If you think that the BYU offense has been anemic so far this year, imagine where the Cougars would be without junior running back JJ Di Luigi.
Of the 1,228 yards of total offense that BYU has managed to muster in their first four games, the diminutive Di Luigi has accounted for 532 of those—that’s 43 percent of the team’s total output. He’s also scored 50 percent of the touchdowns (three of six).
Thus far JJ is averaging 133 yards of total offense per game. If he keeps up that pace he will end the regular season with 1,596 yards. That’s better than Harvey Unga’s production in either 2008 or 2009.
While you are digesting that, keep in mind that he is doing it without the benefit of Unga’s supporting cast that included guys like Max Hall, Dennis Pitta, Austin Collie, Fui Vakapuna, and Manase Tonga.
In a lot of ways JJ kind of reminds me of the little engine that could.
His average per carry of 6.3 yards is well ahead of Unga’s best season of 5.2 yards per carry last year. For his career Harvey averaged five yards per carry, thus far in his career Di Luigi is averaging 5.7 yards.
JJ is not only the leading rusher on the team, he also leads BYU in receiving with 18 receptions for 200 yards, averaging over 11 yards per catch.
The Cougars struggles at quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end this season have been well documented. Teams know that JJ is currently the Cougars’ main weapon on offense, yet he has been able to produce a yards-per-carry average surpassed in recent memory by only Luke Staley.
Many thought that Di Luigi was due for a breakout year in 2010, and he has not disappointed. For a guy that goes just 5'9", 190 lbs. he is a surprisingly tough runner between the tackles and has thus far showed good durability with 71 touches on offense during the first third of the season.
It is in the open field though where Di Luigi really shines. His elusiveness and ability to make defenders miss is a talent not regularly seen in a BYU running back. His slippery style combined with his ability to get the job done in the interior of the line makes JJ a rare commodity.
As the Cougars venture into Romney Stadium tonight to take on Utah State, they will no doubt lean once again on the little running back that could; and it’s a good bet that the Aggie defense will focus a good deal of its attention on stopping Di Luigi.
Odds are that JJ will continue to chug right along.