Wyoming coaches, players weigh in on favorite Easter candy

I do this every year with Easter and Halloween.

This weekend happens to be Easter, and even though the meaning of this holiday is much deeper and important than this, I like to have a little fun with the Wyoming football team and ask them their favorite Easter candy.

Lots of great choices here, so here we go.

Sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay: chocolate bunnies.

Running backs coach Gordie Haug: Reese’s eggs or bunnies.

Senior high end Josh Harshman: Reese’s eggs.

Redshirt freshman running back Brett Brenton: Sour punch straws or sour Mike and Ikes.

Junior nose tackle Justice Borton: Kit Kats.

Senior middle linebacker Logan Wilson: Whoppers Robin Eggs.

Senior kicker Cooper Rothe: Reese’s bunnies or eggs.

Junior fullback Skyler Miller: Cadbury Creame Eggs.

Run game coordinator AJ Cooper: Reese’s bunnies.

Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen: Cadbury Creame Eggs.

Redshirt freshman Cole Godbout: Starburst jelly beans.

Sophomore linebacker Chad Muma: chocolate bunnies.

Junior defensive tackle Ravontae Holt: Reese’s bunnies/eggs.

Sophomore defensive tackle Victor Jones: Marshmallow Peeps.

Me: Anything with Reese’s peanut butter. Doesn’t matter the holiday or occasion, give me some Reese’s and I am golden.

What about you? Would love to hear your favorite.


UW spring football notes & quotes entering week No. 3

Wyoming spring football practice has hit about the midway point.

No final decisions on who will play and start in the 2019 opener against Missouri Aug. 31 have been decided, but even though the coaches won’t say as much, they likely have a good idea at some positions.

One concern this spring has been along the offensive line. UW lost junior guard Gavin Rush for the season with a torn ACL. That was a big blow to this group. Junior guard Logan Harris missed some time last week with a back injury, but is back at practice. Redshirt freshman Zach Watts has moved around between guard and tackle. Sophomore Keegan Cryder, who earned Freshman All-America honors last season as a center for the Cowboys, has been getting some reps at tackle. Cryder wasn’t supposed to do much this spring due to off-season knee surgery.

Not sure UW will have a lot of definite answers there coming out of spring, and it better hope junior tackle Alonzo Velasquez (knee) returns healthy for fall camp.

Because of the issues along the offensive line, UW hasn’t been able to double-rep much — if at all — this spring, meaning having two groups of offense vs. defense getting snaps.

“We’re a little bit behind where we normally would have been, but some springs are like this,” sixth-year coach Craig Bohl said.

— Last week I did a story on UW’s two most experienced interior defensive linemen in juniors Ravontae Holt and Javaree Jackson. When I asked UW defensive tackles coach Pete Kaligis about who else is developing this spring behind Holt and Jackson, he mentioned a kid who may not see the field for the Cowboys, but had glowing things to say about — junior walk-on Justice Borton of Wheatland.

“Justice is so selfless, and that’s why he is a leader. He may not get on the field, and he knows that, but he will do anything for this team. The most important thing to him is we win on Saturdays. The team is more important to him than playing time. I can’t say enough about him. I am blessed to coaches all of these guys, but I love that kid. He is a rock in the locker room, and he’s going to pick people up.”

Borton has never played in a game for UW. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 272 pounds. He has practiced along both the offensive and defensive lines. Hard not to root for a kid like him, but any successful team needs guys like Borton.

— Another story I did last week was on senior wide receiver Austin Conway and his experience as a high school basketball official in Wyoming the last couple of years. Here is a link to that story in case you missed it.

Conway has been one of UW’s most productive and consistent receivers the last three years. This is what he said after I asked him his goals for his final season of playing college football.

“Trying to win a Mountain West championship and as many games as I can to leave a foundation for guys to continue on how coach Bohl wants to run this football team. Since I have been where we almost were MW champs, a bowl winner and not going to a bowl. I’ve seen it all. Stat-wise, I don’t care. I just wnat to win games. I want to come out with another couple of rings on my hand with a MW championship and a bowl win.”

— One last thing: I want to give a huge thank to you to Bohl. After practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays so far he has provided the media with dinner as we do interviews after practice. One night there was pizza, followed by sliders and fried oysters and then some barbecue. Bohl said it was for his appreciation to the media. As a media member for more than 25 years, it is very much appreciated.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

Notable gains for Cowboys as spring drills begin

Wyoming concluded its first week of spring football practice this week — three practices in all.

Due to WNIT duties for the Cowgirls basketball team and no media access to Saturday practices, I didn’t get to see a whole lot or talk to a lot of players/coaches.

However, I did talk to UW’s top two strength coaches for football — Ben Iannacchione and Eric Donoval. I talked to them mostly about a cool feature that will run in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net.

But I did ask them if they could point to any specific players who did well during UW’s seven weeks of winter conditioning. Iannacchione worked with the linemen, and said junior defensive tackle Ravonte Holt had one of the best winters. He played at the high 250s-low 260s in terms of his weight last season. Iannacchione said he challenged Holt to get to 275 at the start of spring practice, and he did.

Ravonte Holt

“He’s gotten really strong and put weight on in good areas — butt, hips and quads,” Iannacchione said.

Donoval worked with the skilled guys, and said sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay weighed in at or over 200 pounds, and so far has done a good job of maintaining that weight. Valladay played at around 190 last year, and Valladay said he’s added about 15 pounds of muscle over the winter.

Xazavian Valladay

“It was a little bit of a surprise,” Valladay said of putting on the weight. “It was just hard work, dedication and trusting the process. It doesn’t feel too bad. I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

Valladay was second in rushing for UW last season with 396 yards on 71 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

Valladay is the only scholarship running back participating in spring drills right now. Sixth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said sophomore Jevon Bigelow is dealing with an illness. Bohl expects Bigelow to return, but isn’t sure when. Bigelow ran for 292 yards and two touchdowns in nine games last season.

Iannacchione said it was good to get junior offensive guard Gavin Rush back in the weight room over the winter. Rush missed last season after he tore his right bicep early in fall camp. I wrote about Rush this week, and I hope I didn’t put the Gagliardi jinx on him because after I interviewed him after UW’s first spring practice, he injured a knee in the second. The severity of that injury isn’t known.

Here is the link to that story.

UW will practice in full pads next week. On Saturday, April 13, it will practice in Casper at Natrona County High which is open and free to the public. The spring game is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

Cowgirls update

UW plays at Arizona at 3 p.m. MT Sunday in the quarterfinals of the WNIT. This is the Cowgirls’ 10th appearance in the WNIT, and its first road game in this event since 2003.

The game isn’t on regular television, but here is a link to watch it online from pac-12.com.

I also will have a cool feature on UW senior Bailee Cotton and how she’s playing her best basketball in her final year after dealing with two different injuries to the same knee early in her career. Be sure to check out the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and at wyosports.net or that story.

How UW writers voted on All-MW men’s basketball team

On Monday, the media that covers Mountain West men’s basketball released its All-MW basketball postseason honors. A few years ago, the media voted with the league’s 11 head coaches for the all-conference team, but the league decided to just go with the coaches so the media decided to do their own all-conference voting.

The coaches’ all-conference team will be released Tuesday.

How it works with the media is each “market” is granted one vote. Myself and Davis Potter of the Casper-Star Tribune got together for the Wyoming “market” vote.

Here is a link to the media’s all-conference team, and individual awards.

https://www.wyosports.net/university_of_wyoming/mens_basketball/james-earns-first-team-all-mw-honors-by-media/article_c6e8d74a-4422-11e9-a524-0bab07e16a40.html

UW senior guard Justin James was UW’s lone representative on the all-conference lists by the media. He earned first team honors for the second consecutive year. James led the MW during the regular season in scoring (21.8 ppg) and steals (1.52 per game). He also was fourth is assists (4.4 per game) and fifth in rebounding (8.6 per game).

The media’s all-conference break down had a first, second and third team, along with some honorable mentions. All of the “market” ballots were tallied and given point totals.

Below is how myself and Potter voted:

1. Sam Merrill, Utah State
2. Jordan Caroline, Nevada
3. Justin James, Wyoming
4. Caleb Martin, Nevada
5. Nico Carvacho, Colorado State
6. Braxton Huggins, Fresno State
7. Jalen McDaniels, San Diego State
8. Deshon Taylor, Fresno State
9. Lavelle Scottie, Air Force
10. Neemais Queta, Utah State
11. Justinian Jessup, Boise State
12. Cody Martin, Nevada13. Nate Grimes, Fresno State
14. Ryan Swan, Air Force
15. Noah Robotham, UNLV

Player of the Year: Sam Merrill, Utah State
Defensive Player of the Year: Cody Martin, Nevada
Freshman of the Year: Neemais Queta, Utah State
Newcomer of the Year: Braxton Huggins, Fresno State
6th Man of the Year: Jazz Johnson, Nevada
Coach of the Year: Craig Smith, Utah State

Potter and I were on the same page with the rest of the media in terms of who made the first, second and third team. As you can see, we had Nevada senior Cody Martin as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, but Utah State freshman center Neemias Queta garnered more votes.

Potter and I had the same guys for the individual awards as the rest of the media.

Any thoughts, opinions on the media’s all-conference team?

Naughton quietly sees his time at UW come to an end

First and foremost, it is good to be back posting on this blog. Sorry that it has been so long since the last post — some time during football season last fall. There were plenty of issues and reasons why, but I know you don’t care about that.

Anyway, Saturday marks the final home game for the University of Wyoming men’s basketball team. A forgettable season is about over as UW enters the 4 p.m. game with New Mexico at 7-23 overall and 3-14 in the MW.

It is senior day for two UW players — guard Justin James and forward Jordan Naughton. I have a feature on James that will run in Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net so I hope you will check that out.

Jordan Naughton

James’ career at UW has been prolific. Unfortunately for Naughton, his has been quiet and unassuming — much like his personality. Back and knee injuries have limited Naughton to 20 games this season, and Saturday will be his 90th in four years. However, 60 of those games came in his first two seasons.

Naughton’s career averages are 3.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 12.2 minutes per game. This season, in 20 games, he’s averaged 4.0 points and 1.9 rebounds.

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MW football power rankings – Nov. 25

Here are my Mountain West football power rankings at the end of the regular season.

1. No. 19 Boise State (10-2 overall, 7-1 MW): This may not be the best team in Boise State history, but it is tough, gritty and Mountain Division champs. The Broncos also defeated Fresno State and Utah State, and get Fresno State on the blue turf for the Mountain West championship.

2. No. 25 Fresno State (10-2, 7-1): The Bulldogs took care of San Jose State to set up its rematch of last year’s MW championship game with Boise State. Can the Bulldogs break through on the road? 

3. Utah State (10-2, 7-1): The Aggies are still very good, but not playing at the same level it did a few weeks ago. Maybe that’s because they are playing tougher teams.

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UW at New Mexico – pregame reading

Happy post-Thanksgiving all. Hope you are having a wonderful holiday weekend.

Here is some pregame reading prior to Wyoming’s regular-season finale at New Mexico Saturday. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. MT, and the game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet.

First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:

Good start: Wyoming needs to play well from start to finish, but a good start for the team, and in particular redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, is important. Especially for Vander Waal to get his confidence going and into the flow of the game. We’ve seen this season (last week against Air Force and in the opener at New Mexico State) that when Vander Waal starts well, he plays well through the course of games.

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Thanksgiving thoughts and favorites from Wyoming football

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope each and every one of you have a wonderful day and weekend with family and friends.

I’ve done this before on this holiday, and for others, but I asked some Wyoming football players and coaches what they were most thankful for and their favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.

Would love to hear yours.

Senior free safety Marcus Epps

Thankful for: My family, to be a part of this team and the University of Wyoming.

Food: Yams

Senior wide receiver James Price

Thankful for: My family, friends and the support system I have.

Food: Mom’s sweet potato pie.

Senior defensive lineman Conner Cain

Thankful for: This team this year.

Food: Cranberry sauce.

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MW football power rankings – Nov. 19

Here are my weekly Mountain West football power rankings heading into this week’s games, which is the final week of the regular season.

1. No. 14 Utah State (10-1, 7-0): The Aggies hung on for a road win at Colorado State thanks to a video replay at the end. Still, Utah State found a way and now plays for the Mountain Division title at Boise State this week.

2. No. 21 Boise State (9-2 overall, 6-1 MW): The Broncos have won six in a row and took care of business on the road at New Mexico last week. The regular-season finale at home against Utah State has the makings of a fun one.

3. Fresno State (9-2, 6-1): The Bulldogs bounced back after a loss at Boise State with a home win over San Diego State. This is still, in my opinion, the most complete team in the MW. The West Division champs get San Jose State at home this week. 

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UW vs. Air Force live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my live chat from Wyoming’s 35-27 victory over Air Force on Saturday, Nov. 17.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

Live Blog Wyoming vs. Air Force football live chat