PROVO — Perhaps overshadowed somewhat with the inclusion of Ty'Son Williams as a fellow graduate transfer, BYU coaches are excited with the prospects of Emmanuel Esukpa as an immediate contributor at running back this coming season.
Esukpa comes to BYU as a 5-foot-11, 232-pound battering ram from Rice who was developed in part by current Cougar running backs coach AJ Steward for three seasons before Steward made his way to BYU. Already convinced of Esukpa's abilities, it didn't take long for Steward to convince other coaches on BYU's staff of the former Owl running back's abilities, particularly offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.
"He's sort of a guy who is still developing as a running back," Grimes said. "So it will be interesting what he brings to the table, but man, I'm impressed with his size and his speed that he's showed. ... He's really fast and explosive for a guy that size."
Based on that size and explosiveness, Esukpa could be a good a short-yardage option, although Grimes sees potential beyond that.
"You would naturally think this is a guy who is going to run the ball great between the tackles, but he may be just as effective running the ball on the perimeter," Grimes said. "When I was at LSU, Leonard Fournette was a guy who was 230-plus pounds ... but when he got into the open field, that's when he was his most dangerous. Safeties didn't want to tackle him. ... I'm anxious to see that size and speed combination with (Esukpa)."
Steward is well-aware of Esukpa's abilities and, beyond that, his character.
"I grew to know him and his family real well and I really do love him as a player, but even more as a person," Steward said. "He's an old soul, along with Ty'Son, and you can tell both of them were raised right by great parents who made sure they know how to conduct themselves well with the values they instilled with them."
Esukpa greeted the media Tuesday confident and excited for what's ahead in what will be his final year playing away from a program that was tough to leave behind.
'It was a tough decision for me just because I put so much blood, sweat and tears into Rice University," he said. "So it was tough for me, but it was the best thing for me and my family, so I just have to do what I had to do. ... I came here because there's a lot of good things happening within this program and it's obviously on the rise. I just want to be a part of it. ... It's great to have 'BYU' on my chest. It feels good."
BYU coaches see Esukpa as a still-developing back despite his experience at Rice, which is an exciting prospect.
"I feel like my best football is ahead of me," Esukpa said. "I'm never going to be perfect, but I'm striving to be, so yeah, I feel like there's a lot of things I still can learn."
Esukpa sees himself as a power back with the goal to finish out his college career as a more complete back capable of contributing in myriad roles. Coaches expect him to play a significant role, with that role becoming more defined once fall camp begins.
"We'll work with all of them and see how it all goes throughout practices and workouts," Steward said. "I'm certainly excited about all of them and feel we have a group of guys who are talented and mature who will be able to form a productive unit for us. We're all excited to get this thing going."