New roles for UW wide receivers amid Gentry injury

Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said Monday he’s “hopeful” junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry will play Saturday at Boise State after suffering a sprained shoulder in UW’s 28-21 win over Nevada last Saturday.

Gentry’s status for the game won’t be known until later this week, but it’s probably a long-shot that he plays. Gentry leads UW with 37 catches for 678 yards, and is tied for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns. His receiving  yards is 15th in the country, and his 96.9 receiving yards per game is 19th.

So, who steps up for the Cowboys while Gentry is out, whether it is just the Boise State game or future games?

Jake Maulhardt

Jake Maulhardt

The first guy is junior Jake Maulhardt, who is second behind Gentry with 36 catches for 366 yards, and is tied with Gentry on the team with four touchdowns. Maulhardt plays the ‘X’ receiver spot, while Gentry plays the ‘Y.’ Maulhardt is a bigger target than Gentry at 6-foot-6, but doesn’t have the speed Gentry has.

“My number may be called more,” Maulhardt said. “I need to capitalize on it an make plays for the team. If it happens, Im ready for it.”

The two guys who likely will see more playing time if Gentry is out are a pair of true freshmen — James Price and Joe Parker. Combined, those two have caught 7 passes for 68 yards this season.

James Price

James Price

Maulhardt thinks Price is similar to Gentry in terms of his size (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) and abilities. Parker is smaller (5-10, 182) and seems like more of a slot receiver than an edge guy. Maulhardt said true freshman Justice Murphy played a lot more last week against Nevada, and is “one of the most athletic guys on the team.”

Gentry and Maulhardt have caught 57 percent of UW’s completed passes this season. Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said human nature often takes over when guys are pressed into stepping up for a team due to an injury to a teammate as compared to trying to compete for playing time when everyone is healthy and front-line guys are being productive.

Vigen said he would like to spread out more catches to more guys this week and as the season continues, but for the most part, not a lot of other receivers have been asked to make a lot of plays to this point.

Jacob Hollister

Jacob Hollister

That is likely to change. Look for junior tight end Jacob Hollister (18 catches, 214 yards, two touchdowns) to be more of a target. Also look for UW’s running backs to get more looks in the passing game. Sophomore Brian Hill has 12 catches for 63 yards on the season.

But it will be interesting to see which of the five true freshman wide receivers who have played for UW this season steps up and takes advantage of what looks to be more playing time — and more opportunities to make plays.

“It’s a great opportunity for some of those younger guys to step up, and start to build trust in them,” redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman said. “The way to do that is to have them in a game, me to throw them the ball an for them to make plays.”

Here are some other news and notes from Monday’s news conference with Bohl and interviews with players and assistant coaches:

First, here is video of Bohl’s news conference:

— Vigen said true freshman running back Kellen Overstreet has earned the right to remain UW’s No. 2 running back behind Hill. Not just because he had a 5-yard touchdown run and caught two passes for 22 yards against Nevada, but because of what he’s shown in practice recently.

— Bohl said that UW’s offensive line “without question played its best game” of the season against Nevada. It didn’t allow a sack for the first time this season. Look for the same starters this week in sophomore center Charlie Renfree, senior Troy Boyland and junior Chase Roullier at the guards and true freshman Zach Wallace and sophomore Ryan Cummings at the tackles.

Lucas Wacha

Lucas Wacha

— UW gets two defensive starters back this week in junior middle linebacker Lucas Wacha and sophomore cornerback Robert Priester. Both missed the Nevada game with concussions, and both were listed as starters this week. Junior weak-side outside linebacker Will Tutein (ankle) is probable.

— UW won’t have senior running back Shaun Wick and sophomore offensive tackle Taylor Knestis as they continue to be monitored in the school’s concussion protocol. Wick will miss his fourth straight game. Knesits will miss his sixth in a row.

— Defensive coordinator Steve Stanard said the play of guys like redshirt freshman cornerback C.J, Jennings and sophomore linebacker Tim Kamana shows that UW may have a little more depth at certain spots than once thought. Kamana was a strong-side outside linebacker, but played mostly on the weak-side against Nevada due to injuries. Jennings played for Priester.

Tristan Bailey

Tristan Bailey

— Bohl said UW’s field-goal kicking is “still abysmal” as true freshman walk-on Tristan Bailey missed two against Nevada and is 1 of 7 on the season. “We will continue to work on that the best we can with what we’ve got,” Bohl said.

— When asked about Boise State and its eight turnovers in a 52-26 loss at Utah tate last Friday, UW coaches didn’t think it was something they will see again. UW hopes it can force some turnovers, but Bohl and Stanard both said Utah State was aggressive and did some good things, and also said that sometimes when things start to go bad they can snowball. The expect a much sharper Broncos squad Saturday.

For more on Gentry and UW’s wide receiver situation, as well as other football news, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net.