Chavez Pownell Jr. came close to playing last season at safety for Wyoming.
But in the end, coach Craig Bohl and the staff decided to keep the redshirt on Pownell to get him ready for the 2015 season.
“It all worked out in the end. Whatever coach Bohl said I know it’s for the best,” Pownell said.
Pownell is the only safety on scholarship on the roster right now for the Cowboys. After last Saturday’s first spring scrimmage, he was listed as the starter at strong safety — ahead of redshirt freshman walk-on Marcus Epps.
Pownell had six tackles in that first scrimmage — the second-most among all defensive players. His four solo stops tied for the second-most.
“It makes me feel good, but you never know what can happen,” Pownell said. “Me, (redshirt freshman walk-on Adam Pilapil) and Marcus are all about at the same skill level. We have to make sure we’re grinding every day.”
Pownell, like most freshmen who redshirted last season, spent the fall on UW’s scout team. There were not a lot of reps for him to learn the Cowboys’ defense, but that’s changed this spring.
Another change is UW has a new safeties coach in Curt Mallory.
“It’s a lot different with coach Mallory,” Pownell said. “Last year I was so young and I didn’t understand a lot of things. Coach Mallory is a great coach, and he makes sure you know every single thing and small detail about everything.
“The first couple of days I got in trouble almost every day for not lining up right. Now that I got that down, the position is getting easier and easier the more I get coached on it.”
It will be interesting to see how both safety positions develop through the end of spring and into fall camp. Pilapil is listed as the starter right now at free safety. Senior Chad Reese, who was with the team during the Dave Christensen era, quit, and now is back, is listed as nickel. He played safety for the Cowboys a couple of years ago. Also, junior D.J. May gets back into the mix full-time in fall camp. He moved from running back this spring, but has been limited as he recovers from knee surgery last season.
With a lot of new guys at linebacker, that nickel position, which usually is used when teams need an extra defensive back in passing situations, could become part of the Cowboys’ base defense this season — depending on the opponent.
And, UW brings in five true freshmen defensive backs this fall, including three safeties.
As for competing with a couple of walk-ons this spring, Pownell said: “I don’t look at any player as a walk-on or or scholarship. We’re all here to play football.”
For more on Pilapil, see Friday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net.