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True freshman running back Brian Hill has been big surprise this season for Cowboys


LARAMIE, Wyoming — Seemingly every game Brian Hill adds another record to his name.

After setting Mountain West Conference and Wyoming school records for all-purpose yards in a game against Fresno State, Hill became only the third running back over the last two seasons to run for more than 100 yards against Utah State in a 20-3 loss to the Aggies.

The true freshman running back has been Wyoming's biggest surprise in the second half of the season and continues to prove that he'll be a fixture in Wyoming's backfield even when Shaun Wick and D.J. May return from injury. Hill has amassed 524 rushing yards and 109 receiving yards since becoming the feature back early against Colorado State.

Hill always falls forward. One of the first things that stands out on tape is the true freshman's ability to gain yards after contact and turn negative plays into net gains.

In 80 touches over three games, Hill has failed to gain positive yardage only four times, and one of those came on a jump-pass attempt that turned into a negative run because there was no receiver downfield against Colorado State.

While some of that is the product of an improving offensive line that has finally found continuity, Hill's penchant for consistently making tacklers miss is undoubtedly a big factor.

Out of 633 total yards in the last three games, 305 yards came after initial contact. Both of Hill's long touchdown runs (32 and 66 yards) against Fresno State happened after Hill was initially touched by a defender within five yards of the line of the scrimmage.

Hill's complete skill set and 6-foot-1, 204-pound frame allows him to shed defenders and then turn those missed tackles into big gains.

At 5-10, 212 pounds, Wick was the perfect back for Bohl's inside run game. But even as Hill has taken the majority of the carries, Bohl has stuck to his plan to consistently run between the tackles.

Out of Hill's 76 carries, 52 of them were called as inside runs. Because of Hill's toughness and the aforementioned knack for gaining yards after contact, Hill consistently puts Wyoming in more manageable down-and-distance situations, gaining an average of 6.9 yards on first-and-10 running plays.

In an instant, Hill went from third-string backup to main feature back. With May's torn ACL and Wick's hand injury to start the Colorado State game, Hill was immediately thrust into a position that nobody expected him to be in at the start of the 2014 season.

After receiving 20 carries in his first six games, Hill has recorded games of 28, 23 and 25 carries over the last three, a tremendous bump in usage, especially for a true freshman.

Although Wick was the feature back to start the season, Hill and May were able to take some reps, produce similar results and keep Wick fresh for four quarters. In the first seven games, Wick only received 20-plus carries twice.

Hill, however, hasn't had the luxury of another productive running back to spell him during the course of a game. Hill's 76 carries over three games are impressive on their own.

Consider that other running backs and wide receivers have run the ball a mere nine times in those games — minus the fourth quarter against Fresno State when Hill was relieved and the game was out of reach — and Hill's recent workload and production becomes even more remarkable.

Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune,

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