Williams shines for UW special teams

The most positive aspect of Wyoming’s special teams from the spring was junior kicker Stuart Williams.

In three scrimmages and the spring game, Williams made all 25 of his extra-point attempts and was 20 of 21 on field goals, with a long of 41. Williams also did a lot of kicking during practices, and was accurate then, too.

Stuart Williams

Stuart Williams

His efforts earned him a scholarship starting this fall.

Williams worked hard in the offseason, and it showed. The ball is getting off his foot faster and higher. I think he is most comfortable from 40 yards and in, but he has the leg to make field goals of up to 50 yards.

The two field goals Williams missed were blocked.

What also made his spring effort impressive was that UW didn’t have a consistent long snapper. Often times the snaps were low and slow, which can mess up the timing on kicks. The Cowboys are relying on true freshman Brendan Turelli to come in this fall and handle those duties.

Credit also should be given to junior receiver Sam Stratton. He is the holder for extra points and field goals, and did a good job of handling a lot of those bad snaps. Stratton, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, hasn’t moved far up the depth chart at receiver yet, but his duties as the holder are arguably more important right now.

No one behind Williams showed much as kicker.

As for a punter, UW needs to find one. Sophomore Tim Gleeson left the team during the spring and will return home to Australia to deal with some personal matters. UW didn’t do a lot of punting during the spring, although Williams averaged 51.7 yards per punt on three attempts in the spring game. Coach Dave Christensen said after Gleeson left that UW will bring in another punter for fall camp.

Freshman walk-on Ethan Wood may get a shot to compete for the punting duties in fall camp.

UW also didn’t do much work in the punt and kickoff return game. Most of the practices were inside, and the Cowboys used a jugs machine to simulate punts.

Still, the Cowboys look to be solid in both areas. Junior cornerback Blair Burns and junior receiver Jalen Claiborne are the leading candidates as punt returners. Claiborne and sophomore running back D.J. May.

Burns averaged 10.2 yards per return last season. Claiborne had only two returns, but had a long of 37 and averaged 33 yards. May led the team with 20.9 yards per kickoff return. Claiborne had the best average at 23.5 yards per return.

Expect sophomore Justin Martin to once again handle the kick-off duties. Twenty-six of his 59 kickoffs last season went for touchbacks.

Also expect a lot of UW’s starters — offensively and defensively — to play on special teams. Whether it is on kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage or punt return, a lot of starters have playing in these areas in Christensen’s first four years. One guy who could have big years there include senior defensive back Marqueston Huff, who is fast to get around the edge and good at blocking kicks.