Cowboys reach halfway point of fall camp

Ten down, ten to go.

The University of Wyoming is halfway through fall camp. Tuesday’s practice was its 10th practice. The Cowboys have 10 more practices before camp breaks, and then it is game week in preparation for their season-opening game against Missouri Aug. 31 at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

Here are some thoughts and observations midway through camp.

— UW got some bad news Tuesday with junior defensive tackle Ravontae Holt being out for the season with a torn ACL. Holt was a projected starter, and based off the daily comments from sixth-year coach Craig Bohl, was having a really good camp. An already thin group of interior defensive linemen in terms of depth got a lot thinner. As of now, UW plans to go with a three man rotation at its two interior line spots with junior Javaree Jackson, sophomore Victor Jones and redshirt freshman Mario Mora. When asked if any other names have started to emerge, Bohl said: “As we go, they’re still unnamed. That’s as clear as I can be.” There is time for others to develop, but one thing is certain, UW will need more than three to get through an entire season.

— Holt’s injury magnifies this issue, but even before that it was evident that if the Cowboys are to be successful defensively this season, they are going to have to do it differently than the last couple of years, which consisted of good play along the defensive line and at safety — especially last season. This isn’t to say those groups can’t or won’t play well in 2019, but depth and proven commodities are simply not there. UW will need to be good at cornerback, especially in passing situations where more man-to-man coverage could be used, and also at linebacker.

— I got a laugh from this quote from Bohl when asked to follow up on a statement he made about the wide receivers needing to be more consistent in practice. He’s talking about their ability to make contested catches. “I always say there’s two hungry dogs and one piece of meat. One dog is getting the meat. We need to get the meat.” That’s the quote of fall camp so far, but a valid point. Bohl said UW’s receivers were decent last season in catching the ball with no one around them. But we all know football isn’t always like that. For an offense that averaged 131.3 passing yards per games, and no returning wide receiver averaging more than 11.1 yards per catch, this area has to improve.

— The battle for the starting job at left guard is still ongoing with sophomores Patrick Arnold and Eric Abojei. Arnold is still working some at center, his natural position. That spot, and perhaps others, should get cleared up more when UW scrimmages on Saturday. That will be its first and likely only major scrimmage during camp. Unfortunately, it is closed to the public and media. We also should have a better idea on who will play at free safety, and the pecking order among UW’s young running backs and wide receivers will be after the scrimmage.

— Been hearing a lot of positive comments about junior right guard Logan Harris of Torrington, who seems to have that starting job locked down. First-year offensive line coach Bart Miller said Harris has made good strides since the spring with his footwork.

— Thank goodness for the new redshirt rule. Last season, freshman defensive end Solomon Byrd saw time in three games and recorded five tackles. Because Byrd played four games or fewer, UW could redshirt him. Now, the 6-foot-4, 243-pounder has emerged to be in the rotation for playing time this season along with senior Josiah Hall and junior Garrett Crall. Now, defensive ends coach AJ Cooper needs to see who will step up behind that trio. There are about five guys in the picture now, including sophomore Davon Wells-Ross, redshirt freshmen Levi Lafaele, Teagan Liufau and Jack Boyer, along with true freshman DeVonne Harris. Liufau and Boyer are walk-ons.

— This is what redshirt freshman starting quarterback Sean Chambers had to say earlier this week about how camp has gone for him: “I think camp has been okay. We’ve done some good things out there. We’ve made some mistakes, but that’s going to happen through the course of camp. I’d say I’m pleased with my performance so far, but there are are lot of things I need to do better. We still have some time, so that’s a positive. I need to be more consistent, not turn the ball over, be accurate and right with the protections. At times it gets frustrating, but I have to remember that this is camp and we’re going against our own team. I can’t take the previous play to the next play — good or bad.”

This likely will be my last post here this week. I am taking some time off to spend some time with my dad. His health isn’t great, and this opportunity to spend this time and do what we have planned is something I can’t pass up. But don’t worry, stories have been planned and written to run through the rest of the week in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net, so check them out.

Early fall camp observations for Wyoming football

Hello all,

It has been a while since I posted anything here. Maintaining or posting to this blog is not a high priority for my bosses, but I figure if we have it, we better utilize it.

With that said, I wanted to drop a few observations from the first couple of practices I’ve seen from fall camp for the University of Wyoming football team. Granted, I’ve only seen two of the first four practices (the other two didn’t have media access). II only see the first 30 minutes of practice, and frankly, the team doesn’t do a whole lot worth mentioning during that time.

But here are some early thoughts:

— This goes back to the spring, but I am impressed with new offensive line coach Bart Miller. Every offensive lineman I’ve talked to (and it has been a lot) love this guy. He’s tough, tough-minded and wants his guys to have that same mindset. Nothing against former offensive line coach Scott Fuchs, who I also liked and thought was a good coach, but there just seems to be a different mentality with this group. Would like to see them stay healthy, and tackle depth is a huge concern. But I get a sense Miller will have this group play at a different level consistently than we’ve seen the last five years.

— Sixth-year coach Craig Bohl has said a few different times about how redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Chambers is throwing the ball with more confidence and is better fundamentally. That should be a natural progression for him after the brief time we saw Chambers last season. From what I’ve seen, I agree with Bohl. But it is one thing to do it in drills, it is another thing when the games begin. I still think UW has a luxury having sophomore Tyler Vander Waal at quarterback. Yes, he had his ups and downs last year, but what he did to rally the Cowboys to a win at home over Air Force in the snow showed what this kid is capable of. Vander Waal also has looked good early in camp. Few college teams have two competent quarterbacks they can turn to who have won games at this level. UW does, and that could benefit them this season.

— Bohl has given a lot of hype and praise to his two young tight ends in redshirt freshman Jackson Marcotte (6-7, 250) and sophomore Nate Weinman (6-7, 267). Maybe hype isn’t the best word, but Bohl has high expectations for them — along with senior Josh Harshman of Casper, the “runt” of the group at 6-3, 240. For UW to be good on offense, a lot of things need to happen, and being good at tight end — both in the run and pass game — is one of them.

— So far the injuries have been minimal in camp. Bohl said Tuesday redshirt freshman defensive tackle Mario Mora hurt his back and didn’t finish practice. Not sure of the severity of the injury, but it doesn’t appear to be season-ending. Fans will like Mora. He’s a bit small at 6-3, 264, but he’s quick and knows the defense and its concepts well for a young player.

For more UW football coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net. Also, check back to this blog. I welcome your feedback and questions, in fact, I encourage it. You can leave comments/questions here on this blog, email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter: @rpgagliardi.

UW spring football notes & quotes entering week No. 3

Wyoming spring football practice has hit about the midway point.

No final decisions on who will play and start in the 2019 opener against Missouri Aug. 31 have been decided, but even though the coaches won’t say as much, they likely have a good idea at some positions.

One concern this spring has been along the offensive line. UW lost junior guard Gavin Rush for the season with a torn ACL. That was a big blow to this group. Junior guard Logan Harris missed some time last week with a back injury, but is back at practice. Redshirt freshman Zach Watts has moved around between guard and tackle. Sophomore Keegan Cryder, who earned Freshman All-America honors last season as a center for the Cowboys, has been getting some reps at tackle. Cryder wasn’t supposed to do much this spring due to off-season knee surgery.

Not sure UW will have a lot of definite answers there coming out of spring, and it better hope junior tackle Alonzo Velasquez (knee) returns healthy for fall camp.

Because of the issues along the offensive line, UW hasn’t been able to double-rep much — if at all — this spring, meaning having two groups of offense vs. defense getting snaps.

“We’re a little bit behind where we normally would have been, but some springs are like this,” sixth-year coach Craig Bohl said.

— Last week I did a story on UW’s two most experienced interior defensive linemen in juniors Ravontae Holt and Javaree Jackson. When I asked UW defensive tackles coach Pete Kaligis about who else is developing this spring behind Holt and Jackson, he mentioned a kid who may not see the field for the Cowboys, but had glowing things to say about — junior walk-on Justice Borton of Wheatland.

“Justice is so selfless, and that’s why he is a leader. He may not get on the field, and he knows that, but he will do anything for this team. The most important thing to him is we win on Saturdays. The team is more important to him than playing time. I can’t say enough about him. I am blessed to coaches all of these guys, but I love that kid. He is a rock in the locker room, and he’s going to pick people up.”

Borton has never played in a game for UW. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 272 pounds. He has practiced along both the offensive and defensive lines. Hard not to root for a kid like him, but any successful team needs guys like Borton.

— Another story I did last week was on senior wide receiver Austin Conway and his experience as a high school basketball official in Wyoming the last couple of years. Here is a link to that story in case you missed it.

Conway has been one of UW’s most productive and consistent receivers the last three years. This is what he said after I asked him his goals for his final season of playing college football.

“Trying to win a Mountain West championship and as many games as I can to leave a foundation for guys to continue on how coach Bohl wants to run this football team. Since I have been where we almost were MW champs, a bowl winner and not going to a bowl. I’ve seen it all. Stat-wise, I don’t care. I just wnat to win games. I want to come out with another couple of rings on my hand with a MW championship and a bowl win.”

— One last thing: I want to give a huge thank to you to Bohl. After practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays so far he has provided the media with dinner as we do interviews after practice. One night there was pizza, followed by sliders and fried oysters and then some barbecue. Bohl said it was for his appreciation to the media. As a media member for more than 25 years, it is very much appreciated.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

UW at New Mexico – pregame reading

Happy post-Thanksgiving all. Hope you are having a wonderful holiday weekend.

Here is some pregame reading prior to Wyoming’s regular-season finale at New Mexico Saturday. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. MT, and the game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet.

First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:

Good start: Wyoming needs to play well from start to finish, but a good start for the team, and in particular redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, is important. Especially for Vander Waal to get his confidence going and into the flow of the game. We’ve seen this season (last week against Air Force and in the opener at New Mexico State) that when Vander Waal starts well, he plays well through the course of games.

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UW vs. Air Force – pregame reading

A few notes and quotes to get you ready for Wyoming’s home finale against Air Force Saturday. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. MT from Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNEWS.

First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:

Assignment sound: Meaning every player on Wyoming’s defense must do their jobs each and every play against Air Force’s option-oriented offense. This is an important aspect in any game, but it gets magnified going against option football. One missed assignment could result in a big play or touchdown.

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UW vs. San Jose St. pregame reading

A few notes and quotes leading up to Saturday’s football game between Wyoming and San Jose State. Kickoff is at noon MT from Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet.

First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys in order to win the game:

Fast start: Wyoming needs to play well from start to finish, but getting out to a substantial lead at home against a San Jose State squad that hasn’t won a road game since 2016 would go a long way toward a victory. That hasn’t happened much for the Cowboys this season as they’ve been outscored 88-53 in the first half. The Spartans are coming off a win and are playing good football despite their 1-7 record. The closer this game is, and longer San Jose State believes it can win, the more dangerous it becomes for UW. For an example, look back at last season’s game in San Jose.

Agree or disagree? For more keys to the game and players to watch, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang.

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Perfect time to get “The Border War” book

It is that time again — the annual Border War football game between Wyoming and Colorado State. The two teams meet for the 110th time at 8 p.m. Friday at CSU’s Canvas Stadium.

It is a great time for both Cowboys and Rams fans to get a copy of “The Border War” book co-authored by myself and Ryan Thorburn. The book depicts the long history of this rivalry, and includes some of the most memorable games and participants in this rivalry — the longest continual college football rivalry west of the Mississippi River.

I will be signing books from 4-6 p.m. Friday at the CSU Bookstore in the Lory Student Center. Hope to see a lot of Cowboys and Rams fans there. I may be a little biased, but it is a must-read for fans of both schools. And, if you are looking for a gift for fans of either school, this is a great opportunity to get a book.

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Wyoming vs. Utah St. – pregame reading

Some notes and quotes leading up to Saturday’s homecoming game for the University of Wyoming. The Cowboys host Utah State at 12:30 p.m. MT at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium — their first home game since Sept. 29. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet.

Craig Bohl

“I think we need to look at personnel changes. There will be some schematic things that we need do. There’s times we’ve run the ball fairly effectively, and then what will occur is we’ve got to be more consistent as far as not shooting ourselves in the foot with a untimely penalty or something like that. There’s some things we can do to generate some competitive situations. There’s things we need to do to stay on the field on third down and we’re working hard on that. We have a real problem right now offensively extending drives because our third-down percentage conversion is so poor. A lot of times it’s not third down and long, it’s third down and makeables. We’re going to look at it all.” — Fifth-year UW coach Craig Bohl

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Wyoming at Fresno St. – pregame reading

Some notes and quotes leading up to Saturday’s football game between Wyoming and Fresno State. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. MT from Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California. The game is televised on ESPNU.

Brent Vigen

— “We need to protect better, and and that’s situational. Our third down production is killing us. We are below 30 percent and we need to be plus-40. Each game is different on how teams play us defensively. Getting open is part of it. The passing game is an 11-man deal. Ultimately, the quarterback being able to connect with (the receivers) and has enough time are key. We as coaches have to find the most effective ways to do that every given week. That’s what we’re aiming to do and we will take out a new page this week.” — UW associate head coach/offensive coordinator Brent Vigen

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Wyoming at Hawaii – pregame reading

Some notes and quotes for Wyoming’s football game tonight at Hawaii. Kick off is at 10 p.m. MT (6 p.m. in Honolulu. There is no regular TV coverage for us not in Hawaii. You can watch the game on a phone or tablet using the Stadium app, which is a free download. Here is a link in how to do that — if you haven’t already.

http://themw.com/sports/2018/9/5/where-to-watch-hawaii-football-on-spectrum.aspx

Craig Bohl

— “Your time table gets changed. Young people probably adapt better than coaches. You’re dealing with a four-hour time change. Getting players acclimated to a big time change is a challenge.” — fifth-year UW coach Craig Bohl

See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang for my story on not just the time change, but other challenges UW and other teams face when having to travel to Hawaii to play football.

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