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.

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/


Christensen on similar path

I was looking through Wyoming’s football media guide recently and found an interesting pattern with coach Dave Christensen.

In his first two years as head coach of the Cowboys, Christensen is 10-15 overall and 5-11 in conference play. In Christensen’s first two years at Missouri as an assistant in 2001-02, the Tigers also were 5-11 in conference play and 9-16 overall.

In year three at Missouri the Tigers improved to 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big XII, which was good for third place in the North Division. Missouri played in the Independence Bowl. The Tigers had a winning season in four of the next five seasons Christensen was there after that, including double-digit victories in 2007 and 2008.

Will there be a similar outcome in Christensen’s third year at UW, and even looking ahead? I think most fans would be elated with eight wins.

Another interesting tidbit? The Mountain West has a tie with the Independence Bowl this year. Could Christensen lead the Cowboys there, as he helped do with Missouri in this third year there back in 2003?

Something to think about.


Here is a link from Mountain West blogger Mick McGrane on fall camp news and notes from other conference schools. Mick used to cover San Diego State for the San Diego Union-Tribune and really knows his stuff. Plus, he’s is one of the best writers out there.



And, here is a good column from the Ogden Standard Examiner on Weber State football coach and former Utah coach Ron McBride. UW opens the season Sept. 3 with Weber State, which ironically, was the first game in Christensen’s UW debut in 2009. The Cowboys won that game 29-22.



Hope you check out the new poll question on the blog about UW’s newcomers. See my story on one of them, true freshman running back Kody Sutton, in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.

Also, I plan to have a live chat during UW’s second scrimmage of fall camp Friday morning. There is a link to it on the blog right now. But just in case, here it is http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2011/08/10/live-blog-cowboys-2nd-scrimmage-friday-august-12th-at-9am/

We will start around 9 a.m. I look forward to hearing from all of you again, so come ready with questions and comments.

Ready for some football?

I’m back from fishing and will be at Wyoming’s first scrimmage of fall camp Tuesday morning. Check the blog for updates, and you can follow me and ask questions on Twitter @rpgagliardi. You can do this on the main blog site as well.

I am hoping to do live chats during the other scrimmages if they are in the stadium, so stay tuned for that. If not, the live chats will return on a weekly basis.

It should be fun.