PROVO — Talk about a Friday news dump.
BYU running backs coach AJ Steward has accepted the same position at the University of Arizona, the school announced Friday afternoon.
The hire was first reported by 247 Sports, and confirmed moments later by Arizona and head coach Kevin Sumlin.
"My wife Virginia and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to come to Tucson and make the University of Arizona our home," Steward said in a Wildcats news release. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to be able to continue my coaching career under someone like Coach Sumlin, and I can't wait to get to work with our young men!"
Known as one of BYU's most determined recruiters, Steward spent two years with the Cougars, and was instrumental in acquiring graduate transfer backs from the transfer portal in South Carolina’s Ty’Son Williams and Rice’s Emmanuel Esukpa. Though he didn’t recruit them, he also helped develop a roster that featured breakout stars Lopini Katoa, Sione Finau and Jackson McChesney, among others.
Under Steward, BYU’s ground game averaged 4.4 yards per carry and 159.1 yards per game with 25 touchdowns in 2019. Finau had the most yards with 365 and two touchdowns on 59 carries, Katoa supplied the most touchdowns with four on 371 yards across 85 carries, and Williams — who only played four games before suffering a season-ending ACL injury — ran for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
Prior to his time at BYU, Steward worked as running backs coach for four seasons at Rice, where he first met Esupka prior to bringing him to Provo as a graduate transfer. In 2017, the two help the Owls’ ground game averaged 187 yards per game, the second-best mark in Conference USA and No. 38 nationally.
Rice’s Darik Dillard and Jowan Davis combined for 4,226 yards and 36 touchdowns while working under Steward, both top-10 marks in program history.