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During the past three years Hema Heimuli took a backseat to Jamal Willis. Now, with Willis, the all-time leading rusher at BYU, fighting to make the San Francisco 49ers roster, Heimuli is the main man in the Cougar backfield - even if he won't admit it.

"A lot of people tell me I'm going to be the man at running back, but I can't say that," said Heimuli, who had over 1,000 yards of total offense last season. "If I played tennis or an individual sport, I could say I was the man, but football is a team game and everyone needs to pull their weight. I'm just going to do what I've been doing and see what happens."The modest Heimuli, a 6-2 215 pound senior, is certainly the most experienced member of the Cougar running back corps. He rushed for 552 yards and four TDs and caught 40 passes for 456 yards and six scores last season to rank second on the team in rushing, receiving and touchdowns scored.

Joining Heimuli as a starter in the backfield this fall will be junior Mark Atuaia, who gained 147 yards rushing and 125 yards receiving last season. Tefua Bloomfield, a sophomore from Hunter High, will see quite a bit of action as well.

The most intriguing possibility in the backfield is Itula Mili. The 6-4, 235 pound tight end will line up as an H-back or a fullback and rush the ball on occasion.

"Jamal (Willis) was a really good player who had big play capabilities. You hate to lose a player like that, but we feel good about the group we have," said BYU running backs coach Lance Reynolds. "Hema's really experienced and is playing well. Atuaia and Bloomfield will contribute and Mili will spend some of the time in the backfield. All four of those guys can flat out play."

Sophomore Dustin Johnson and redshirt freshman Aaron Cup will add depth to the position. True freshmen Ned Stearns and Russell Trejo have been impressive in practice, but may end up redshirting. Another true freshman, Matt Powell from Jordan High, was switched from being a safety to running back last week. He will likely redshirt.