LARAMIE, Wyoming — When Nick Smith finished fall camp as Wyoming's No. 3 quarterback, the redshirt freshman figured he wouldn't see the field much this season.
Maybe in garbage time, at the end of a big win or a big loss, once the starters were finished.
So in Week 2, when his number was called midway through the first quarter against Eastern Michigan, it came as a bit of a surprise.
"Obviously that was my first time experiencing big game speed," said Smith, who completed 3 of 13 passes for 0 yards that game. "I feel like I was a little nervous more and I kind of let that take over at certain parts. Overall I felt like it was a big learning experience and helped me grow and get past that."
Coffman returned the following week and has started each game since, while Allen underwent surgery shortly after his injury and is very likely out for the season.
That put Smith into the No. 2 spot, and it perhaps heightened his preparation.
"I think it changes a little bit, how you take things in practice," Smith said. "You replicate the game speed as much as you can. It kind of showed me what I need to work on and things I need to work on throughout these past weeks. I used that experience to help me (learn) what I needed to work on better and how to be fully prepared come game time."
Last week in a 34-14 loss at Boise State, Coffman suffered another injury.
At the end of a scramble in the third quarter, he fell hard on his right throwing shoulder.
"'The indication that we've gotten so far from any of the X-Rays is that there's no broken bones," UW coach Craig Bohl said Monday. "However, he's very sore.
"I went down and spent a lot of time with the training staff this morning and I said, 'So where's he at?' and they described it as being doubtful. He's not ruled out, but I would say it'd be doubtful to remote. We're going to go ahead and rep Nick because he's going to be the No. 1 quarterback during the course of this week."
On the depth chart UW released Monday, Smith is listed as the starting quarterback for Friday's game at Utah State, with Coffman behind him at No. 2.
"It's nice kind of understanding where you stand a little bit, but also my preparation isn't going to change," Smith said. "I'm still going to prepare and practice just as hard, like I was last week."
In his limited play at Boise State, Smith's numbers were markedly better as he completed 4 of 8 passes for 53 yards and also ran five times for 18 yards and a touchdown.
"I talked to him on the headset and he just sounded more comfortable," UW offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said. "I think he was more decisive. He didn't make every play by any stretch, but he made some plays. I know it was late in the game, it was our last sequence there, but he completed two balls to Jake (Maulhardt). He didn't do anything close to that in his first time out there."
Coffman had led the Mountain West Conference in passing efficiency entering the Boise State game, along with virtually every other key passing statistic.
Undoubtedly, Smith has a big void to fill.
In the least, he'll have a week of preparation with the first-team offense.
"But now all those practice reps are certainly more meaningful," Bohl said. "We'll put him in more situations that, I think, are going to test him a little bit more in practice. That's always a difficult decision — how much work you give your one, how much work you give to your two. He'll certainly benefit from more practice repetitions this week."
In just more than four full quarters of play, Smith has shown an adeptness in running the ball that Coffman lacks.
He's rushed for 83 yards on 15 carries — and that includes two sacks for minus-16 yards.
With only sophomore Aaron Young left at quarterback behind Smith, Bohl said he still doesn't plan to scale back UW's play-calling.
"We need to go in with the attitude to win the game as opposed to protect a quarterback," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to get ourselves ready to go to have a chance to win the game."
And if Smith is sidelined with an injury?
"We'll have to have a plan should Nick go down and Aaron Young's playing quarterback," Vigen said. "Then you really have to probably be extra careful, I guess."
Junior wide receiver Tom Thornton played quarterback during his first two years at UW. But he's banged up and didn't travel to Boise State.
Said Vigen: "We've got some guys who have played quarterback in high school."
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com