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BYU’s Williams raises expectations after stellar freshman season

Jamaal Williams is just a few days into his first spring practice, but the sophomore-to-be at Brigham Young is running around the field like a veteran.

“I expect myself to come harder than I did last year and keep the same motivation and effort,” Williams said. “I’d like to get my cardio up a little more so I can go harder each play.”

To his surprise, Williams saw significant playing time last season after junior running back Michael Alisa suffered a broken arm Sept. 28 against Hawaii. The true freshman from Fontana, Calif., made the most of his opportunity, rushing for 775 yards, at an average of 4.7 per carry, and scoring 13 touchdowns.

Williams’ most impressive outing came at Georgia Tech on Oct. 27 when he rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns and caught a TD pass in BYU’s 41-17 win. But with new offensive coordinator Robert Anae and a revamped offense, Williams knows this spring is crucial to any success he might have this fall.

“He’s making it real simple for us,” Williams said of Anae’s approach. “Not a lot of flipping and flopping. Just formations and direct plays.”

■ HOFFMAN OUT — Senior-to-be wide receiver Cody Hoffman will miss spring practice while he recovers from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Hoffman caught 100 passes last season for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is on track to become BYU’s all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

■ DEFENSIVE MOVE — Coach Bronco Mendenhall said he will continue to call the plays on defense, but former secondary coach Nick Howell will be the new defensive coordinator.

“Nick has already been serving in this capacity in many ways but without formal recognition of that role,” Mendenhall said.

The Cougars ranked third in the nation in total defense last season.

■ ADDING UCONN — BYU and Connecticut added a home-and-home football series beginning in 2014. The Cougars will open the season in East Hartford, Conn., on Aug. 28, 2014. The Huskies will play at BYU on Oct. 31, 2015.

■ STEED RETURNS — If Haley Steed’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she has been around for a while — seven years, in fact.

The senior guard from Syracuse, Utah, twice tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and once in her right knee. As a result, she was awarded two medical redshirt seasons, and after utilizing her “regular” redshirt year, Steed still is playing point guard on a team she joined in 2006.

Steed, averaging 10.6 points, 7.7 assists and 4.0 rebounds this season, leads the Cougars (20-9) against Loyola Marymount (13-17) at noon today at Orleans Arena in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference tournament. She was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player last year.

The 5-foot-4-inch Steed, BYU’s all-time assists leader, is one of seven finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award for the nation’s best point guard.

Today’s game will be shown on BYUtv (Cox 352).

Dave McCann is a news anchor for KSL television in Salt Lake City and the play-by-play voice for BYU sports on BYUtv. He also is the host of True Blue, which airs at 5:30 p.m. Mondays on BYUtv. He can be reached at dmccann@ksl.com or on Twitter @DaveMcCannKSL.

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