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Rice running back Emmanuel Esukpa commits to BYU as graduate transfer

By Sean Walker, | Updated - Mar. 27, 2019 at 10:51 a.m. | Posted - Mar. 26, 2019 at 10:40 p.m.

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PROVO — BYU added to its running back depth Tuesday night.

Former Rice tailback Emmanuel Esukpa announced his intentions Tuesday night to graduate and join the Cougars by next fall.

Esukpa, a 5-foot-11, 230-pound tailback from Grand Prairie, Texas, was a redshirt junior in 2018, when he finished second on the team with 51.2 yards per game for 461 yards. He'll have one year of eligibility remaining at BYU.

"We are excited to have Emmanuel come to BYU," BYU coach Kalani Sitake said in a statement Wednesday morning. "He has good size, speed and experience and is a great fit as a person and a player for our program. He knows Coach Steward well from their time together at Rice, and he really wants to be here. We’re looking forward to welcoming Emmanuel to our team."

At BYU, Esukpa will be reunited with his former running backs coach AJ Steward, who came to BYU from Rice a year ago to join then-first time offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.

He topped 100 yards twice times for the Owls, becoming the first Rice running back to post a 100-yard game since 2013.

A three-star athlete who also ran the 800-meter relay in high school, Esupka was a sport management major at Rice.

One of the Cougars' biggest hindrances to graduate transfers has been the university’s academic standards. Former BYU wide receiver Jordan Leslie was the first graduate transfer in BYU football history, following his former UTEP coach Guy Holliday to Provo.

But Rice is a different animal, consistently ranking among the top 20 best colleges academically by the U.S. News and World Report. Last year, Rice was rated No. 16 among national universities and No. 8 for best undergraduate teaching.

For comparison, Ivy League institutions like Princeton, Harvard and Yale dominated the top of the list.

BYU ranked No. 66 by the same publication, while Utah’s two other in-state FBS institutions were rated in the triple digits.

Esukpa joins a running back rotation that includes returning starter Lopini Katoa, who missed part of spring camp with minor injuries; senior Kavika Fonua; former quarterback Beau Hoge, who will be a junior; redshirt freshman Tyler Allgeier; and former Kearns High standout Sione Finau, among others.

Sean Walker

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