Are you ready for some football?
Wyoming is, and it starts spring drills Monday. It will be culminated by its spring game on Saturday, April 25.
I will have an analysis piece and feature in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and also at wyosports.net with more on UW spring football in terms of things to watch, etc.
But for now, here are my top three concerns for the Cowboys heading into spring:
1. Linebacker: Other than junior Lucas Wacha, there really isn’t much experience at any of the three linebacker spots. Senior Malkaam Muhammad returns, but even though he’s played in 17 games over his career, it mostly has been on special teams. Players and coaches have raved about Wacha this offseason, and he’s up to about 218 pounds now compared to 205 last season. Wacha will be the middle linebacker this season, and 218 pounds is awful small for that position. However, Wacha has shown that size doesn’t always matter for him as he’s been productive over his first two seasons along the outside. Muhammad must show he can play consistently well. Several players have switched positions and moved to linebacker. I think one of the outside spots will be secured by
junior Will Tutein, who moved over from safety. Tutein played more of a linebacker in UW’s final game against New Mexico last season, and he has good athletic ability to play there. Also will be curious to see how junior Eric Nzeocha makes the transition from receiver/tight end to linebacker. The brother of former UW linebacker Mark Nzeocha, Eric has some good natural ability and athleticism. How he makes the transition from offense to defense will be interesting. If I had to guess right now, those would be the three guys I think would be the starters coming out of spring.
2. Offensive line: After last season, it looked like the only player UW had to replace was senior tackle Connor Rains. But now, senior guard Jake Jones, junior guard Sam Hardy and senior tackle Austin Traphagan won’t be back. Jones and Traphagan decided to concentrate on school and move on with life. UW coach Craig Bohl told the SportZone of KFBC 1240 AM Wednesday Hardy was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Jones played in 34 games and started 31. Hardy and Traphagan played in a combined 26 games and started eight. UW returns senior center Rafe Kiely, junior left guard Chase Roullier and sophomore tackle Ryan Cummings — still a good base to work from. But Kiely will be limited in the spring due to injury. As many as seven different players will get strong looks this spring, and six are either redshirt freshmen and sophomores. It won’t matter how good UW is at quarterback, running back or receiver if the line isn’t good. There is more uncertainty there now.
3. Secondary: Senior cornerback Tyran Finley and sophomore safety Tim Kamana return, but after that there are a lot of unknowns. Sophomore cornerback Robert Priester does as well, but he will be out this spring recovering from knee surgery. Junior safety Xavier Lewis is still on the roster, but is still recovering from a stroke suffered after the season. Spring will be a time for guys like sophomore cornerback Ryon’e Winters, redshirt freshman cornerback C.J. Jennings and redshirt freshman safety Chavez Pownell. Help could be coming with some true freshmen, but not until fall camp. A wildcard to watch this spring — senior safety Chad Reese. He was with UW for former coach Dave Christensen, then quit, spent some time at North Texas and now is back. He had game experience and could be a real boost for this unit.
No mention of the quarterback position? Yes, that is of great importance but I think that will play out similar to how it did last season with senior Colby Kirkegaard. Look for senior Cameron Coffman to be the starter coming out of spring. The Indiana transfer who sat out last season has received strong reviews from coaches and teammates heading into spring drills. To me, it is Coffman’s job to lose. However, who else emerges from the other four quarterbacks may be the most interesting to watch from this position. One guy to keep an eye on — redshirt sophomore Aaron Young. For more on the quarterbacks, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomernag, and log on to wyosports.net.
Below are some key dates and other information on UW spring football:
Key UW spring football dates
Monday, March 30: First practice
Saturday, April 4: First padded practice, time TBA
Saturday, April 11: Scrimmage, 11 a.m.
Saturday, April 18: Scrimmage, 11 a.m.
Saturday, April 25: Spring game, 2 p.m.
Note: Most practices, unless already noted, will start between 4 and 4:30 p.m. Practice is open to the public and media for the first 30 minutes only, including the first two scrimmages. The spring game is open to the public and media.
Notable UW spring football information
Starters returning: 10 (5 offense, 4 defense, 1 special teams)
Starters lost: 14 (6 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams)
Lettermen returning: 33 (13 offense, 17 defense, 3 special teams)
Lettermen lost: 28 (12 offense, 15 defense, 1 special teams)
Players changing positions
Name New Position Old Position
Troy Boyland, 6-2, 297, Sr. OL DT
Jacob English, 6-5, 300, Jr. DT C
Brinkley Jolley, 6-5, 265 RFr. OL TE
*D.J. May, 5-11, 205, Sr. S RB
Eric Nzeocha, 6-3, 211, Jr. LB TE
Trent Sewell, 6-2, 196, Jr. LB WR
Tom Thornton,6-1, 205, Jr. WR QB
Will Tutein, 6-2, 210, Jr. LB S
*Limited due to injury, not contact work
C Rafe Kiely, 6-3, 306, Sr., limited during spring
CB Robert Priester, 5-9, 168, So., out for spring
Scholarship players not coming back
WR Hunter Atyia, 5-10, 175, RFr.
LB Alex Bush, 6-2, 231, RFr.
OG Sam Hardy, 6-3, 294, Jr.
CB Tim Hayes, 5-9, 189, Jr.
OG Jake Jones, 6-3, 295, Sr.
LB Jeff Lark, 6-2, 213, Sr.
DE Joshua Stanton, 6-3, 240, RFr.
RB Omar Stover, 5-11, 207, Jr.
OT Austin Traphagan, 6-5, 272, Sr.