LEWISTON, Idaho — Freshman running back Gerard Wicks’ runs might not last long during Washington State football practices, but they finish with a trail of battered defenders adjusting their pads and muttering in his wake.

“He’s just running right now, I don’t know how to explain it, like a horse with blinders,” quarterback Connor Halliday said after Tuesday’s practice. “If he doesn’t do anything else, he’s running full speed no matter what.”

There is not much spare playing time to be found at running back. Marcus Mason led the team in all-purpose yards last season but was unseated as the starter by Theron West in the spring.

But Wicks’ ability to plant and burst through a vertical seam has made him one of the team’s most effective players through the first four days of WSU’s fall camp at Sacajawea Junior High.

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“He’s just so powerful,” running-backs coach Jim Mastro said. “Those arm tackles, he’s just running through them. Other guys can get through them, he just gets through them in a different manner.”

Added WSU coach Mike Leach: “He’s always been explosive and powerful. Now that he’s being decisive, I think it’s coming together real well for him.”

With Mason and West around, Wicks will likely have to wait his turn before getting more than the occasional carry in games. But his violent style of running has situational merit, and the team has shown willingness to create a niche for him as a short-yardage back.