LARAMIE — Through two games, the Wyoming Cowboys have struggled to replace Brian Hill, a bruising tailback who tallied more yards than any other running back in Wyoming history before being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons.
Trey Woods might not be Hill 2.0, but he at least fits the mold.
“Trey, he’s more lengthy and doesn’t have as much bulk as Brian does right now,” quarterback Josh Allen said. “But give him a season, an offseason with our strength staff, and put some good pounds on him, and he’s going to be tough to take down.”
If you were confused when Woods took two carries for 15 yards Saturday in Wyoming’s 27-0 defeat of Gardner-Webb, checking your game program wouldn’t have helped. Woods, a true freshman, recently converted from linebacker to running back and changed numbers from 48 to 6.
Woods spent all of fall camp working at linebacker and was told the Monday before Wyoming’s season opener to attend meetings in the Cowboys’ running back room. Woods played running back and receiver at North Bend (Oregon) High School, as well as safety and cornerback.
His first run Saturday went 13 yards, Wyoming’s longest carry of the game.
“Getting the ball in my hand again, it felt more natural,” Woods said. “And it felt like I could impact the team in a positive way if I had the ball in my hand.”
Head coach Craig Bohl had said multiple times in camp he didn’t anticipate using a true freshman at running back this season. Woods said it was unclear whether or not he was going to redshirt if he remained a linebacker.
“They said, ‘Hey, if you keep working hard on special teams, we’ll pull your shirt,’” Woods said. “But nothing was said for a while, until I moved to running back, and then they said, ‘Hey, we’re going to pull your shirt.’ I said, ‘Awesome. I’m cool with it.’”
Wyoming’s run game has averaged just 2.1 yards per carry in its first two games. The Cowboys have failed to rush for 100 yards in consecutive outings for the first time since 2012.
Woods may not be the cure-all, but he does give Wyoming’s power run game the size it has lacked since the departure of 6-foot-1 Hill. Woods is listed as 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. The three running backs that previously had comprised Wyoming’s running back rotation are 5-foot-8 Milo Hall, 5-foot-9 Nico Evans and 5-foot-11 Kellen Overstreet.
“He’s a playmaker,” receiver Austin Conway said of Woods. “He’s big, physical. The most physical guy on the team. I wouldn’t want to line up (across from) him, and I’m pretty sure anyone else wouldn’t. I don’t know. He’s a freak of nature as of right now, and just the future for him, it’s unreal.”
Woods was on Wyoming’s scout team defense when he was playing linebacker.
“Thankfully,” Conway said, “so I didn’t have to get hit by him.”
Said Allen: “He runs angry. He’s a freshman, obviously, but he has a big frame. He’s got some speed to him. He’s going to be a good one. It might not fully click with him right now, but when it does, teams should watch out.”
Wyoming fans might not have known who No. 6 was when Woods took the ball Saturday, but they’re more than familiar with a running back who fits the description of an angry runner.
“At practice some of my teammates just call me Brian,” Woods said. “I actually never got a chance to come see a game last year, but just watching film on (Hill), that’s the type of guy that I look up to, because of the way he runs. It’s very physical. It’s very downhill, and he’s a competitor.
“That’s definitely someone I look up to. I’m OK with people calling me Brian.”