Quezada striving for greater improvement

It didn't take long to notice something different about sophomore running back Joshua Quezada this spring. He bursts through the offensive line quicker and runs around the edge much faster. In the open field, he's more elusive side-to-side, making that first would-be tackler miss. There's a different Quezada on the practice field, and it all started following a self-evaluation after last season.

A young Cougar team finished up last season 7-6 after beating UTEP 52-24 in the New Mexico Bowl on December 18. Following the season, running back Joshua Quezada went back and reviewed his freshman season and devised a way in which he could improve his game heading into spring camp and next season.

"I looked at how I performed and how my body took it," Quezada said. "I spoke to my brother [Jesse Quezada, who is the running back coach at La Habra High School], and we decided that it would be best for me to lean up a bit more and drop some weight. I dropped my body fat percentage and want to continue dropping that."

Quezada was born Joshua Manua and is half-Samoan on his biological father's side, and later took the last name of his stepfather who raised him. Quezada knows that there is a potential for his Polynesian genes to kick in.

"I just feel that a lot of Polynesian running backs, especially here at BYU, come in small as freshman but then they kind of blow up," Quezada said. "A lot of people thought that this would happen to me, but I've been focusing a lot on my eating habits to make sure that I'm losing weight and dropping my body fat. That's my focus and one of my main objectives in order to move a lot better. My goal is to get down to around eight or seven percent body fat."

The 5-foot-11-inch, 210-pound running back has lost about 10 pounds from last year, and he wants to lose another five pounds. Even at his current weight, Quezada is noticeably faster on the football field.

"It's been good and I can move a lot better," he said. "I feel more flexible, and at the same time I'm mentally progressing as well. When you become lighter you give up one thing for another, and so that takes time to get comfortable with."

Becoming lighter always puts durability into question, but Quezada isn't expected to singlehandedly carry the load this upcoming season. A leaner and faster Quezada is exactly what BYU needs, but he must also find a balance when it comes to strength.

"I would say along with my speed increase, my lifts have also increased as well," he said. "My brother kind of said that's one thing that I need to watch. Lifting makes you bigger and increases your weight, and he said he wanted me to lose that weight while increasing my strength or that wouldn't be any progress. Physically, I'm developing my body and that's getting better."

On top of his physical transformation, Quezada also attributes his faster practice performance to a better understanding of the offense.

"I'm getting more and more confident with the playbook," Quezada said. "There's less thought now and more instinct, and that feel will increase the more reps I get. I spoke to some of the defensive guys and they said that our offense is really hard now when it comes to figuring out what we're doing. We're doing a lot more stuff under center, and that's one reason why [it's less predictable]. I love the new plays that we have now.

"What's great is how well we've been able to play against this defense, especially with all the young linemen we have in right now. They're picking it up really fast and they've been stepping it up and doing their jobs. I'm just really appreciative and loving that."

That's not the only change that Quezada has seen in the offense this year.

"Compared to last year, we have that bonding and chemistry that has really made us more effective as a unit," Quezada said. "We're all on the same page and are able to act as one. When you have that kind of system, you're then able to convert third downs and score in the blue zone and move the ball much better. The more time we spend together, the stronger that chemistry and bonding is going to be. It's made us all a lot faster on the field because we're all moving forward together."