Touchdown run to beat USC shows Jackson McChesney remains ready to contribute
Addition of Cal transfer Christopher Brooks has been welcomed by returning RBs such as McChesney, Lopini Katoa and Miles Davis
The last time Jackson McChesney carried the football for BYU, he dragged a USC defender into the end zone at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from seven yards out to provide the game-winning touchdown in a 35-31 Cougars victory.
That punishing run completed a string of three straight carries for McChesney, who was in the game because star RB Tyler Allgeier had been dinged up halfway through the drive and was on the sideline recovering. McChesney’s three carries for 17 yards that late November night in Tinseltown seemed to signal that his star was on the rise, although they were only his 12th, 13th and 14th carries of the season.
Although McChesney did not get any carries in the bowl game, Allgeier declared for the 2022 NFL draft exactly a month later and the competition to be RB1 at BYU in 2022 appeared to be a race between McChesney, returning fifth-year senior Lopini Katoa, junior college transfer Hinckley Ropati and converted receiver Miles Davis.
“Yeah, everybody wants the football. Everybody wants carries. I am just doing everything I can to be that guy, and if they pick someone over me and I still do the best I can, I won’t be disappointed.” — BYU reserve running back Jackson McChesney
A week later, however, Cal graduate transfer tailback Christopher Brooks signed with the Cougars (along with Stanford fullback Houston Heimuli), and BYU’s running backs group suddenly had a clearcut favorite for the workhorse running back role.
Brooks looked the part in spring camp as well, drawing rave reviews from coaches and teammates alike — even the returning guys such as McChesney, Davis and Katoa.
“I wouldn’t want to try to tackle him,” Davis said.
McChesney, who finished last season with 14 carries for 64 yards and the USC TD, said he is remaining patient and is confident his time will come.
“Yeah, everybody wants the football,” he said the final week of spring practices. “Everybody wants carries. I am just doing everything I can to be that guy, and if they pick someone over me and I still do the best I can, I won’t be disappointed.”
Like Davis, McChesney is recovering from a foot injury that cut short his second season. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in the 2020 opener against Navy, carrying the ball 11 times for 56 yards in that 55-3 win, and didn’t see the field again until Oct. 9, 2021, against Boise State. Having rushed for 274 yards his freshman season, including a BYU freshman-record 228 yards against UMass in 2019, he now has 394 rushing yards in his career.
“It is hard (not playing more), but I gotta support my teammates and support the coaches’ decisions,” he said. “I just do my best to keep my head on my shoulders and keep moving forward, keep working hard.”
McChesney said coming back from a Lisfranc injury is difficult and that he still feels some pain in his foot almost every day. He has sought advice from former Cougars who have dealt with a Lisfranc, guys such as Taysom Hill and Moroni Laulu-Pututau.
“They say you are going to feel it during games, but then it just disappears and you get through it,” McChesney said.
Will the 2022 season be his last in Provo?
“I think it just depends on how the season goes,” he said. “I could play one more, two more, or all three seasons. It just depends on how everything plays out.”
Running backs coach Harvey Unga said McChesney and Katoa have handled the addition of Brooks well in spring camp. Their reps have been limited as coaches get guys such as Brooks and Davis more familiar with the offense.
“Cheese (McChesney) and Pini have been here. They know the offense,” Unga said. “I am not worried about them. I know what they are capable of. I know that they know what to do when their number is called.”
Another BYU running back who was putting up big numbers before an injury, Sione Finau, entered the transfer portal in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
“I haven’t heard where Sione will go,” Unga said. “There have been a lot of different teams that have reached out, and stuff. I don’t know exactly what he wants to do, but I wish him well and will keep in touch with him about that.”
I'm just trying to get someone to look at me like this USC player looks at McChesney pic.twitter.com/UXbPeq0vyw— Shane (@ShaneJohnson91) November 28, 2021
Unga said the bottom line is that he feels good about this RBs group, especially with its experience.
“Last year, we were pretty deep, but there wasn’t a lot of experience,” he said. “Miles knows the offense a lot more. Folau (Ropati) knows the offense a lot more. Cheese and Pini know the offense completely. Then you add a guy like Chris to the mix, and obviously it just makes things a lot better. I feel even more comfortable than last year.”
As for McChesney, he watched last Friday’s pro day activities with interest, especially making note of the Cougars’ times in the 40-yard dash. Can he beat the 4.48-second time that receiver Samson Nacua put down?
“I think so, absolutely,” said the former Lone Peak High speedster. “In high school, I was running the 4.4s, but I haven’t ran one since I have been here at BYU. I think so, because I am stronger and faster than I was in high school.”
USC’s defenders can attest to that.