Biggest key to fall camp for UW

Wyoming begins fall camp Monday morning, and I talk about the top five concerns/things to watch in my column in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and also online at www.wyosports.net.

Here is my No. 1 thing to watch, and would love to hear what you think. Hope you will read the rest of the column in the papers or online and give me your feedback.

1. Defense

Much of this involves the defensive line, and who exactly will play.

This unit took a hit when senior Ben Durbin, a projected starter at defensive end, left after the spring semester and will finish his career at Iowa State.

Who plays the most at both defensive end spots is the biggest position battle on the entire team during camp. Expect it to be a host of guys such as sophomore Sonny Puletasi, redshirt freshman Eddie Yarbrough, junior Mark Willis and senior Miraldo Michel. Among those guys, Puletasi has the most experience, with eight tackles in 12 games last season.

Junior-college transfer Justin Bernthaler could make an immediate impact if he can learn the system in fall camp. True freshman Sam Awrabi may also get into the mix with a good camp.

UW allowed 232 rushing yards per game last season, and much of that was due to being pushed around up front. Line play must improve, but the defense’s fortunes aren’t squarely on them.

The Cowboys figure to be better and more athletic in the back seven with their linebackers and secondary. If that’s the case, it should be able to disguise defenses better and provide more help at or near the line of scrimmage.

A key to this is in the secondary. If new defensive coordinator Chris Tormey puts cornerbacks Blair Burns and Marqueston Huff on islands, meaning more man-to-man coverage, and if both are good at it, that allows the rest of the defense to be more flexible in its looks and schemes to help the run and the pass.

And, if sophomore Mark Nzeocha, at 6-foot-3, 220-pound safety in a linebacker’s body, can roam the field and make plays, that would go a long way to the overall improvement of the defense.