Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Halfway through the 2016 season, Utah has seen four of the five running backs projected to contribute this year lost to injury or health concerns. One of those, Joe Williams, was the Utes’ starter the new season when, two games in, the senior announced his retirement from the sport because of unspecified health issues.
Less than four weeks later, amidst attrition at the position, the Utes confirmed Tuesday that Williams had ended his retirement and is returning to the football team.
“We reached out to him, and said, ‘Hey, here’s our predicament,'” running backs coach Dennis Erickson said. “And he knew it. He’s been at the games following us. So he said, ‘Hey, if I can come back and help this football team, I’m all in.’ So it wasn’t a long discussion, it was very brief. He’s excited to be back.”
Williams’ 75 yards rushing this season were second on the team at the time he walked away. He was second among Ute backs last season with 477 yards.
The team will wait until later in the week to determine if Williams adds to those numbers by playing in Saturday’s game against Oregon State.
“It’s a day-by-day thing, and if he looks good, if everything goes well, he’ll play on Saturday,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “If we have a reason that we think that’s not in his or our best interest, then we won’t do that.”
Armand Shyne currently leads the team in rushing with 373 yards; he tore an ACL against Arizona in Week 6 and will miss the remainder of the season. Zack Moss is second behind Shyne with 309 yards; he’s out indefinitely, as is Troy McCormack, who’s third on the team with 196 yards. Walk-on Jordan Howard is sixth on the team with 32 yards on the ground… but is unavailable this weekend because of injury.
The current leading rusher amongst healthy (for now) and available backs is Troy Williams with 92 yards. No. 2? The other Williams, who hasn’t played since Sept. 10.