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.

Notable gains for Cowboys as spring drills begin

Wyoming concluded its first week of spring football practice this week — three practices in all.

Due to WNIT duties for the Cowgirls basketball team and no media access to Saturday practices, I didn’t get to see a whole lot or talk to a lot of players/coaches.

However, I did talk to UW’s top two strength coaches for football — Ben Iannacchione and Eric Donoval. I talked to them mostly about a cool feature that will run in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net.

But I did ask them if they could point to any specific players who did well during UW’s seven weeks of winter conditioning. Iannacchione worked with the linemen, and said junior defensive tackle Ravonte Holt had one of the best winters. He played at the high 250s-low 260s in terms of his weight last season. Iannacchione said he challenged Holt to get to 275 at the start of spring practice, and he did.

Ravonte Holt

“He’s gotten really strong and put weight on in good areas — butt, hips and quads,” Iannacchione said.

Donoval worked with the skilled guys, and said sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay weighed in at or over 200 pounds, and so far has done a good job of maintaining that weight. Valladay played at around 190 last year, and Valladay said he’s added about 15 pounds of muscle over the winter.

Xazavian Valladay

“It was a little bit of a surprise,” Valladay said of putting on the weight. “It was just hard work, dedication and trusting the process. It doesn’t feel too bad. I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

Valladay was second in rushing for UW last season with 396 yards on 71 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

Valladay is the only scholarship running back participating in spring drills right now. Sixth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said sophomore Jevon Bigelow is dealing with an illness. Bohl expects Bigelow to return, but isn’t sure when. Bigelow ran for 292 yards and two touchdowns in nine games last season.

Iannacchione said it was good to get junior offensive guard Gavin Rush back in the weight room over the winter. Rush missed last season after he tore his right bicep early in fall camp. I wrote about Rush this week, and I hope I didn’t put the Gagliardi jinx on him because after I interviewed him after UW’s first spring practice, he injured a knee in the second. The severity of that injury isn’t known.

Here is the link to that story.

UW will practice in full pads next week. On Saturday, April 13, it will practice in Casper at Natrona County High which is open and free to the public. The spring game is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

Cowgirls update

UW plays at Arizona at 3 p.m. MT Sunday in the quarterfinals of the WNIT. This is the Cowgirls’ 10th appearance in the WNIT, and its first road game in this event since 2003.

The game isn’t on regular television, but here is a link to watch it online from pac-12.com.

I also will have a cool feature on UW senior Bailee Cotton and how she’s playing her best basketball in her final year after dealing with two different injuries to the same knee early in her career. Be sure to check out the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and at wyosports.net or that story.

UW football fall camp – Practice No. 9

Wyoming practiced in War Memorial Stadium Wednesday morning, and worked on some two-minute offense and the kicking game. The players worked out in “spiders,” which are smaller and lighter shoulder pads, helmets and shorts.

The construction progress continues for UW’s $44 High Altitude Performance Center, which is still set to open next summer. Here’s a picture of that from Wednesday’s practice:

Wyoming’s High Altitude Performance Center on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. Photo by Robert Gagliardi

Here are some highlights of some drill work during practice:

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UW football fall camp – Practice 7

Temperatures in the high 50s, overcast and breezy — welcome to fall camp at Wyoming at 7,220 feet.

Those were the weather conditions Monday morning for the Cowboys seventh practice of camp. Junior outside linebacker Chavez Pownell Jr., who is from Florida, dressed like it was November instead of August, but joked that he probably over did it a little bit.

Here are some highlights from the early portions of practice:

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UW football fall camp — Day 3

Practice No. 3 is in the books for the Cowboys, and for the first time in fall camp they put on the shoulder pads Wednesday. “I was pleased with our effort, but you could tell it had an impact on the offense. At times we were a little sloppy,” fourth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said.

Here is some footage from the early portions of Wednesday’s practice:

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What to interpret from UW’s post-spring depth chart

Wyoming football released its post-spring depth chart earlier this week. For a look at it, click the link below:

http://wyo-platform-prod.silverchalice.co/v3/files/59026264e4b08ff5edddbf00

To me there were not a lot of big surprised, but a couple of small ones.

Milo Hall

At running back, I was both a little surprised and happy to see sophomore Milo Hall as the starter — not that I have anything against the other two guys: junior Nico Evans and redshirt sophomore Kellen Overstreet. But based on what the coaches said throughout spring, all three backs will play this season and the competition will continue into fall camp. That’s not saying Hall’s No. 1 spot is a fluke. But as I’ve written before, I think this will be a running back by committee type year for UW, and the guy who is playing the best will get the majority of the carries.

It’s the same deal at tight end. Juniors Josh Harshman of Casper or Austin Fort of Gillette — according to the depth chart — would start if there was a game played right now. Junior Tyree Mayfield is third. UW played three tight ends last season, even though senior Jacob Hollister was by far the go-to guy in the pass game. Harshman, Fort and Mayfield all will play, and likely will play a lot this season. Although, I will say it’s nice to see two Wyoming kids doing well at that position.

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Three weeks and nine practices in the books for UW spring football

Wyoming football is in the homestretch of spring football with nine of its 15 practices in the books.

The Cowboys’ scrimmage in Casper this past Saturday provided some glimpses of what could be this season, although its difficult to get a great gauge of what to expect this season when a team goes against each other.

Still, it appears that junior quarterback Josh Allen is making good progress in building chemistry with the weapons around him. Allen was relatively sharp in Casper, going 11 of 19 for 133 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to junior wide receiver James Price. However, sophomore wide receivers C.J. Johnson and Austin Conway also looked good.

Here is Allen after the scrimmage:

Earlier this spring, fourth-year UW coach Craig Bohl was concerned about the way the tight ends were catching the ball. But in Casper, juniors Josh Harshman, Austin Fort and Tyree Mayfield all showed good skills catching the ball.

As far as the running backs go, I still contend that UW will have more of a three-back attack this fall. Redshirt sophomore Kellen Overstreet (11 carries 49 yards in the scrimmage) showed some nice speed and power, as did junior Nico Evans (10 carries, 30 yards). Don’t be surprised if sophomore Milo Hall becomes a third-down weapon out of the backfield, both carrying the ball and catching it.

It will be nice once the illness bug that has run through this team finally ends. UW was without its starting center in Casper — sophomore Gavin Rush — due to illness. Backup Boyd Draeger also was out with a concussion. Rush needs as many reps as possible the rest of spring. But I thought junior Cole Turner more than held his own at center in the scrimmage so perhaps some depth is being established there.

UW’s defense had its moments in the scrimmage. Sophomore defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan stood out to Bohl. Junior nose tackle Sidney Malauulu looked good — going mostly against backup — as well with a sack and a fumble recovery.

Casper’s Logan Wilson played only 21 snaps in 70-play scrimmage at middle linebacker, but that was by design to get other younger players some looks. Wilson and sophomore Cassh Malauia should be a solid duo, and it appears senior Jalen Ortiz is establishing himself well at the other outside linebacker spot.

The dismissal of three players, and suspensions of five others earlier this week for a violation of team rules was unfortunate, but it also creates opportunities for others. One player who may benefit the most is sophomore cornerback Tyler Hall. Hall is one of four UW corners who have been getting a lot of reps with the No. 1 defense all spring, but with junior Antonio Hull suspended, don’t be surprised if Hall is the starter coming out of spring along with senior Rico Gafford. Hall isn’t all that big at 5-10, 184 pounds, but he’s tough and has shown good effort most of the spring.

Here is Bohl after the scrimmage:

The Cowboys return to practice Tuesday for their 10th spring practice. They will also practice on Thursday and Saturday. The spring game is set for 2 p.m. April 22.

If you have any questions or comments about the Cowboys, I’d love to hear them. You can post comments on this blog, or shoot me a question via Twitter: @rpgagliardi.
Also, be sure to check out the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net for more UW spring football coverage.

Younger guys get some work as UW prepares for Poinsettia Bowl

Extra practices and and an extra game are some of the benefits of bowl game, especially for younger players.

Wyoming is taking advantage of that as several players in its two deep roster on offense, defense and special teams return next season.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

But it’s also a chance for those who are redshirting and are on the scout teams to get in more reps. Third-year coach Craig Bohl said Tuesday that at the end of some of UW’s practices for the Dec. 21 Poinsettia Bowl that some of the scout team guys will get a chance to scrimmage and get in some live action.

One of those was Monday night, and this is what Bohl said he liked from some of his younger guys.

“I thought (true freshman running back) Mike Green did some good things, along with (true freshman wide receiver) Parker Dumas on offense,” Bohl said. “On defense I liked some things from (true freshman linebacker) Jahmari Moore and (true freshman walk-on defensive end) Garrett Crall.”

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Roullier, UW offensive line off to solid start this season

The Wyoming offensive line is off to a solid start through three games of the 2016 season.

Chase Roullier

Chase Roullier

The Cowboys have averaged 216 rushing and 210 passing yards per game, and they’ve allowed just one quarterback sack.

There was some concern prior to the season when UW moved senior all-conference guard Chase Roullier to center, and put in true freshman Gavin Rush at left guard. To say the line play has been perfect would be false, but to say it’s been a weakness would be, too.

UW has started and played the same five guys through the first three games. Along with Roullier and Rush, there is sophomore Zach Wallace (left tackle), sophomore Kaden Jackson (right guard) and junior Ryan Cummings (right tackle).

“Things have gone really well,” Roullier said. “Most of the guys have at least a full year of experience, and that’s really helped us out.”

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UW fall camp – practice No. 20

Wyoming practiced once Wednesday for about 1 hour and 10 minutes in War Memorial Stadium. That was planned by coach Craig Bohl, who said the team would lift weights and do some mental work in the afternoon.

UW’s final two-a-day session of fall camp is Thursday. It’s pattern for this was to go with a lighter practice in the morning, and a heavier one in the afternoon. However, Bohl said he will flip-flop that Thursday since Wednesday was a lighter day on the field.

Here are some highlights from the early portions of Wednesday’s practice.

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