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Provo • November's schedule hasn't been all that intriguing for BYU's football team and it will become even more lackluster this Saturday when 2-8 UMass comes to LaVell Edwards Stadium but at least the Cougars have been able to show off their depth at running back a little bit.
With fullback Algernon Brown the latest ball carrier to get bitten by the injury bug, the Cougars are suddenly thin at running back, a position of strength when the season began.
That means freshman tailback KJ Hall and sophomore fullback Brayden El-Bakri, walk-ons who aren't even on the two-deep chart, should see more action when the Minutemen and Cougars meet for the first time. Hall, the son of former BYU star Kalin Hall, rushed 12 times for 59 yards and a touchdown in the 37-7 win over Southern Utah last week, and El-Bakri, a Brighton High product, caught four passes out of the backfield for 69 yards.
"I was ready to do whatever was asked of me," Hall said of his first action of the season. "I wasn't bugging coach [Reno Mahe] or riding him, but I was obviously ready to go in if they needed me, and I did my job."
BYU coach Kalani Sitake did not disclose Brown's injury in his weekly news briefing on Monday, but the senior committed one of three BYU turnovers with a fumble early in the second half and did not have another carry.
Fellow senior Jamaal Williams was to be a game-time decision, but wore a protective boot on his sprained ankle in warmups and did not play. Sitake said Williams' status for the UMass game depends on "how he progresses" this week.
The same applies to Canada, who suffered a sprained right thumb in the 20-3 win over Cincinnati on Nov. 5 and wore a soft cast against SUU, retiring to the bench after six carries. None of the three main backs practiced on Monday.
"They will have to practice before they can play, but KJ has done really well," Sitake said. "We will see where we need to go if our depth isn't working well."
Hall's backup is Colby Hansen (three carries for 8 yards), while the third-string fullback is Creed Richardson. The Cougars are trying to redshirt a pair of backs who saw some action last year, Riley Burt and Trey Dye, offensive coordinator Ty Detmer has said.
"It is probably too early to tell right now who will play," Sitake said. "Ty [Detmer] will probably have more to say tomorrow or Wednesday. It is too tough for me to predict right now. … We have a bunch of guys that hit and eventually the guys get dinged up a little bit. I don't think it is anything too alarming. I think that Algie and Squally will be fine and we will just see how Jamaal is recovering from last week."
Coincidentally, starting linebackers Harvey Langi and Francis Bernard have some college experience as running backs, but neither will be called on to make the switch back this late in the season, said Mahe, the running backs coach. He joked that plenty of guys have volunteered to fill in.
Langi was back at middle linebacker on Saturday because sophomore Butch Pau'u is still recovering from a knee injury that has had him in and out of the lineup for more than a month.
"He has been pretty banged up for the last few weeks since he tried to come back," Sitake said. "Hopefully we will get him back this week."
It will be the Cougars' last afternoon game of the season. It was announced Monday that the Nov. 26 BYU-Utah State game at LES will kick off at 8:15 p.m. and be televised by ESPN2 or ESPNU.
UMass at BYU
P Saturday, Noon
TV • BYUtv