March 01, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Jamaal Williams had been waiting for this moment for nearly a year, and it showed.

BYU began spring football practices Tuesday and welcomed back their star running back after he sat out for a year due to personal reasons. Williams was thrilled to be back on the field, smiling and dancing to Missy Elliott's ''Get Ur Freak On'' during the morning session.

''I love football,'' Williams said. ''It made it a little more special being away for so long. Putting your helmet on and having fun as usual.

''And now I'm back into it. My special moment is over.''

There was another special moment for Williams when he joked with quarterback Taysom Hill on the field after the two could have gone in a different direction. Hill, a 2013 Heisman candidate, suffered a season-ending foot injury in the 2015 season opener and considered transferring during the offseason. Williams could have done the same.

But there they were Tuesday, together again after beginning their careers together in 2012.

''I'm an old man now,'' said Williams, who turns 21 in April. ''Taysom's like 30. We're just old farts still playing college football.

''We're just having fun with it. Glad to be on the same team. Finish our last year with each other.''

Williams has a lot to do during his senior season. Williams is 930 yards shy of breaking Harvey Unga's school rushing record of 3,455 yards, and he readily admits that is his goal - after team goals, of course.

He rushed for 1,233 yards as a sophomore and suffered a knee injury in the seventh game of the 2014 season.

''I'm always loyal to where I started and I always come back to where I started and I finish what I started,'' Williams said. ''The transfer and all that stuff was none of my concern. I always was going to come back to BYU and finish my career here.''

Williams is excited about the offense being installed by new coordinator Ty Detmer. The quarterback will be under center much more than in the past and Detmer wants to establish the run game with Williams having a major role.

''He's got great vision and the guy has a lot of production on the field,'' coach Kalani Sitake said. ''Being able to give him access to a lead blocker will be good for him. Also having him seeing the whole field compared to being in the gun.

''For now we want him to see the whole field and cutback lanes and be able to utilize all his vision.''

Williams almost sounded relieved about the scheme change. He said he feels more comfortable than standing to the side of a quarterback in a shotgun.

''I can breathe,'' Williams said. ''I don't have to worry about looking at the sidelines anymore (or) looking at the pictures (for the call). Now we get to huddle.

''I like being back there, 7 yards back. Being able to look at the whole defense and knowing exactly where I'm going. ... I don't have to be in a rush. You can take your time and gradually make your way up to get to full speed. I love it all. Powers, counters, toss. I love everything from the backfield.''

Williams is just grateful to be back on the field. He declined to delve into the details of the last year, but said he wasn't fazed by the year off. The Cougars hope there's not much rust after the team ranked No. 112 in the nation in rushing last year.

''Everyone loves Jamaal,'' quarterback Tanner Mangum said. ''He brings a very noticeable energy to the team. Every day in workouts he's sets and example both in word and deed. He's obviously a leader.

''He's got a good energy about him. He's always having fun, enjoying it. But at the same time, a fierce competitor. You know you're going to get his best. You know he's going to go all out. That inspires us to do the same.''

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