UW down an O-lineman as fall camp starts

Not long after the first practice of fall camp began did Wyoming sports information director Tim Harkins tell media members that sophomore right tackle Daniel Fleischman left the team for personal reasons after suffering a non-football related injury about a week ago.

Fleischman was listed as the starter at right tackle coming out of spring drills, ahead of senior Kyle Magnuson and junior-college transfer Connor Rains. Magnuson didn’t compete in spring drills with an injury, and is the likely candidate to start.

Magnuson has played in 13 games in his career, and started three. He’s played both tackle and guard. But after him and senior Josh Leonard at left tackle — the projected starter — there is no one on the depth chart at either tackle spots that has played a down for the Cowboys.

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UW spring scrimmage No. 2 thoughts

Here were the my five things to watch I posted prior to Wednesday’s second spring scrimmage for the Wyoming football team. Below are my responses to those.

The finals score was 64-63 for the defense using UW’s unique scoring system.

1. Improved offensive play: There were six turnovers by the offense last week. That was cut in half Wednesday — all interceptions. The offense struggled to go on any long, sustained drives. But after a slow start the offense came together near the end, albeit a shorter field. Most of the success came inside the defense’s territory

2. Continued solid defensive play: The three interceptions were by redshirt freshman Zack Berg, sophomore cornerback Blair Burns and junior safety Andrew Meredith. Five sacs and 13 tackles for loss. On the last play of the scrimmage the defense stopped sophomore running back Kody Sutton on the 1-yard line. Overall, the defense had a pretty good day.

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UW scrimmage thoughts

To say the defense dominated in Wyoming’s first official spring scrimamge Wednesday would be an understatement.

The defense forced six turnovers, including four interceptions and defeated the offense in UW’s unique scoring system 72-41.

Was more impressed with the defensive dominance than concerned about the offensive woes. There’s some concern about the offense, but the defense was just down right good.

The line was active, whether it was in a 3-4 or 4-3. This is a true multiple defense folks. The guy that was a stud was senior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau. He had nine tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. He was unblockable.

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UW depth chart prediction

Monday afternoon Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen will speak to the media leading into Saturday’s season-opener against Weber State.

Christensen will release the depth chart for the first game. Some positions (quarterback) we know who will start. In fact, I don’t think there should be many surprises. But why wait until Monday afternoon? Here is how I think the depth chart will look. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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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?

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.

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.