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Provo • How bad is the running back situation at BYU?
The second-leading rusher, quarterback Taysom Hill, with 72 yards, hasn't played since the third quarter of the season opener. The third-leading rusher, returned missionary freshman Francis Bernard (30 yards) didn't play in the first three games due to a broken finger.
And now it appears that the team's leading rusher, Adam Hine, won't play on Friday against Connecticut (8:15 p.m., ESPN2) at LaVell Edwards Stadium because he hasn't practiced this week after suffering an ankle injury early in the second half of last Saturday's 31-0 loss at Michigan. Hine has 312 rushing yards.
"We've got to block better and we've got to run harder," offensive coordinator Robert Anae said Tuesday. "That's it, right there. We are not coming off the ball like we would like to, and we are not hitting holes like we want to, either. It is a combination of two things: the blocking is soft and the running is soft."
Getting healthier would also help.
When Jamaal Williams withdrew from school before preseason camp, Algie Brown was the heir apparent to the 20-30 carries per game Williams would have received in his quest to become BYU's all-time leading rusher. But Brown suffered a knee injury in the 35-24 win over Boise State and hasn't seen the field since, although he participated in warmups prior to the Michigan game.
BYU has grown increasingly tight-lipped with its injury reports this season, so the status of Hine and Brown for Friday's game is unclear. Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that "both are possible, is what I've been told. … I have not been told they are out."
But Anae said Tuesday that neither Hine nor Brown have practiced this week.
Senior and former walk-on Nate Carter, second on the projected depth chart after camp, has 22 yards on 16 carries.
The obvious candidate for the bulk of the carries is Bernard, who picked up 13 yards in his first-ever carry last week and finished with 30 yards on four attempts.
"I like [Bernard] a lot. I think he is tough. I think he is physical. I think he can block. I think he can catch the ball out of the backfield and I think he can run it. So, he is really versatile, and his role will increase," Mendenhall said.
Of Bernard, who prepped at Herriman High before an LDS Church mission to Atlanta, Anae said, "You know, there is a young guy who has a lot to build on, and his upside is tremendous."
Anae said coaches hope to bring freshman Riley Burt, who was switched to running back from defensive back in preseason camp, into the game at some point on Friday, "and see what he can do."
Burt ran for 1,109 yards and 11 touchdowns in his senior season at Brigham City's Box Elder High.
Receivers need to get physical
Junior receiver Colby Pearson, who had two catches for 11 yards against Michigan, said the receivers were "out-physicaled" against the Wolverines and had trouble getting off the line of scrimmage.
"They were good, and what I think is that they were professional holders," Pearson said. "They got their hands good on us, and held on to us well, and it was hard for us."
Receivers coach Guy Holliday took the blame for the outside receivers getting manhandled by Michigan's defensive backs.
"Nick [Kurtz] and Mitch [Mathews] in particular, they are big, so they gotta play big," Holliday said. "You can't be 6-6 and play 5-11. That doesn't work."
Defensive backs Micah Hannemann and Michael Davis, linebacker Harvey Langi and offensive lineman Kyle Johnson also left the Michigan game with assorted injuries. Langi and Johnson are the least likely to play against the Huskies. … Mendenhall said DB Jordan Preator is expected to play this week after missing the past three games due to an injury and a suspension.
Connecticut at BYU
P Friday, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPN2