LARAMIE -- Where are the running backs?

"We'll get one," said Wyoming's Executive Director of Recruiting and position coach Gordie Haug. "I'll tell you that. We'll get one."

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When the program released its initial 2024 recruiting class Wednesday afternoon, there wasn't a single tailback on the list. That changed a couple hours later when Dontae Burch confirmed on social media he had indeed signed his letter of intent.

While it's unclear if the preferred walk-on from the Kansas City area is the rusher Haug is referring to, his numbers at Christ Preparatory Academy paint a picture of a dynamic playmaker.

Standing just 5-foot-7, the 177-pound speedster averaged better than 140 yards per game last fall while rolling up 1,683 yards on the ground. That's an average of 8.23 yards per carry. Burch, a three-star recruit, according to On3.com, also found the end zone 24 times. He didn't fumble once.

Burch was named a National Home School Football Association All-Star his senior season after helping lead his team to the National Championship game in Panama City, Fla., where the Patriots eventually lost to Tomball Christian (Texas).

"Coach Haug liked me, not just because of football, but because he liked me as a person," Burch said, referring to why he chose Wyoming. "He knew that I had been through a bit of a struggle when I was younger, and he’s a really good coach. I can’t wait to be coached by him. Also both coach Bohl's (Craig and Aaron) and also coach (Brian) Hendricks, made the place special, too. There's a really good coaching staff up there that makes everything feel like you belong -- and they mean it. I’m really excited and can’t wait to get up there and start everything."

 

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Burch said the decision was also an easy one because his childhood friend, Eltoum Murgus, also committed to the school. Margus is a three-star recruit from Kansas City who is projected to be an edge rusher.

"Finding Wyoming was a blessing and, now that it’s official, there was like this big weight taken off of my chest," Burch continued.

Because of the returning depth in the backfield, Haug said the coaches can afford to be "smart" while recruiting the running back position.

"We don't want to cross all the bridges and do everything that we can," he said. "We're going to take our time and make sure we get the right one that can score some touchdowns, do some special things and challenge these guys, as well."

Junior Harrison Waylee, Wyoming's leading rusher, returns for his second season in Laramie next fall. Though rarely fully healthy during the 2023 campaign, the Northern Illinois transfer rushed for 856 yards and five touchdowns on just 146 attempts.

Dawaiian McNeely missed the entire season with a torn ACL. The junior was injured during fall camp.

"Obviously, not being able to see Dawaiian kills me because, I mean, he's a different type of guy," Haug said. "Harrison's was banged up all year. I think in this bowl game you'll see him closer to healthy than he's been all season long. So, I'm excited about that."

Haug also said Sam Scott, Jamari Ferrell and Tyler Jacklich have major upside.

Wyoming will face Toledo Dec. 30 in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl. Kickoff from Tucson is slated for 2 p.m. Mountain Time and the game will be broadcast on The CW and streamed on Barstoolsports.com.

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