ll  be effective running the ball. The question is how he will adjust to the his responsibilities in the passing game both as a receiver and, most importantly, as a blocker. Imagine having a true freshman running back potentially blocking for a true freshman quarterback – not a good situation.

The other committee member at this point could be Malosi Te’o. In practice Malosi has looked very strong as a runner. His biggest drawback is that he is currently developing as a pass catcher. Until running backs coach Lance Reynolds feels like he can rely on Te’o in the passing game, he isn’t likely to see the field consistently.

The sum of all of this is that the Cougars may end up going with more two-back sets, fewer receivers in the slot and fewer double-tight-end alignments. It also unfortunately means that BYU could lose a couple of extra games in 2010 without Harvey Unga in the backfield.