The performances of a pair of BYU freshmen in Friday's 47-0 win over Hawaii has to have Cougar fans excited about the future of the football program.
Quarterback Taysom Hill (255 total yards with three total touchdowns) and running back Jamaal Williams (185 total yards and two touchdown runs) both made big plays for the BYU offense, providing a glimpse of what they might be able to become.
But it wasn't that long ago that BYU supporters had the same visions regarding another talented freshman duo: Jake Heaps and Joshua "Juice" Quezada — neither of which are on the team at this point.
Perhaps that experience is one of the reasons BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall tried to contain the enthusiasm about freshman running back Jamaal Williams a little bit in his post-game press conference.
“Before we get too far down the Jamaal bandwagon, it’s a nice start for him,” he said. “We’ll see now if he touches it more and more against stiffer competition how he’ll handle it, but I was really encouraged tonight.”
Mendenhall explained that the goal for the program was to have players always ready to step in and ready to play, whether they are seniors or freshmen.
"We’ve worked really hard and still have room to grow in terms of building depth in all positions," the coach said. "We’re grooming younger players to hopefully play at an even higher level than our current players are. You got a snapshot here and there of those guys, but we are finding a lot of players who belong at BYU athletically and who want to be here for all the right reasons."
One thing Hill and Williams bring to BYU that Heaps and Quezada didn't is that speed Mendenhall talked about.
Both freshmen had chances against Hawaii to run away from defenders for big gains. That ability adds a dimension to the Cougar rushing attack it hasn't had, something that Williams in particular brings to the backfield.
"I think he is really elusive and obviously he can run with speed," he said. "He’s not a power back but he can catch the ball out of the backfield. I think his elusiveness and how fast he can going to full speed is really helpful."
But even with all the success against Hawaii, the two still have plenty to learn and both know it.
"To be 17-years-old and have them trust me like that, it seems they really believe in me," Williams said. "I maturing faster. I know there are jokes on the side about how I can’t sign for myself, that my parents have to sign for me. But it’s OK. I’m maturing faster. We mostly want to focus on what we need to do to improve to win the next game."
Injuries could severely limit the playing time of the players in front of them on the depth chart. Starting running back Michael Alisa broke both bones in his right forearm in the game against Hawaii and had surgery on Saturday, while starting quarterback Riley Nelson has been hampered by lingering back problems.
Hill said Nelson has still played a key role as a mentor in helping him get ready to play.
"Nelson has been great," Hill said. "He’s been through this. He’s a senior here and has a lot of experience. He knows the team and what I was going into. All throughout the week he was giving me pointers up until the game. On the sideline, he was another set of eyes for me, which was really great."
With the decision on who will start and how much they will play in the hands of the coaching staff, the Cougar freshmen said they will just keep working to be ready.
“It’s a tough situation to be in when ultimately it’s not our call,” Hill said. “We’ll come back Monday and prepare as if we are going to be the guys, and if we’re called upon, we’ll go out and do our best.”
Beating up the opponent instead of his teammates
Friday’s game was the first significant action for Cougar sophomore running back Paul Lasike, who ended up with 40 yards on 10 carries and scored two touchdowns.
The BYU defense might’ve been glad to see someone else trying to slow the bruising running back for a change.
“He’s been a battering ram and beating us up defensively as a scout running back,” Mendenhall said. “It was fun to see him get in. He has a really bright future. He’s really physical as well.”
BYU getting closer to where it should be
Mendenhall talked about where the program is at after five games and said he saw some good things from the offense to get that unit closer to the other two in terms of performance.
“After the past two weeks, I thought there was significant improvement in ball security, clean play and in moving the football,” Mendenhall said. “I thought we were fairly close defensively and in special teams.”
He said seeing the success against the Warriors was a positive, especially for the offense, and that the team needed it.
Good news for injured Hawaii players
The two Warrior defensive linemen who left the first quarter of Friday's game on stretchers were both taken to the hospital after leaving the field.
It was reported that both Geordon Hanohano and Siasau Matagiese had x-rays taken but they came back negative. Both rejoined the team before it left Utah.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.