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How Jackson McChesney’s season-ending injury impacts BYU’s depth at running back

Could a player from another position emerge as a contributor in the offensive backfield for the Cougars?

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BYU running back Jackson McChesney runs past Idaho State linebacker Kody Graves at LaVell Edwards Stadium Nov. 16, 2019.

Brigham Young Cougars running back Jackson McChesney runs past Idaho State Bengals linebacker Kody Graves (25) at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU backup running back Jackson McChesney made quite an impression in the Cougars’ season-opener at Navy. 

The 6-foot, 205-pound redshirt freshman from Highland rushed 11 times for 56 yards and a touchdown in Monday’s thumping of the Midshipmen. McChesney scored on a 9-yard TD run in the fourth quarter with a foot injury — known as a Lisfranc fracture — which will sideline him for the rest of the season.  

“It’s unfortunate what happened to Jackson... But we’ll get him back. He’s a strong, resilient kid. He’ll get back with us soon and we’ll be ready to roll with him again.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake

“It’s unfortunate what happened to Jackson. He did it early when he got into the game and he continued to play,” coach Kalani Sitake said Thursday night. “His last play in 2020 was a touchdown so that’s a good way to go out. But we’ll get him back. He’s a strong, resilient kid. He’ll get back with us soon and we’ll be ready to roll with him again. … That was tough because I know how hard he’s worked … to get to this point.”

Over the past several weeks, BYU’s running backs room has gone through a number of changes, including McChesney’s season-ending injury.

In July, running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole, a transfer from Utah, opted to transfer to Utah State. He was essentially replaced by junior college transfer Hinckley Ropati, who has been out with an injury. Then during fall camp, Bruce Garrett entered the transfer portal.

Meanwhile, sophomore Sione Finau, who finished the 2019 season with a team-high 359 yards but suffered a season-ending knee injury during a practice in November, is gradually returning from that injury.

McChesney is the second BYU offensive player to be lost for the season. Earlier this month, BYU tight end Matt Bushman suffered an Achilles injury and underwent surgery. 

“I’m a little disappointed in some of the injuries that we’ve had. Hinckley Ropati is also injured,” Sitake said. “The sooner we get Sione Finau back, the better. He’s looking like he’s ahead of schedule in his conditioning and rehab and everything.”

Over the years, several Cougars have experienced a Lisfranc injury, including defensive back Troy Warner, quarterback Taysom Hill, tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau and defensive back David Tafuna

“It seems that type of injury with the foot, specifically, the Lisfranc, has been an issue, whether it’s the shoes or the surface or the turf, I have no idea,” Sitake said. “We’ll have to keep moving along.”

So how does the Cougar offense adjust to the loss of McChesney, a former Lone Peak star? 

Against Navy, the Cougars rushed for 301 yards, including 132 by Tyler Allgeier and 80 by Lopini Katoa. Other running backs on the depth chart include Finau, Ropati, Luc Andrada, Javelle Brown and Chase Wester. 

Allgeier, who spent time at both linebacker and running back last season, surpassed his season total in rushing yards in 2019 (a total of 119 yards) against Navy.  

Sitake hinted that he may do what he’s done in the past — move players to different positions to compensate for the void at that position.

“We had to shift Tyler Allgeier from linebacker to running back last year,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that can swing that way as well from the defense to the offense and also change positions. Defensive lineman Khyiris (Tonga) keeps mentioning that he would love to play running back, too. So does (defensive lineman) Bracken El-Bakri and I’m sure (offensive lineman) Brady Christensen would like to. Right now, we feel comfortable with the two guys we have and getting Sione back. We have a number of guys that can fit in and we’ll see how they work. Without giving away too much, I think we’ll be fine there.”

McChesney announced his status Thursday morning on his Instagram account. 

“The season started and ended for me real quick. Due to a few torn ligaments in my foot I am unable to continue with the 2020 season,” McChesney wrote. “I had a successful surgery this morning & I’m hoping for a quick recovery. I can’t wait to get back out on the field with the boys next fall.”

In 2019, the former Lone Peak star rushed for 274 yards as a true freshman — with 228 of those coming on 15 carries in BYU’s win over UMass. That performance broke the freshman record at BYU for single-game rushing and it was the sixth-best all-time rushing performance in school history.

In 2019, McChesney’s older brother, Austin, retired from football after multiple ACL injuries. The former Cougar defensive back played in nine games and suffered a season-ending injury in a victory at Cincinnati in 2016.