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Here’s how receiver-turned-running back Miles Davis is hitting all the right notes in preseason training camp for BYU

With a few RBs not quite ready for full-time action, Las Vegas product has emerged as the Cougars’ top backup to veterans Lopini Katoa, Tyler Allgeier

BYU’s Miles Davis, wearing white pants, a navy blue jersey and white pants, runs the ball during fall camp
BYU’s Miles Davis looks for yardage during fall camp in Provo, Utah. Davis is getting the hang of things after switching from receiver to running back this fall.
Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo

It has become a rite of preseason training camp every August at BYU.

A relatively unknown player makes a lot of plays — usually going against second- or third-stringers — and garners the attention of the media yearning to tell new stories and tout new prospects.

All of a sudden, said player becomes an internet sensation, and pumped up by many as the latest, greatest thing to come out of Provo since the Imagine Dragons.

Rarely does the player become anything more than a good practice player.

So when we tell you that second-year freshman running back Miles Davis is turning all kinds of heads in scrimmages and practices — scrimmages and practices that the media has viewed for a less than an hour, total — perhaps take it with a grain of salt.

But then consider what offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick had to say after Saturday’s scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium — which was viewed only by family members and a few boosters — and buy into the hype.

“That guy is a good player, and he is going to play for us,” Roderick said. “That needs to be said. That guy stands out every time he plays. Same thing happened last year as a freshman. He would get in games and he was playing at a different speed than everybody else. And he does something good every day.”

In Tuesday’s Zoom session with reporters, head coach Kalani Sitake echoed Roderick’s sentiments. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Las Vegas who shares the name of a world-famous Jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader and composer is turning in some sweet music himself.

“Very athletic, tough kid. He’s elusive. He knows how to run with the ball in his hands,” Sitake said. “So he has got the great instincts of a natural runner, feeling pressure and knowing how to avoid it.

Miles Davis carries the ball in Provo, Utah during BYU’s game against Troy on September 6, 2020.
BYU Photo

“No one really gets a clean shot on him. In the scrimmage, A-Rod had mentioned how well he did. It is because he is such a hard guy to tackle.”

Davis actually showed promise last season, catching four passes for 43 yards and rushing 15 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns, so he’s obviously more than a momentary internet sensation. It’s just that it will be difficult for him to get a lot of carries this year if the two stars ahead of him on the depth chart — Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa — stay healthy.

“You combine (talent) with his willingness to learn, and I think he’s got a tremendous amount of potential,” Sitake said. “Plus, he can catch the ball. He has that ability to do it out of the backfield. We will see how it works. We will see what else he can put together. But so far, we are really really happy with the progress we see from him, all the way from last year until now.”

Davis also appeared in Tuesday’s Zoom meeting with reporters and took his newfound fame, and success, in stride with a humble, aw shucks, attitude. He even turned down a chance to pronounce himself the fastest running back on the team, saying Allgeier deserves that tag because they’ve never really raced.

When’s the last time you’ve heard that?

“Fall camp has been going pretty good,” Davis said. “I feel like I got a lot more stuff I can do and learn. I am just looking at the older guys and learning, trying to get better, and keep pushing.”

As for Saturday’s shining, Davis said his favorite memory was scoring and being congratulated by the veterans on the team.

“All the older guys just came over and were hyping me up, giving me a little praise,” he said. “I was happy for that, seeing all my other teammates happy.”

So it appears Davis is RB3 now, but he knows there are others with a bit more experience that will still compete for playing time, guys such as Jackson McChesney, Hinckley Ropati and Mason Fakahua. Davis said an RB who missed most of last season after sustaining a major ACL injury in 2019, former Kearns High star Sione Finau, hasn’t been with the team lately.

“But I am pretty sure when he does come back he is going to be a great running back.”

When Davis was signed out of Las Vegas High in February of 2020, there were questions regarding whether he would play offense or defense, but nobody said anything about running back, a position he didn’t play in high school.

Miles Davis runs in the ball in LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah against Louisiana Tech on Oct. 2, 2020.

Receivers coach Fesi Sitake said at the time the coaches were fighting over whether Davis would play receiver or cornerback.

Last year, when BYU had its usual struggles keeping running backs healthy, Davis was a receiver through most of September, then got moved to RB and almost immediately took to it. He worked with former BYU running back Jamal Willis in the offseason.

“I was like, ‘well, if I am going to play running back, I got to get better at it,’” he said. “I worked with Jamal Willis, him being a great running back at BYU, and just kept working at it.”

He also worked to get bigger, adding about 10 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame.

“Last year, I got hit one time and it was my first time getting in the game as a running back, and I got hit, and I was like, ‘yeah, for sure I got to put some weight on,” he said.

Davis can’t do an interview without someone asking him about his namesake, the musician to whom he’s not related. BYU’s player said he doesn’t even play a musical instrument.

“Gowing up, that was the thing. All my teachers growing up, they were like, ‘do you know Miles Davis? Do you play instruments?’ So for me growing up, that was like the big thing, and it still is to this day, it is a big thing.”

And how does he feel about it?

“I love it,” he said.

Just like BYU fans love their internet sensations.