When it comes to big, powerful running backs, it takes one to know one and former BYU Cougar Jamal Willis likes what he sees in transfer Aidan Robbins.

“Aidan is a physical runner. He has size and good speed. He’s a downhill runner. He’s a move-the-pile guy and has breakaway speed. He’s one of those guys that if he had four years, he may be No. 1 (at BYU) to be honest. He’s got that type of skill.” — former BYU great Jamal Willis

“Aidan is a physical runner. He has size and good speed. He’s a downhill runner,” Willis told the “Y’s Guys” podcast. “He’s a move-the-pile guy and has breakaway speed. He’s one of those guys that if he had four years, he may be No. 1 (at BYU) to be honest. He’s got that type of skill.

At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Willis remains No. 4 in program history with 2,877 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. Once the all-time leader, he has been passed by Jamaal Williams, Harvey Unga and Curtis Brown. He also caught 77 passes for 1,117 yards and six touchdowns between 1991-94.

“I’m just excited I’m still in the top five at 50 years old,” Willis said. “With Jamaal, I knew he was going to be No. 1 with what he brought to the table. At that point, running was different here than it was when I was here. Running was a priority. When I was here, running was to just give Ty (Detmer) a break every now and then.”

Like Willis, Robbins, who has two years of eligibility, is also 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, and can catch out of the backfield.

“I had an opportunity to work with him a little bit over the summer. I was very impressed with his leadership and the skill that he brings to that position,” Willis said. “Hopefully they will ride him and give him the ball. He will have some great games.”

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Willis and Robbins share much more than size. Both came to Provo from Las Vegas. Willis, who is BYU’s associate director of student wellness, was a standout running back at Bonanza High in 1990. Robbins rushed for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns last season at UNLV. He also caught 23 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.

“I believe Aidan is more of a physical-minded running back than I was because I was so involved in the pass game, just getting out and making people miss,” Willis said. “He looks for physicality. He will run through you. But he can get out and catch balls too. I think he’s a complete back.”

BYU is looking for more running production in short-yardage situations, an area that cost them during key moments last season, especially against Notre Dame. Willis believes Robbins is the solution.

“I have no doubt they will be better at that,” he said. “The running game is going to be a priority playing in this league. You are going to have to run the ball. There are going to be games where we must be run heavy, and I think Aidan and the other backs they have will be able to carry it.”

UNLV transfer running back Aidan Robbins carries the ball during practice at the BYU practice facility earlier this month. | BYU Photo

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.