2023 Fall Camp: Practice 12—Harvey Unga and Running Backs Preview

BYU practiced again Tuesday morning during its third week of fall camp. In a series of coach and position previews, today BYU previews coach Harvey Unga and the running back position.

Position Preview RB 1920Position Preview RB 1920

BYU practiced again Tuesday morning during its third week of fall camp.

View the 2023 BYU Football Fall Camp Photo Gallery by BYU Photo. 

In a series of coach and position previews, today BYU previews coach Harvey Unga and the running back position. 

4 Davis, Miles 6-0 215 R-So. Las Vegas, NV / Las Vegas HS
30 Helu, Nukuluve* 6-1 215 Fr. Tooele, UT / Tooele HS
27 Martin, LJ* 6-2 205 Fr. El Paso, TX / Canutillo HS
21 Nawahine, Enoch 5-11 210 R-So. Kahuku, HI / Utah State
26 Pyper, Morgan 6-2 215 R-Sr. Idaho Falls, ID / Hillcrest HS
3 Robbins, Aidan* 6-3 240 R-Jr. Louisville, KY / UNLV
7 Ropati, Hinckley 5-10 215 Sr. Downey, CA / Cerritos College
20 Smith, Deion* 6-0 200 R-Sr. Houston, TX / Colorado

Lost from 2022:
Christopher Brooks, Lopini Katoa, Jackson McChesney, Beau Robinson

Coach Harvey Unga
Harvey Unga returns for the fourth year as running backs coach in 2023, fresh off having mentored Christopher Brooks to 813 yards on just 130 carries (6.25 yards per carry) last season.

After Brooks inked a deal with the Miami Dolphins on April 29, Unga has now achieved two consecutive years of placing backs in the professional ranks – Tyler Allgeier was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.

Allgeier ran for a school-record 1,601 yards in 2021, scoring 23 touchdowns on the ground. For his career, Allgeier ran for 2,899 yards to rank No. 5 in school history. 

In his first year in the NFL, Allgeier set the Atlanta Falcons rookie record with 1,035 rushing and became the first BYU player to run for 1,000 yards in the NFL. A few hours following Allgeier's accomplishment in the NFL, another former BYU running back, Jamaal Williams (mentored by Unga as a grad assistant in 2016) topped the 1,000-yard mark for Detroit. 

Unga is part of a returning offensive coaching staff that has fielded an efficient, well-balanced attack ranked in the top 35 in total offense each of the past three seasons.

Prior to joining the coaching staff in a full-time role in 2020, Unga worked as a graduate assistant from 2016-2019, working with the offensive line and the running backs. 

Unga played at BYU from 2006-09, he is the program’s No. 2 all-time leading rusher with 3,455 yards.

"Harvey is a great young coach who was an elite player for BYU and is an extremely humble person. He knows the game, relates well to the players, and has done an outstanding job the past four years on our staff. We are excited to have him step into this role, and know he will excel in helping the young men in our program learn, grow and develop.”

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake in 2020 when hiring Unga

BYU Running Backs Preview
BYU went into the transfe portal to build up its running back room for 2023, starting with one of the top transfer portal targets in the country in proven back and 2023 Doak Walker Award candidate Aidan Robbins. 

Most recently at UNLV, Robbins led the Rebels in rushing with 209 carries for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022. Prior to his time at UNLV, he spent three years with hometown ACC program Louisville (2019-21).

Robbins, a big back at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, was named to the 2023 Phil Steele Preseason All-Big 12 first team while also boasting a second-team offense spot on Athlon Sports’ Preseason All-Big 12 list.

Aidan Robbins at Fall Camp, August 15, 2023

The Cougars weren't done adding through the portal, picking up Colorado graduate transfer Deion Smith. The 6-foot, 200-pound tailback spent five years in Boulder, appearing in 34 games while tallying five starts. He totaled 19 carries, 653 yards and four career touchdowns with his most proficient year last season as he led the Buffs’ rushing corps for 393 yards.

Now Veterans, Miles Davis and Hinckley Ropati bring valuable returning experience. Davis, now a redshirt sophomore, recorded 225 yards on the ground on 40 attempts last season, including a breakout performance versus Wyoming for a career-high of 131 yards. Ropati achieved his most productive season to date last year as a junior, playing in nine games while posting 189 yards rushing on 36 carries.

Also returning include redshirt sophomore Enoch Nawahine and senior Morgan Pyper. Pyper has played multiple positions going from running back to safety, to linebcker and back to running back throughout his BYU career, seeing action in 43 games mostly as a special teams ace and on defense, totaling 50 tackles. 

Talented newcomer LJ Martin joins the program after prepping at Canutillo High School in El Paso, Texas. 247Sports rated Martin a three-star prospect and tabbed him the No. 37 running back prospect in the nation. In the 6-2, 205-pounder’s last two high school seasons, he amassed 4,874 yards on the ground with 52 touchdowns in addition to 2021 and 2022 5A MVP awards.

Nukuluve Helu is a three-star recruit (247Sports) from the class of 2020 who greyshirted last year after returning from a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines.

“We did MVP’s and champions after each game and every single running back that played was in that conversation. That is what we work for. We are trying to be the best group not necessarily in the conference, but in the nation. I really think we have those capabilities because of how we push each other and make each other better every day.”

Aidan Robbins on the BYU running backs group