Opponent news and notes

Some Sunday stories from some of Wyoming’s 2011 football opponents:












Camp concludes for Cowboys

Fall camp came to a close for the Wyoming football team as it simulated some game day procedures Saturday morning at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

The team practiced in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. It stood on its own sideline, plays were signaled in from the sideline, officials were on hand and music was pumped in to simulate the chaos of a real game.

True freshman quarterback Brett Smith threw a long touchdown pass to junior running back Alvester Alexander to start the practice. Smith was later intercepted by junior safety Luke Ruff in a two-minute drill.

When asked if Smith will be the starter Sept. 3 against Weber State, coach Dave Christensen said: “We’ll watch the film, make a decision and let you know the Monday before the first game (Aug. 29).”

Expect Smith to be the starter.

Here’s what first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Gregg Brandon said about Smith: “Going into camp I was very apprehensive. But 20 days later I’d say I’m pleasantly surprised. Brett can run and mange the offense. I thought our offensive instillation was very ambitious, and I thought we’d have to take days and back it up, but we didn’t.”

Brandon said junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard had an edge over true freshman Adam Pittser for the backup job going into Saturday, but Brandon wants to evaluate things after watching film from Saturday’s practice.

Some other notes from practice

–True freshman kicker Daniel Sullivan ended the practice with a 64-yard field goal. Both he and redshirt freshman walk-on Stuart Williams were accurate most of the day. Christensen said kickers attempted around 300 kicks during camp.

–Christensen said senior punter Austin McCoy likely will handle kickoffs for the season-opener against Weber State. He said Sullivan could eventually take over once he’s fully over a leg injury.

–True freshman cornerback Blair Burns is the teams’ third corner, or first to come off the bench.

Which newcomers play for the Pokes this season?

I’m sure many fans were disappointed to hear Saturday’s fourth and final scrimmage of fall camp for the Wyoming football team was cancelled.

Actually, this should come as good news.

The team has practiced 18 times in 15 days since camp started, including three scrimmages. Coach Dave Christensen feels he and his staff have a good enough gauge of who can help the Cowboys this season there wasn’t a need for another scrimmage. That’s better than having to cancel it because of too many injuries, or even holding it to continue to evaluate what’s there and what’s not.

An updated depth chart will be released Aug. 29, and until then there will be competition for spots, especially along both the offensive and defensive lines, wide receiver and on special teams. Just because camp comes to a close Saturday doesn’t mean the competition hasn’t.

It’s safe to say that, barring injury or someting bizarre, true freshman Brett Smith will be the starting quarterback two weeks from Saturday in the season-opener against Weber State. Smith’s earned it and has been steady, and sometimes spectacular, in the three scrimmages.

Christensen said earlier this week that he could see as many as 10 freshmen playing this season.

I think there will be 11, and here’s who I think they are. Note, these are all true freshmen:

Smith and Adam Pittser at quarterback. Pittser will get snaps as he gets more comfortable with the offense. And, you’ve got to have a backup ready no matter what. I think Pittser is the guy.

RB Kody Sutton; WRs Dominic Rufran, Trey Norman and Josh Doctson; DE Eddie Yarbrough, LB Mark Nzeocha, CB Blair Burns, LS Zach Ewan and K Daniel Sullivan.

These are the redshirt freshmen I see getting playing time:

WRs Sam Stratton and C.J. Morgan, DE Sonny Puletasi, CB Darrenn White, FB/H-Back Riley Lange, OT Daniel Fleischman, H-Back Shane Sullivan and K Stuart Williams.

The live chat Saturday was axed when the scrimmage was called off, but I’m hopeful to get back to doing one each week throughout the season, and also during games. I will keep you posted on when the next one is, but I’m shooting for the middle or later part of next week.

See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang for a story on an early candidate to be UW’s Comeback Player of the Year. Got any guesses?

Opponent news and notes

Here are some links to stories for some of Wyoming’s football opponents this season.

Check out out Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for a story on UW’s probable starting offensive guards: senior Brandon Self and sophomore Tyler Strong.

Friday’s paper will have a good piece on one of the bright true freshmen in the program: defensive end Eddie Yarbrough.










Pick the 10

I’m following up on something Wyoming co-offensive line coach Pete Kaligis told me after Tuesday’s scrimmage. He said he has 10 offensive linemen who are ready to play for the Cowboys this season.

By the way, eight linemen played for the Pokes last season, six of which got starts.

Who do you think the 10 players are Kaligis is talking about?

Let’s start with the starters.

Junior center Nick Carlson is a lock. At guard, senior Brandon Self and sophomore Tyler Strong have played exclusively with the No. 1 offense in the Cowboys’ first three scrimmages, along with junior right tackle Kyle Magnuson.

Seniors Clayton Kirven (two scrimmage starts) and John Hutchins (one start) likely will alternate at left tackle, and are two of the most experienced linemen UW has. Hutchins also can play guard.

That’s six.

Junior Josh Leonard has starting experience at tackle and is Magnuson’s backup right now, so he makes seven. Junior-college transfer Zach Rushing is pushing both Self and Strong at both guard spots so that’s eight.

Coach Dave Christensen said after Tuesday’s practice that redshirt freshman offensive tackle Daniel Fleischman should be ready to return from injury in about a week, so I’m going to include him because I know Christensen and the other coaches have been high on him since he signed.

OK, we’re at nine.

My 10th right now would be redshirt freshman Travis Bogard at center, listed as Carlson’s backup. If I needed a wildcard I would go with redshirt freshman guard Skyler Hinton.

Any thoughts or opinions on this?

Speaking of offensive linemen, see my story in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang on Self and Strong, and their improbable path to becoming likely starters.

Smith closer to being named starting QB

You tell me if it sounds like Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen has any doubt who is starting quarterback will be:

“It’s going to be hard for (true freshman) Brett Smith to get beat out right now,” said Christensen after Tuesday morning’s scrimmage that ended in a 26-26 tie using a modified scoring system.

“We’re probably not going to have to have a big press conference and a huge release to let everybody know who our leading candidate at quarterback is. If you can’t figure it out, then we’ll let it continue on.”

Smith was 9 of 14 for 80 yards with a touchdown. In three scrimmages, all running the No. 1 offense, he’s 48 of 65 for 563 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.

True freshman Adam Pittser was 8 of 12 for 58 yards and a touchdown Tuesday. Junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard, going mostly against the No. 1 defense, was 13 of 19 for 104 yards with a touchdown and interception. Both have struggled mightily against the defensive starters so far in camp and it’s about even between the two on the backup job.

Some other notes and quotes from the scrimmage:

–” It felt good to be back there. I’ve been working my butt off over the summer. I feel I can help my team in a big way this fall.” — junior running back Ghaali Muhammad. He had only two carries for four yards, but he dove into the end zone for a 1-yard score and caught a pass for 26 yards. His first run was for three yards, but it took about five guys to get  him down. He will get a few more reps in Saturday’s fourth an final scrimmage of camp, and it looks like he can definitely help this team at running back after moving from linebacker.

–Co-offensive line coach Pete Kaligis said he thinks there are 10 offensive linemen who can play for UW this season. The same starters from the second scrimmage were out there Tuesday: tackles Kyle Magnuson and Clayton Kirven, guards Tyler Strong and Brandon Self and center Nick Carlson. I will have a story on Strong and Self later in the week. Christensen said redshirt freshman tackle Daniel Fleischman could be back after an injury in a week or so, and I know the coaching staff are high on him.

— “Doctson made some big-time plays today.” I don’t care if you’re playing with the ones tows or threes. When you’re covered and make big catches that shows me something.” — Christensen on true freshman receiver Josh Doctson, who caught three passes for 36 yards and a 9-yard touchdown pass from Pittser. Christensen also said true freshmen Trey Norman and Dominic Rufran played well, as did fellow true freshman Kevin Robertson (with a touchdown catch) despite trying to catch up after being injured early in camp. Don’t be surprised if Doctson, Norman and Rufran play this season.

–One area Christensen isn’t happy with right now is his kickoff return team: “We’ve got to find some guys that have great courage, are head-hunters and want to go down and hit some people.”

–Competition will continue in the place-kicking duties among redshirt freshman Stuart Williams and true freshman Daniel Sullivan. Williams had the better day Tuesday, but it appears Williams has the better overall skills once he finds his consistency. A decision could be made after Saturday’s final scrimmage of camp on who the starter will be.

–Christensen said Saturday’s scrimmage will consist of one quarter of the clock running like in a regular game. He and his staff usually talk about more scrimmage specifics the day prior to the scrum.

–Christensen said no one reported any injuries to him after the scrimmage. Senior defensive end Josh Biezuns and true freshman linebacker Mark Nzeocha didn’t play, but both should be ready for the season-opener Sept. 3 against Weber State.

–Great to see sophomore defensive end Mark Willis back and playing well. His season ended after six games last season with an injury. In three scrimmages he has 12 tackles, five for loss and three sacks. I will have more on Willis in the coming days.

Thanks to everyone who joined me for today’s live chat during the scrimmage. We will do it again Saturday as long as the team is in the stadium. It was a lot of fun. See Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on Tuesday’s scrimmage.

Look ahead to scrimmage #3

The third of four scrimmages of fall camp for the Wyoming football team is Tuesday morning, starting at about 9:20 a.m.

Here are some things I will be most interested in:

–Coach Dave Christensen said the scrimmage will be about half as long as the first two, which should be around 60 or 70 plays. With fewer plays, it’s vital everyone takes advantage of their opportunities. Not just at quarterback, which I know we all are interested in, but at every position. Those who take advantage of their opportunities the most are likely going to be the guys we see a lot not just in the season-opener on Sept. 3, but through much of the season.

–True freshman quarterback Brett Smith will run exclusively with the No. 1 offense for the third straight scrimmage. Another solid day from Smith likely solidifies the starting job. Who separates themselves at No. 2 among true freshman Adam Pittser and junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard may be the most intriguing thing to watch. Christensen didn’t say if there will be a lot of ones vs. ones, etc. I would think Pittser and Kirkegaard would split time with the twos and threes. Who has the better day could go a long way to who is No. 2 at the start of the season.

–UW is moving two defensive linemen — junior end Mat Birkeness and redshirt freshman tackle Riley Lange — to H-back to bolster the position after the loss of senior Bryson Studnicka because of a season-ending injury. Birkeness was a backup who has played in every game the last two years, and Lange was a promising prospect inside, despite being undersized at about 260 pounds. Who steps into their roles along the defensive line will be interesting, not to mention how they block on offense.

–Christensen mentioned there is good competition going for starting jobs at both tackle and guard spots. Who grabs the latest edge will be interesting. At guard, senior Brandon Self and sophomore Tyler Strong have played with the ones the first two scrimmages. Seniors Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins have both garnered time with the ones in the first two scrums at left tackle. Who else puts their name in the hat for playing time and/or a starting job. Tuesday could be a big day for guys like junior-college transfer guard Zach Rushing and junior tackle Josh Leonard at right tackle. If anything, UW appears to be deeper along the line, or at least at guard and tackle, which is good.

–Will the young kickers be healthy and kick better? Christensen gave true freshman Daniel Sullivan and redshirt freshman walk-on Stuart Williams some time off since the last scrimmage to get over some nagging injuries and soreness.

–I’m anxious to see junior Ghaali Muhammad play running back. He hasn’t played in any of the first two scrimmages as a precaution from an injury in the spring. Christensen said he should see some time Tuesday.

–Will any freshmen receivers step up? I though Dominic Rufran and Trey Norman has good days as true freshmen in the second scrimmage, as did redshirt freshman Sam Stratton. Also watch for true freshman Josh Doctson — I really like this young receiver.

What do you guys think, or want to see Tuesday.

Hopefully you will join me during the scrimmage for another live chat to discuss these matters, and more. The first one was a blast, thanks to the great participation. Here is the link http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2011/08/15/live-blog-cowboys-3rd-scrimmage-august-16th-9am/

Talk to you in the morning.

Number crunching through two scrimmages

Was crunching some numbers from Wyoming’s first two scrimmages of fall camp to try and come to some conclusions on who we might see play this season. Here’s what I came up with.

At quarterback, true freshman Brett Smith has the best numbers so far. He’s 39 of 51 (76.5 completion percentage) for 483 yards with four TDs and one INT. His yards-per-completion is 12.4. Smith has ran the No. 1 offense in both scrimmages, and based on those numbers I would guess he will continue to.

Junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard seems to have an edge over true freshman Adam Pittser right now in the backup battle. He is 35 of 46 (76.1 completion percentage) for 221 yards with no TDs or INTs. Pittser is 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) for 210 yards with a TD and a INT. Both guys played better in last Friday’s second scrimmage compared to the first last Tuesday. I’ve been impressed with Kirkegaard’s accuracy, although he hasn’t attempted a lot of deep throws.

At running back, sophomore Brandon Miller has ran 19 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and a team-best 7.7 yards per carry (thanks in large part to a 53-yard run Friday). Junior Alvester Alexander has the most carries at 24 for 104 yards and three TDs. True freshman Kody Sutton has 23 carries for 114 yards. All three have shown some good things, and we’ve yet to see junior Ghaali Muhammad (injury). I think UW will be fine at running back, whoever gets the carries.

Sophomore Robert Herron and redshirt freshman Sam Stratton are the top receivers so far with 11 catches apiece. Senior Mazi Ogbonna has eight catches for 150 yards and two TDs, including a 76-yard touchdown. Miller has caught seven passes for 77 yards out of the backfield. Among the true freshmen receivers, Dominic Rufran has 12 catches for 65 yards, Trey Norman has five catches for 50 yards and Josh Doctson has four for 17. I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of them play this season.

Perhaps most impressive than anything from the receivers so far? Only three dropped passes in the first two scrimmages.

Haven’t seen a lot of movement or experimentation along the offensive line so far, which I think is good as the coaches must like what they’re seeing. Seniors Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins each have took turns playing with the No. 1 offense at right tackle. Wouldn’t be surprised if that continues all season.

Defensively, junior-college transfer linebacker/defensive end Korey Jones has been spectacular with 12 tackles, including five for loss. True freshman defensive end Eddie Yarbrough has six sacks. I really like the looks of this kid and could see him playing this season. Sophomore linebacker Todd Knight is taking advantage of his opportunity with some injuries at the position with 16 tackles. I would like to see how this defense can play when it gets some of its other LBs back like senior Brian Hendricks and true freshman Mark Nzeocha.

Other than Yarborough, I’ve been impressed with true freshman cornerback Blair Burns, who has 10 tackles, two pass break-ups and one tackle for loss in the two scrimmages. He saw a lot of time with the No. 2 defense in the second scrimmage. He could be a solid nickel back behind senior Tashaun Gipson and sophomore Marqueston Huff.


Here are some links to stories for some of UW’s 2010 opponents. Note the trouble brewing at Colorado State.








Hope you will check out and vote in the new poll question on the blog. Another possible shake-up in terms of the college athletics landscape could be coming if Texas A&M and others go to the SEC. I don’t see this move having an impact on the Mountain West. If others follow A&M’s lead and leave the Big XII, then things could get interesting. But even then, I see the MW being OK and surviving all this. Thoughts?

Also hoping to do another live chat for Tuesday’s third scrimmage at UW. Will post more on that on Monday.

News, notes and quotes from Scrimmage #2

After looking so good Tuesday, one had to figure true freshman quarterback Brett Smith wouldn’t be as sharp in Friday’s second scrimmage for the Wyoming football team.

Smith threw an interception on his first series against the No. 2 defense, but came back and threw a 16-yard TD pass to senior Mazi Ogbonna later on. Smith was 15 of 23 for 160 yards with a touchdown and interception.

“(Smith’s) only struggles came against the No. 1 defense, really,” said coach Dave Christensen, who isn’t allowing quarterbacks to talk to the media. “That’s not all bad. I hope our No. 1 defense is better than our twos. It was good for (Smith) to go against the top guys, even though he does every day in practice. I thought he was fine. He made a couple of rookie mistakes, but that’s why you practice and get them corrected.

Smith guided the No. 1 offense only for the second straight scrimmage. In four series against the No. 1 defense, Smith was able to generate a field goal and that came in the red zone period.

True freshman Adam Pittser and junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard were much better today, especially Pittser. Kirkegaard was 16 of 21 for 124 yards; Pittser was 15 of 32 for 133. He struggled a bit late, but Pittser looked much more comfortable.

“I thought Adam and Colby improved drastically from the last scrimmage, which was great,” Christensen said. “I would have liked (all three quarterbacks) to be where they’re at now. If we were further behind we’d be in trouble. They’ve made great progress.”

Christensen didn’t name a starter after today, nor would you expect him to. I think Smith still has the advantage, but the gap may have been closed somewhat.

Some other notes and quotes:

–Christensen said junior running back Ghaali Muhammad could play in the next scrimmage, but may hold him out until the final scrimmage a week from Saturday. He said Muhammad has taken live reps in practice this week. He’s still nursing an injury suffered in the off-season.

–Senior defensive end Gabe Knapton is sporting quite the beard these days. He’s been growing it since Christmas and doesn’t plan to shave it any time soon. “I’m too lazy to shave it right now. I’ve been playing good with it and I think I’m going to keep it,” he said. Knapton said his girlfriend isn’t the biggest fan of the beard, but thinks his teammates like it. Said junior linebacker Korey Jones: “I like the beard. It’s a nice look and style for Gabe. Knapton said he doesn’t trim the beard, but puts some “product” in it once in a while. When asked if it stinks, Jones said: “I never got close enough to tell.”

–UW’s top three receivers in the scrimmage were freshmen. True freshman Dominic Rufran caught eight passes for 63 yards. Redshirt freshman Sam Stratton caught seven for 63 yards, and true freshman Trey Norman caught five passes for 50 yards. All three were impressive.

–Christensen didn’t seem concerned that true freshman kicker Daniel Sullivan struggled. Sullivan didn’t play because of an injury Tuesday. He was only 5 of 10 in field goals Friday with a long of 32. He often kicked the ball low. Christensen said both he and redshirt freshman walk-on Stuart Williams needs to heal up and get over some soreness.

–Was very impressed by junior linebacker/defensive end Korey Jones. Nine tackles in the scrimmage, including three for loss. He’s going to have a good season.

–Speaking of linebackers, true freshman Mark Nzeocha didn’t play in the scrimmage due to injury, but Christensen said he would be ready for the first game. Injuries to him and others like seniors Brian Hendricks and Oliver Schober, have forced UW to move some guys around position-wise, and also just on the field to try and confuse teams. Jones is a good example of that playing sometimes as a stand-up end or a traditional linebacker. “The more you can move the more of an effect you can have on our opponent. They can’t study on one thing. You can confuse the offene nand I like it,” said senior defensive end Gabe Knapton, who also has played at defensive tackle in some situations during camp.

–True freshman defensive end Eddie Yarborough had three sacks and eight total tackles. It all came mostly against the second and third-team offenses, but he has 15 tackles and four sacks in two scrimmages. “He’s had a great camp,” Christensen said. “He’s going to be a heck of a player for us. Eddie is fortunate in that he’s playing a position where we have a lot of experience right now. If we play him or redshirt him it’s not all that bad. I don’t see a negative in either one. He’s big enough and physical enough to play, and if we had him in his fifth year he could be an All-American by then.”

–Friday marked the eighth day of fall camp for UW, and it’s already had two scrimmages. I asked junior safety Kenny Browder, who has been around for all three fall camps under Christensen, if this was the most physical fall camp he’s been a part of with the Cowboys: “Definately. Coach C makes it a point to be physical every day. … “It’s toug and a grind, but that’s football.”

See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on Friday’s scrimmage. Thanks to all those who joined me for the live chat today. I hope to do it again for Tuesday’s scrimmage.

Look ahead to scrimmage two for Pokes

What are you most interested in when Wyoming holds its second scrimmage of fall camp Friday morning?

For me, and like for most, I’m interested to see if true freshman quarterback Brett Smith can follow-up on his stellar play from Tuesday’s first scrimmage when he was 24 of 28 for 323 yards and three touchdowns. Smith will run with the No. 1 offense the entire scrimmage, like he did Tuesday. He also will get two chances to go against the No. 1 defense. Once with the offense at its own 25-yard line, and the other at the defense’s 20. If Smith has another big day, he takes another huge step in being the starter Sept. 3.

Due to injuries/illness to DT Patrick Mertens and LB Oliver Schober — both projected starters — UW will see how junior linebacker Korey Jones does as a rush end (even if he’s standing up) and how Gabe Knapton does as an interior lineman as opposed to a defensive end. Even though UW is a 4-3 defense, I saw 3-4 looks in Tuesday’s scrimmage. I expect this defense will give teams various looks depending on the opponent, as well as the down and distance. I would like to see Knapton stay as and end have guys like juniors Ben Durbin, Mike Purcell, Kurt Taufa; asau and redshirt freshman Riley Lange can come along as defensive tackles. Sounds like UW will not move senior outside linebacker Brian Hendricks, who will miss his second straight scrimmage with an injury, inside where he’s played most of his career. I think that would be a good move, but then again, I’m not a coach.

I want to see true freshman kicker Daniel Sullivan kick. He missed Tuesday’s scrimmage with an injury, but is expected to kick Friday. UW needs a consistent kicker, and also one who has a big leg on kickoffs. Sullivan, in my opinion, needs to be that guy.

In Christensen’s first two seasons, he wasn’t afraid to experiment along the offensive line with different guys at different positions. I didn’t see that in Tuesday’s scrimmage, at least not among the starters. UW stuck with junior Kyle Magnuson and John Hutchins at tackle, senior Brandon Self and sophomore Tyler Strong at guard and junior Nick Carlson at center. If we see a lot of the same Friday, it says to me the coaches were pleased with that this unit did Tuesday and thus far in fall camp.

See my story in Friday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com on how Spencer Bruce has gotten off to a good start in fall camp, and more about the scrimmage.

I hope you will join me for the live chat during Friday’s scrimmage. Get your questions and comments ready, it should be fun. Here is the link http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2011/08/10/live-blog-cowboys-2nd-scrimmage-friday-august-12th-at-9am/