BYU football: Redshirt returns with vengeance

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PROVO - Last season was frustrating for J.J. DiLuigi, if for no other reason than the broken foot that kept him sidelined for the entire year.

Offseason workouts were a relief, because it was the first chance for him to return to action.

Saturday's spring scrimmage? Well, that was the first opportunity for the BYU running back to show his stuff in front of the Cougar faithful at LaVell Edwards Stadium. And show his stuff he did.

DiLuigi, who will be a redshirt freshman in the upcoming season, was the standout player in a spring game, exhibiting his ability to slash through holes on the ground, catching passes out of the backfield and announcing his intention to compete for playing time in what is a crowded backfield.

It was a performance that was eye-opening to everyone involved. DiLuigi himself, the fans, his teammates and especially his head coach, Bronco Mendenhall.

"He's been really progressing through the spring," Mendenhall said after the workout. "This has been his best outing of the spring. Quite frankly, Wayne Latu came into the game ahead of J.J. on the depth chart. That race has tightened with the way he's played today."

No score was kept from the scrimmage, of which the live portion lasted roughly 40 plays. But, through unofficial statistics, DiLuigi accounted for 55 total yards. He ran four times, accumulating 27 yards, and he caught two passes for 28 yards.

More importantly, he demonstrated his ability to be a versatile back, which would give Max Hall another weapon to throw the ball to out of the backfield.

"It felt great to be out there today," DiLuigi said. "It was good to finally get back to a real game atmosphere. It was difficult not being able to play football last season, but all of that's behind me now. I had all of the support of my coaches and my teammates. It's definitely going to be an exciting summer."

DiLuigi wasn't the only BYU player to show well in the scrimmage. Spencer Hafoka, a true rising freshman, made an impact with a reception for 22 yards. Hafoka, from Hawaii, is 21 years old and coming off an LDS Church mission. He's looking to add depth to a receiving core considered to be one of the best in the Mountain West Conference.

"Spencer is one of the players who's impressed me the most," Mendenhall said. "He did a great job today and the receiving core overall is in great shape."

None of the projected starters saw any action during the live scrimmage. Hall didn't take a snap other than running the two-minute offense in the practice portion of the 90 minute session.

Among the players vying to be Hall's backup, rising sophomore Kurt McEuen played the best, going 7-for-10 for 70 yards and displaying a solid arm and a deft touch. He, along with Stephen Covey, threw interceptions. Brenden Gaskins went 4-for-7 for 56 yards.