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Peavler: 2015 could be a record-breaking year for Jamaal Williams and the BYU running backs

It seemed inevitable that Jamaal Williams would break Harvey Unga's school career rushing yards record one year ago. BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae even went so far to say at BYU's 2014 Media Day, "I’ve already apologized to Harvey because that record is going down."

While Unga's record still stands, there's a good chance Williams will take it down in 2015.

As it stands, Williams is 930 yards away from breaking Unga's record. Assuming that he is able to play in all 12 games plus a bowl game, Williams would need to average 71.5 yards per game.

That's well within the realm of possibility.

Breaking that record last season would have been a tall order for Williams. He would have needed 1,448 yards rushing to do it. However, it was certainly possible as 21 players rushed for more than that last season. Besides, Williams rushed for 1,233 yards as a sophomore, and he did not play against Middle Tennessee State.

But Williams' 2014 season was short to say the least.

Williams started the year on a one-game suspension. While he rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns against Houston, he clearly wasn't 100 percent in other games. He had just one carry against Central Florida and did not play against Nevada.

Williams' season came to an end as he suffered multiple knee injuries against Middle Tennessee State. He's had a long recovery. He was not able to participate in spring football, and it is still unclear if he will be ready for the season debut at Nebraska.

And with a brutal September coming up for the Cougars, BYU needs Williams healthy as soon as possible.

First and foremost, a healthy Williams takes pressure off quarterback Taysom Hill. Even when Williams was on the field last season, he wasn't the same explosive player he was in 2013. That placed a larger burden on Hill to make things happen with his feet, which in part led to his season-ending injury against Utah State.

Simply put, BYU can't afford to lose Hill again. That means Williams and the running backs need to step up their games in 2015.

Besides, Williams is an explosive player when he is healthy. He is one of the most elusive running backs in BYU football history. While a lot of fans remember Hill going off for 259 yards rushing against Texas in 2013, don't forget that Williams also added 189 yards.

And Williams is hardly alone in the BYU backfield.

Junior Algernon Brown would probably get the start if Williams is unavailable against the Cornhuskers. Brown was the feature back in the bowl game against Memphis. While Brown isn't as shifty as Williams, he's not a running back to shy away from contact. He's also the best out of the bunch at catching passes from out of the backfield.

Plus, he'll be healthy coming into the season opener. Brown, like so many other BYU players, missed games last season due to an ankle injury. We will probably see plenty of Brown this season even if Williams is ready by September.

The Cougars also have a pair of seniors in the backfield with Adam Hine and Nate Carter. Hine's biggest impact will probably be on special teams as long as he can get and stay healthy. He could also be an option for short yardage situations, particularly near the goal line. As for Carter, he's probably going to have a similar role as last season in that we'll probably see him late in games or during blowouts.

Then there's sophomore Toloa'i Ho Ching, who will look to fill the void left by Paul Lasike at the fullback position. Ho Ching is a converted linebacker who will get his chance to shine this season. He will fill a key role in opening the way for Hill, Williams and Brown and he'll probably get some carries of his own this year. He may well be a household name in Provo before the season is over.

So, while the running back position isn't quite as deep as it was a year ago before a nasty rash of injures, there's options here even if Williams isn't fully recovered before BYU's season opener against Nebraska. Still, the best-case scenario would be to have Williams ready to go game one and stay healthy all season long.

If that happens, 2015 will be a record-breaking year for Williams.

This is the second of a nine-article series previewing the 2015 BYU Cougars football team. Read the first article here.

Lafe Peavler is a contributor for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.