Spring practice important for trio of UW wide receivers

Wyoming has held only one of its 15 spring practices, with the second and third workouts coming Friday and Saturday.

All are important for the team, but perhaps none more for three receivers who hope to see the field this season.

It’s safe to assume that juniors Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt will play. They are the Cowboys’ leading returning receivers as both combined for 53 catches for 709 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. Their roles will change this season, and there will be more on that down the road.

But for junior Tanner Simpson of Lander, senior Justin Berger and true freshman Joe Parker, the next month will be their chances to see if they have what it takes to have a role on the field this season.

Kenni Burns

Kenni Burns

“You don’t always have to be a big play-maker all the time,” UW receivers coach Kenni Burns said. “You can be a guy that goes in and spells a guy for 10 or 15 plays a game. A guy that knows what he’s doing and competes at a high level, like (senior) Keenan Montgomery did for us last season.”

“A guy that knows his role and knows his limitations of what he can or can’t do. I think Tanner’s gravitated to that a little bit, along with Justin.”

Tanner Simpson

Tanner Simpson

Simpson is a former walk-on who has played in one game since he arrived at UW in 2012. Berger also came to UW in 2012 from Diablo Valley Community College in California. He caught 20 passes as a sophomore and junior, but redshirted last season.

Parker graduated from Cherry Creek High in the Denver area early and enrolled at UW in January. Parker isn’t big at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but impressed UW players and coaches with his work during winter conditioning, and during Monday’s first spring practice.

“He didn’t look like a high school senior out there,” head coach Craig Bohl said.

Six different UW receivers caught at least one pass last season (that does not include running backs, fullbacks and tight ends). UW would like to have a rotation of at least six receivers this season, which means some of all of the four other incoming freshmen this fall likely will see playing time.

Joe Parker

Joe Parker

“They have the first shot this spring to see what they got,” said Burns of Simpson, Berger and Parker. “If they solidify some things and we can count on them, we’ll move on from there. If not, we will move in a different direction with the freshmen coming in.”

For more on UW spring football, including a story on low numbers but high competition along the offensive line, see Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net.

Also, be sure to log on to my live chat at 3 p.m. Thursday on UW sports. Links can be found on this blog and at wyosports.net.