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True freshmen add to Wyoming's running attack

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UW Scrimmage

UW's D.J. May scrambles for yardage under pressure from Ruben Narcisse during a scrimmage on Saturday morning at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. (Dan Cepeda, Star-Tribune)

LARAMIE — University of Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith doesn't have a lot of time to admire what his offensive teammates do on the field.

But the sophomore likes what he has seen from true freshman running back Shaun Wick.

"He runs with determination. That's something I like because that's how I try to play," Smith said of Wick after Wednesday's final scrimmage of fall camp.

"The fierce way he runs, and how he runs with emotion. (Wick) is a crazy athlete and can get out in space and make things happen."

Smith led UW last season in rushing with 710 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Wick made things happen on Wednesday when he broke off a 39-yard run early in the scrimmage. It could have been longer had he not lost his shoe.

The Ventura, Calif., product led all UW running backs with 59 yards on four carries.

UW releases its depth chart Monday for its season opener next Saturday against No. 15 Texas. Wick may not be a starter, but he figures to be in the Cowboys' running attack.

In three scrimmages he was the leading rusher among the four running backs on scholarship with 16 carries for 137 yards, or 8.6 yards per carry.

"You've got to have that mindset that you can compete," Wick said. "You can't be scared out there. You have to be confident in yourself, but you can't be too cocky. Football is fun, and you have to take it in."

Wick and fellow true freshman running back D.J. May should be factors in the running game this season.

Junior Brandon Miller is the team's top returning rusher — and probable starter — among running backs with 364 yards and two touchdowns while playing both running back and receiver in 2011.

Sophomore Kody Sutton played in the final six games of last season and had 146 yards. But he left the team during camp for personal reasons only to return a few days later. He fell to fourth on the depth chart.

That gave Wick and May more opportunities in camp to play sooner than later. But according to their position coach, there was another factor in their progress.

"I'm more impressed for freshmen on how fast they picked this up," Pete Kaligis, the assistant head coach, running backs and offensive line coach, said.

"They know pass game. They know the protections. Their practice habits are what you see out here. It's amazing. They're mature."

The Cowboys face a tough test in their opener as Texas had the Big XII Conference's top defense last season against both the run and pass, and it returns six starters from last year's unit that also has great depth.

It will be a good test for UW's entire offense, let alone the running game. Wick seems ready for that, but like any good running back he gives credit where credit is due.

"The offensive line is helping me out as well as the receivers blocking down field," he said. "But with an offensive line like that, any running back can contribute to a team like this."

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