Playing time might be hard to come by for Vai Taua, a redshirt freshman who is in a crowded backfield, but he sees himself as a bit of a specialist and hopes to hear his name called in goal-line situations and short-yardage situations.
"I'm one of the bigger backs," said the 5-10, 225-pounder from Cabrillo High in Lompoc, Calif. "When we need short yardage, they might go my way."
Taua is listed as the co-third string back along with Courtney Randall, a 5-10, 215-pound redshirt freshman. Returning players Luke Lippincott, a 6-2, 215-pound junior, and Brandon Fragger, a 5-9, 195-pound sophomore, are the first- and second-team players, respectively.
"(Taua) and (Randall) are in the same boat," running backs coach Jim Maestro said. "They both did well as redshirts. They paid their dues. They're in the same mold, which is a good problem to have."
Taua is certainly used to being a workhorse. As a senior, he had 260 carries for 1,709 yards and 27 touchdowns. He led the Los Padres League in rushing and was the league's most valuable player.
"Mentally, they're both very intelligent," Maestro said of Taua and Randall. "They picked up the offense, and they both understand what we're looking for. Those two guys are kind of battling each other. Luke's kind of pulled himself ahead, but they're both battling for the starting job. It's wide open."
Despite his gaudy stats, Taua only got scholarship offers from Nevada and New Mexico State.
"(Nevada is) the better school," he said. "New Mexico State didn't seem to be stable then, and there's a lot of tradition here with Coach (Chris) Ault."