Hardly a media session has passed the last few weeks at BYU preseason football camp without offensive coaches being asked about their new toy, Cal transfer running back Chris Brooks.

But what about the guy who has been here since 2017, sixth-year senior Lopini Katoa?

Not much talk at all.

Even third-year freshman Miles Davis, once a receiver, is getting more preseason publicity than Katoa, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound back from American Fork. Davis, from Las Vegas, could possibly leapfrog Katoa when the No. 25 Cougars’ two-deep chart for the opener at South Florida is released on Monday.

“It is nothing new for me. I am used to competing ever since my freshman year. So yeah, it isn’t a big change.” — BYU running back Lopini Katoa

“It is nothing new for me,” Katoa said after Tuesday’s 100-play scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium put a bow on 2022 fall camp. “I am used to competing ever since my freshman year. So yeah, it isn’t a big change.”

Brooks was listed as RB1 on the offseason depth chart BYU released at June’s football media day, which came as a surprise to some because Katoa was RB2 last year behind the great Tyler Allgeier, and of course Allgeier is now playing for the Atlanta Falcons.

Katoa ran for 242 yards and two touchdowns last year, and also caught 20 passes for 114 yards and a TD. He surprised a few people before the Independence Bowl against UAB last December when he said he would take advantage of the NCAA allowing an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic and return for a sixth year in Provo.

But not his teammates, who say Katoa is one of the biggest team players around.

“Pini has handled everything like a pro,” starting quarterback Jaren Hall said. “He’s got a great attitude. He’s all about helping the team.”

Running backs coach Harvey Unga said at media day that he wasn’t worried about any of the RBs not welcoming Brooks with open arms, including Katoa.

“I feel like each and every one of them are capable of being our go-to guy,” Unga said. “I don’t have to worry about a ton of drop-off from the No. 1 guy to the next or the next.”

Similarly, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Tuesday that the 6-1, 235-pound Brooks has taken nothing for granted just because he’s coming in from a Power Five program.

BYU running back Lopini Katoa runs against Utah State during a game in Logan on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.
BYU running back Lopini Katoa runs against Utah State during a game in Logan on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“Chris has been a great addition to our team since the day he got here. He is very professional. He came here with a purpose in mind, learned our offense very quickly, as fast as I have ever seen anyone learn it,” Roderick said. “The guy is all business every day, practices the right way. He is a great teammate, he gives credit to other people. He is a good player. I expect him to do a lot of good things this year.”

Just don’t count out Katoa, who provides a nice change of pace with his receiving skills and ability to make tacklers miss.

“I am more confident than ever in our depth. It is just nice knowing that we have multiple guys who could start and do well in all positions,” Katoa said. “I think we will be able to keep fresh bodies out on the field.”

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Katoa said he and Brooks split reps evenly Tuesday. Davis, McChesney and junior college transfer Hinckley Ropati also got reps.

“It is pretty balanced,” Katoa said. “I don’t know what will happen come game time, but the next two weeks will decide that.”

Katoa was once singled out by now NFL All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner in 2017 as a scout team running back who was making it tough on BYU’s first-team defense in practices. When he got his chance in 2018, Katoa shined.

He is now BYU’s career active all-purpose yards leader, with 2,477 yards and 25 TDs in his career. 

“I just want to leave knowing I left it all out on the field,” Katoa said during media day. “It is my last year, so I am soaking it all in. I want to leave with no regrets.”