Spring camp has been a time of evaluating player ability and matching those abilities with BYU’s new offensive scheme. Richard Wilson has been very busy over the past three and a half weeks of spring camp learning multiple roles within the new offense.
“For me, I’m playing the flex tight end position and I’m also playing the h-back position as well,” said Wilson. “The h-back is kind of like the fullback, so me and Iona Pritchard are playing the h-back position.”
Last week Wilson was running through his h-back duties when he got the opportunity to rush the ball.
“I took my first handoff [last Wednesday] and Coach Anae was a little surprised that I took the handoff,” said Wilson with a smile. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry about it Coach. I’ll do what I do when I get the ball.’”
How did Wilson do carrying the ball? Did he alleviate any concerns Anae might have had with him actually running the ball from the backfield?
“I did good,” Wilson said while smiling even wider. “I did pretty good I thought. Back in high school, my stats were three carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns. That’s what I told him, so I told him not to worry about me taking the handoff because I can run the ball.”
With those kind of stats, the Spanish Fork High School coaches should have used Wilson as a ball-carrier even more. At BYU, Wilson will play multiple roles as a tight end/h-back hybrid.
“It’s been pretty crazy for me this spring,” said Wilson as he reflected upon the various offensive responsibilities he’s now a part of. “I’ve been playing as an attached tight end, flex tight end and now in the backfield as an h-back. I think it will be good though because when it comes time to play we’re going to have so many different looks for the tight end with so many different things we can do [that] it’s going to be tough for other teams to defend.”
Because his role has widened, Wilson’s time with coaches has also increased. He has to meet grad assistant Andrew George, who coaches BYU’s tight ends, but he also has to now meet with running back coach Mark Atuaia.
“I meet with Coach George during the core practice where we go over all the tight end stuff,” said Wilson. “Then I go over and work with the running backs and do what they call their tracks. We go over handoffs and blocking stuff for the fullbacks.
“I’m really learning a lot of things. I’m learning all the tight end stuff. I’m playing h-slot, y-receiver, h-back and tight end. I’m kind of a hybrid player in this offense and they’re seeing what I can do in those positions. I’m just trying to do my best at every position.”
As an h-back, Wilson is playing a similar role as former Arizona Wildcat Taimi Tutogi. For his senior year, the 6-foot-1-inch, 250-pound Tutogi rushed the ball 25 times for 73 yards and scored four touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.
“Yeah, it’s kind of what the big Poly guy [Tutogi] at Arizona played a few years ago, so we’re trying to work out a lot of the different aspects of what I’m doing as an h-back,” Wilson said. “They have me running a lot of flat routes and I really like that because I can just turn and go.”
The trick is to not tip off defenses to what’s coming next, which can sometimes happen based on who is playing what position, such as when an offense puts in a running back that mostly catches passes or a tight end that primarily blocks during running plays. Wilson believes they won’t tip off defenses simply because of the wide range of possibilities that will eventually be presented.
“I think as we get more comfortable with our roles, and with the offense, the schemes will change a little bit and we’ll be able to give different looks,” Wilson said. “Right now we’re just trying to get the basic concepts down in time for summer and fall where we can put more things in the scheme and formations. It will just make it harder for defenses to read and know what role the h-back is playing in a specific formation. It’s going to be good and I’m excited about it. It’s just been kind of tough learning all the different things that each position requires, but I’m getting it and once everything is all worked out it’s going to be just one more thing defenses are going to have a hard time defending.”