Cowboys’ offensive line seeking improvement

Scott Fuchs

Scott Fuchs

I asked Wyoming offensive line coach Scott Fuchs this week what some of the glaring concerns were with his guys in the Cowboys’ 24-13 season-opening loss to North Dakota last Saturday.

Fuchs wouldn’t use the term “glaring concerns,” but had this to say about what needs to improve heading into Saturday’s home game with Eastern Michigan.

“We talked about having  good idea of what (North Dakota) was going to do, some things get tweaked here or there, and our ability to adjust on the fly needs to be sharpened,” he said.

Troy Boyland

Troy Boyland

Fuchs said senior right offensive guard Troy Boyland didn’t play like a “savvy veteran,” but he isn’t as last week was his first college game along the offensive line after being an interior defensive lineman.

“It was much faster. Not to say we don’t practice fast, but during a game things like defenses slanting are really fast,” Boyland said. “It took us a while to adjust and get a hand of what they were doing. Once we settled down we did a lot better.”

UW ran for only 29 yards, and its top two running backs — senior Shaun Wick and sophomore Brian Hill — combined for only 16 carries. Boyland said the entire line needs to do a better job of making its blocks at the second level where the linebackers are.

Penalties also hurt where UW had eight for 96 yards in the game. Not all of those were on the offensive line, but there were a fair share of holding and face-mask penalties.

Rafe Kiely

Rafe Kiely

UW played two centers in sophomore Charlie Renfree, who started and played most of the game, and senior Rafe Kiely. Fuchs said he expects to keep playing both, and added Kiely will likely get more plays than he did last week.

It’s a tough spot for Kiely, who entered the season with 21 games of experience — mostly at center. But he is taking his current role in stride and with class.

“I’ll do what I can do when I’m asked to do it,” he said. “I didn’t get too much action, but at the end of day I don’t make those decisions. The coaches do. They’re here to win games. That’s their job and their livelihood. Their careers depend on winning games and they doing the best job they can to win those games.”

Zach Wallace

Zach Wallace

True freshman Zach Wallace also saw sometime at tackle, and Fuchs said he liked what he saw. He also said Wallace may get more reps as the season progresses. And, don’t be surprised if true freshman right guard Kaden Jackson also starts to see some playing time. Jackson is the backup behind Boyland.

North Dakota’s 3-4 scheme gave UW fits last week, and Eastern Michigan runs a similar three-man front. But not matter what Eastern Michigan throws at UW Saturday, Fuchs’ top goal with his guys remains the same.

“Whether we win that game or lose that game, we would have stuff we can improve on,” he said. “I’m trying to make this offensive line as good as it can possibly be. That goes hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month. Maybe we didn’t set he bar as high as we wanted to (in the first game), but as long as we improve we’re on the right track.”

Tanner Gentry

Tanner Gentry

One of the few positives from the North Dakota game was the play of junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry. See my column in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net for more on that, along with some of the concerns for the Cowboys based on Gentry’s performance.

And, join me for my weekly live chat on UW sports at 3 p.m. Thursday. Lots to talk about, obviously. Links to the chat will be on this blog and at wyosports.net.