BYU running backs coach Harvey Unga is excited to be traveling to Florida this week, and not just because he happens to enjoy the type of weather the Cougars are expected to face when they take on the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday.

Cougars on the air


No. 25 BYU (0-0)


at South Florida (0-0)


Saturday, 2 p.m. MDT


Tampa, Florida


TV: ESPNU


Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

“I like the humidity, to be honest,” Unga said.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. MDT and afternoon thunderstorms are expected. Humidity will be around 71% and temperatures are expected to reach 92 degrees.

Unga is doubly excited because he’s bringing a running backs group that includes some thunder and lightning as well. The Cougars have thunder in the form of 230-pound workhorse running back Chris Brooks, a transfer from Cal, and lightning in the form of Brooks’ two backups on the depth chart, RB2 Lopini Katoa and RB3 Miles Davis.

“We are in good shape in the running backs room right now,” Unga said. “We are just praying to keep these guys healthy and make sure they are ready to roll.”

That the 6-2, 210-pound Davis made the depth chart is surprising to some, considering he beat out a more experienced back in Jackson McChesney and a former junior college RB, Hinckley Ropati. Davis came to BYU out of Las Vegas as a receiver or defensive back, but was moved to running back in 2020 and has gradually grown into a valuable player there.

“(Miles Davis) is one of the most improved players on our team. He was just sort of a positionless athlete for a while. He wasn’t quite a receiver, he wasn’t quite a running back. He was just a big, fast guy and he really, really dedicated himself to learning the offense. Man, he looks like a totally different guy this fall camp.” — BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick

“Miles was just really consistent (in preseason training camp),” Unga said. “I am just looking for the guy that is playing at a high level, consistently, day in and day out. And Miles has definitely done that. He and McChesney have been two guys who have definitely been consistent in their play and what they do. I mean, he is earning it.”

Davis, who was named after the famous Jazz musician but is not related to him, said he has fully recovered from a foot injury that made him miss most of the 2021 season. He only appeared in two games — Idaho State and the bowl game as Tyler Allgeier zoomed up NFL draft boards with a record-setting season in Provo.

“Coaches told me after I was out for COVID (in 2020) that they wanted to try me at running back, and now I love running back,” Davis told the Deseret News in March. “I absolutely love it.”

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Davis’ play in preseason training camp won him the RB3 job.

“He is one of the most improved players on our team. He was just sort of a positionless athlete for a while. He wasn’t quite a receiver, he wasn’t quite a running back. He was just a big, fast guy and he really, really dedicated himself to learning the offense,” Roderick said. “Man, he looks like a totally different guy this fall camp. I am just really proud of him, how hard he has worked, and yeah, I think he is going to do some good things for us this year.”

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What South Florida coach Jeff Scott had to say about Cougars, Saturday’s game in Tampa
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Roderick said tight end Ethan Erickson and receiver Brayden Cosper also shined in camp and could see the field a lot, along with Davis. As for the tight ends and fullbacks being combined on the depth chart under the tight end designation, Roderick said it was done that way because they all meet in the same room with tight ends coach Steve Clark.

“Those are three of the best players on our team and you are going to see them a lot,” Roderick said, referring to FB Masen Wake and TEs Dallin Holker and Isaac Rex.

Unga, who rushed for 3,455 yards for the Cougars from 2006-09, said this is one of the deeper running backs groups in the Sitake era and that he would play all of them in the room, if he could.

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“For the most part, I will try to keep it to two main guys just to stay in the flow of the game and make sure they are in good rhythm,” he said. “But if we need to use more guys, I feel like we have a good stable where whoever goes in, they should be able to get in the flow pretty quickly.”

There’s no question, both coaches said, that Brooks will lead the Cougars in carries if he stays healthy.

“I expect him to run the ball really hard and have a big impact on the game,” Roderick said. “Chris is a good player and I think he is going to show it on Saturday.”

Said Unga: “Chris is a big back. You look at him physically, he looks awesome. I am really impressed with his abilities, and just how nimble he is, actually, for how big he is and how strong he is.”

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