A few weeks ago, some UW fans wanted to see what else Wyoming had at quarterback besides senior Colby Kirkegaard.
The Cowboys’ offense was sputtered in its first seven games. There were glimpses of good, but too many three-and-outs and empty drives.
Some wanted to see what UW’s backups could do, even if it were for a series or two to see what the future of the program may look like at quarterback.
That talk has quieted after UW’s 45-17 win at Fresno State last week. The Cowboys recorded numerous season-highs offensively, including points, total yards (694), rushing yards (374) and third-down conversions.
But going back to UW’s 27-20 overtime loss to San Jose State, Kirkegaard has not thrown an interception in his last three games, and over the last two he’s completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 655 yards and four touchdowns.
Sophomore back up quarterback Tom Thornton has seen mostly mop-up duty for the Cowboys this season. He’s played in two games and not attempted a pass. Sophomore Aaron Young, the No. 3 quarterback, has not played.
“Tom has got the bulk of the No. 2 reps, but he truly wouldn’t be tested until he got into a game — I hate to say,” offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said. “His maturation is probably a little bit in a standstill. If something happened to Colby, we’d finish that game with Tom and then have to re-evaluate it the next week.”
“Aaron doesn’t get many reps so where he’s at is hard to say.”
Vigen said it’s a 2-to-1 ratio in terms of the number of reps Kirkegaard receives each week during practice compared to Thornton.
“Our No. 1 job is to get the No. 1 guy ready, and then have the No. 2 guy to function well enough to get through a game. When he (the No. 2 guy) becomes the No. 1 guy then the emphasis will be placed on him.”
For more on UW’s sudden offensive surge, see Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.
It’s tough for any college team, unless it rotates its quarterbacks, to get the starter and backup equal reps. NCAA rules limit practice and meeting time during the week. It is difficult for teams to develop players once the season starts, unless they are thrust into action due to injuries, illness, player turnover, etc.
Plus, Kirkegaard is in his first season as a starter since he was in junior college in 2010. Like the rest of his teammates, Kirkegaard is learning and trying to hone in on a new style of offense. While that’s a challenge for all players, it can be especially challenging for the quarterback.
Making a move just to see what a guy can do now would be counterproductive, and not fair to the rest of the team.
UW has three other quarterbacks not in the mix for this season — senior Cameron Coffman and true freshmen Nick Smith and Austin Fort.
Coffman is a transfer from Indiana and is sitting out this season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Coffman often has been the scout team quarterback much of this season, and Vigen said he’s received good reports on how Coffman’s performed those duties.
Smith and Fort also are on the scout time, but often play other positions such as receiver depending on the opponent.
Assuming Kirkegaard can stay healthy over UW’s last three games, he will be the guy for the Cowboys — good or bad. When spring drills and fall camp come around next year, the Cowboys’ quarterback competition should be interesting.
Coach Craig Bohl said senior defensive ends Sonny Puletasi (leg) “is looking more doubtful” and Riley Lange (concussion) remains doubtful for Friday’s home game against Utah State. Same can be said about senior safety Jesse Sampson (knee).
Upcoming bye week
UW has its second and final bye week of the season after the Utah State game. Bohl said he will give the players Saturday and Sunday off after Friday’s game.
“We typically haven’t not given two days in a row, but we think it is appropriate as we get near the end of a long and grueling season,” Bohl said.
There will be some work in the weight room for recovery purposes early next week, and the team will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The players will get next Friday off from practicing while some coaches are on the road recruiting and will meet for a practice Saturday in the late afternoon/early evening period.
As far as recruiting, Bohl said “we’re fairly far along but it’s important for us to continue to get out. It’s not like early in the year where we’ve been hitting it hard.”