Drops continue to hurt UW receivers

Sophomore Robert Herron has caught 15 passes for 100 yards for Wyoming in its two spring scrimmages, which are team-highs in both categories.

More importantly, Herron didn’t have any dropped passes in last Saturday’s scrimmage. Drops have been a problem for UW’s receiving corps this spring.

But UW coach Dave Christensen said Herron dropped a touchdown pass in Monday’s practice in the school’s indoor practice facility, and is tired of all the drops he’s seen this spring.

“You can’t drop touchdown passes and think real highly of guys,” Christensen said. “You’ve got to catch the football in this offense no mater how quick or fast you are.

“The great news is there are five receivers coming this summer and the comeption is going to heat up like someone threw karosine in it.”

Those five receivers coming in are all true freshmen: Josh Doctson (6-4, 185), London Muse (5-11, 185), Trey Norman (6-1, 170), Kevin Robertson (6-4, 210) and Dominic Rufran (6-0, 185).

Herron is one of the fastest players on the team, and seems to be a go-to guy this spring for both UW quarterbacks — redshirt freshman Emory Miller Jr. and true freshman Brett Smith. No one else on the team has caught more than nine passes in the two scrimmages.

“If you’re open the quarterback is going to throw it to you, so I try to get open a lot and try to catch the ball,” Herron said.

“A lot of times I try to run with the ball before I catch it. I’ve got work on calming down and catch the ball first.”

And the goal for Saturday’s spring game for Herron, who played both receiver and running back last season as a true freshman: “No drops, at least as many catches I had in the last scrimmage and to score.”


Some news and notes from Monday’s practice:

–First-year offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon said as of today Miller Jr. is the No. 1 quarterback with Smith a close second. Brandon said Smith struggled in his first extensive time against the No. 1 defense in last Saturday’s scrimmage. Brandon also said of Miller’s two interceptions, one was a bad throw and the other was when he tried to throw the ball out of bounds and his arm was hit by a defender.

–Brandon on Smith: “He’ll be fine. The kid should be in the prom. We keep forgetting about that because you want him to step up and be a guy. He will be. He’s just a young player.”

–Herron on the progress of Miller and Smith at quarterback: “I don’t see nobody over each other. they both make plays when they’re out there.”

–Even though the defense beat the offense 72-41 last Saturday, Brandon was quick to point out both the No. 1 and No. 2 offense scored touchdowns against the No. 1 defense.

–Christensen said the offense won Monday’s practice 4-2, and this was the last practice in full pads before Saturday’s spring game.

–Christensen hopes to have a player draft for the spring game, which is at 2 p.m. Saturday. Weather will determine if it is play inside or outside. Early forecasts look like it will be indoors.

–No scholarship players were hurt in last Saturday’s scrimmage. However, Christensen said junior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau was hurt in Monday’s practice. Christensen didn’t know the extent of the injury. Practices are closed to the media and Christensen does not discuss specific injuries to players with the media.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for a story on how BYU may have helped UW find a new receiver this season.

Also, join me Tuesday at 3 p.m. for another live chat. Check out the top of the blog for the link.

Scrimmage quick hits

Some thoughts and observations from Wyoming first spring football scrimmage Saturday, which consisted of 116 plays and was held indoors at the school’s indoor practice facility:

–I really liked the way true freshman quarterback Brett Smith looked. He was 21 of 27 for 208 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a team-high 73 yards. He did this mostly against the No. 2 defense, but it was impressive nonetheless. Will be curious to see if and when Smith gets a chance to work with the No. 1 offense, and go against the No. 1 defense.

–Redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr. wasn’t horrible, but the No. 1 defense gave him fits. Miller was 13 of 22 for 83 yards. He scored on a 9-yard TD run, but finished with minus-16 rushing yards mostly due to sacks.

–First-year offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon told me about 75 to 80 percent of the offense has been installed, and that he likes the progress the entire group — including his quarterbacks — has made after seven spring practices.

–Senior receiver Jonathan Aiken caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Smith, and finished with three catches for 40 yards. Coach Dave Christensen said Aiken won’t move up the depth chart until he takes care of some academic issues.

–Sophomore receiver Robert Herron caught a scrimmage-high eight passes, most of which were from Miller. “Me and Emroy are growing on each other. Every time he sees me open he triesto get it to me,” Herron said. (Miller and Smith are not being made available to the media this spring).

–I thought junior safety Kenny Browder played well at free safety. He had three tackles and two pass break-ups. He looked fast and broke to the ball well. Maybe my feature today on him and sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff didn’t jinx them. Here is the link: http://www.wyomingnews.com/articles/2011/03/26/sports/19sports_03-26-11.txt

–Many got a laugh from watching the players UW has right now at kicker. There are a pair of redshirt freshmen walk-ons in Everett Scott and Stuart Williams, along with senior linebacker Oliver Schober. Williams and Schober made all four of their extra-point attempts. Scott was 3 of 4. But the three were a combined 4 of 13 in field goals. Schober kicks the ball hard, but often too low. Schober could have hurt someone if the ball would have hit them. True freshman Daniel Sullivan is expected to take care of the kicking duties when he arrives this summer.

–There were 10 penalties for 63 yards in the scrimmage, eight of which were on the offense. That didn’t make Christensen happy. There were a couple of illegal blocks on some big plays that really made him mad. Another one, a taunting penalty on senior cornerback Tashaun Gipson on a Miller pass, nullified the pick and Christensen sent Gipson to sideline for a while. This is what Brandon said about the penalties: “If we give great effort, that’s not always good enough. You have to play smart football.”

All in all a pretty decent first spring scrimmage. By the way, the offense defeated the defense 55-37 in the elaborate scoring system for both sides. See Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.comfor more on the scrimmage, including a big day for one of UW’s new receivers.

A DB take on the QBs

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen doesn’t want redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr. and true freshman Brett Smith talking to the media this spring. Those two are battling for the starting job, and will be joined by true freshman Adam Pittser later this summer.

Junior safety Kenny Browder has got a good look at both QBs in practice, and should today in the Cowboys’ first spring scrimmage at 9 a.m. at the indoor practice facilty in Laramie.

Here’s what Browder said about both: “Emory is really shifty. I’ve seen him shake a couple of linemen out there. It kind of makes me mad, but it’s good to see we have some moves back there. Brett is showing some ACS (former quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels) out there. A little show-and-go.”

For more on Browder and sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff, see my story in Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.


Here are some other news and notes from this week:

— Christensen’s assessment of his receivers: “(Junior) Chris McNeill has been very consistent. He’s battled some minor injuries that have slowed him down some. (Sophomore) Robert Herron’s done some good things. He’s shown great speed and quickness inside. (Senior) Mazi Ogbonna is making some plays and having a better spring than he did last year. He’s picked up a little bit where he left off last year.”

–I loved this quote from secondary coach Alex Grinch on what he told his players prior to the start of spring drills: “You can have a bad play but you can’t have a bad day.”

–On signing day back in February UW wasn’t sure what to do with true freshman Mark Nzeocha from Germany. At 6-3, 220 he was listed at a safety prior to spring drills, but has been taking snaps at middle linebacker. I’m really curious to see what he does there.

–As stated earlier this week on the blog, Christensen has been pleased, and perhaps a little surprised, with the play of the offensive line so far. The player I am most anxious to see in tooday’s scrimmage and the rest of spring is junior Kyle Magnuson at right tackle. Listed as a left guard prior to spring, the 6-6, 317-pound Magnuson played in only four games last season and started one. He didn’t play as a redshirt freshman in 2009. If Magnuson works out at right tackle, that would be a huge boost for an offensive line that remains a question mark heading into the season. I don’t think many of the coaches thought Magnuson would be a significant contributor this season. He’s getting his chance now.

Spring practice report #1

Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen described Wednesday’s spring practice as the best he’s seen from a competitive and physical standpoint since he’s been at UW as he enters his third season.

UW keeps score of each practice, Christensen said the defense won on the final play of the session. See my story in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on that.

Also see my story on another chance for running back Nehemie Kankolongo to show what he can do. Some of it has to do with injuries to some other backs, and not just to junior Ghaali Muhammad who will miss the rest of the spring with an injury.

This was the Cowboys’ final practice before Saturday’s first scrimmage at 9 a.m. Christensen said the scrimmage will have a lot of ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos — nearly 90 plays.

The scrimmage is open to the public and free. It likely will be played in the indoor practice facility.

Cowboy Combine concludes

Wyoming held its second annual Cowboy Combine Monday afternoon at the indoor practice facility. Players were tested for the final time before the start of spring drills on Saturday.

Players were tested in the: 40-yard dash, I-drill (tests lateral movement), L-drill (also known as the cone drill), standing broad jump and standing vertical leap.

Coach Dave Christensen won’t release times and distances. As he told me in his office Monday morning: “That’s for our opponents to find out on the field.”

This was the last of five consecutive weeks of testing for UW, and I would estimate there easily was 30 personal-records set by numerous players.

Some quick highlights:

–One of the fastest, if not the fastest player on the team looks to be junior-college safety Luke Anderson from Blinn College in Texas. He had PR-ed in the 40, I-test and L-drill.

“I was the fastest at Blinn and I came in here hoping I would be the fastest here. I’m not going to say I’m the fastest,” Anderson said.

If that kind of speed can translate on the field, Anderson will have a great chance to start at one of the two safety positions vacated by Chris Prosinski, who was a senior last season, and sophomore Shamiel Gary, who left after the season and who is currently a walk-on at Oklahoma State.

–Juniors B.J. Sumter and Kurt Taufa’asua, both transfers from New Mexico Military Institute and were redshirted last season, set PRs in the 40, broad jump and L-drill. Both were brought in to play defensive tackle, but Sumter was moved to offensive line, where he will get a look at guard this spring. Sumter said he played offensive tackle in high school in South Carolina.

–Senior safety Tashaun Gipson had PRs in everything but the vertical jump. Gipson said he’s up to 210 pounds and looks bigger. Last year’s roster listed him at 6-foot, 203 pounds, but Gipson said he played at about 195.

–“The thing I notice the most is the guys that weren’t really competing last year have really stepped up and are showing themselves. Those are the guys you notice coming out of their shells.” — senior defensive end Gabe Knapton.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more from the Cowboy Combine, including a couple of key defensive players who have added weight but haven’t lost any speed or skill.

Pokes enter spring thin along O-line

Wyoming will not have a lot of numbers along the offensive line when spring drills begin Saturday, especially at tackle.

Redshirt freshman Justin DiRe’s career is over due to a medical condition, although he is still in school and involved in the program. Even though he was redshirted last season DiRe was listed as a backup most weeks.

Redshirt freshman Daniel Fleischman is out with an injury suffered in winter workouts and it’s uncertain if he will be ready for the start of fall camp in August.

UW does not release specific injuries to players.

DiRe and Fleischman were expected to compete for playing time and possibly starting spots this season.

Senior guard Travis Hillen also will miss spring with an injury, and missed most of last season with an Achilles injury. The Cowboys have six offensive linemen on scholarship this spring with game experience, and eight total on scholarship from last season.

“We don’t have enough numbers on the offensive line to get as many quality reps for all the defensive linemen that we have,” coach Dave Christensen said. “We’ll manage. We’ll probably do more seven-on-seven work because we’re deeper at the skill positions.

“We’re four-deep (on the defensive line) and about two-deep on the offensive line.”

Other players that will miss all of spring drills or be limited include: sophomore defensive end Mark Willis, senior linebacker Oliver Schober and junior defensive end Miraldo Michel.