Three concerns for Wyoming football heading into spring drills

Are you ready for some football?

Wyoming is, and it starts spring drills Monday. It will be culminated by its spring game on Saturday, April 25.

I will have an analysis piece and feature in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and also at wyosports.net with more on UW spring football in terms of things to watch, etc.

But for now, here are my top three concerns for the Cowboys heading into spring:

Lucas Wacha

Lucas Wacha

1. Linebacker: Other than junior Lucas Wacha, there really isn’t much experience at any of the three linebacker spots. Senior Malkaam Muhammad returns, but even though he’s played in 17 games over his career, it mostly has been on special teams. Players and coaches have raved about Wacha this offseason, and he’s up to about 218 pounds now compared to 205 last season. Wacha will be the middle linebacker this season, and 218 pounds is awful small for that position. However, Wacha has shown that size doesn’t always matter for him as he’s been productive over his first two seasons along the outside. Muhammad must show he can play consistently well. Several players have switched positions and moved to linebacker. I think one of the outside spots will be secured by

Will Tutein

Will Tutein

junior Will Tutein, who moved over from safety. Tutein played more of a linebacker in UW’s final game against New Mexico last season, and he has good athletic ability to play there. Also will be curious to see how junior Eric Nzeocha makes the transition from receiver/tight end to linebacker. The brother of former UW linebacker Mark Nzeocha, Eric has some good natural ability and athleticism. How he makes the transition from offense to defense will be interesting. If I had to guess right now, those would be the three guys I think would be the starters coming out of spring.

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Kamana has extra motivation to play this week

Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for Wyoming redshirt freshman strong safety Tim Kamana when the Cowboys (3-1) play at No. 9 Michigan State.

Kamana’s father, Carter, lettered at Michigan State as a cornerback from 1981-84. Tim Kamana said his dad took him to a Michigan State football camp before his junior year of high school, and he also went to one before his senior year.

Kamana said Michigan State showed some interest in him, but there was no scholarship offer.

Saturday, with his dad in attendance and his sister, who attends Michigan State, Kamana gets to play in the same stadium his dad did 30 years ago.

And, Kamana could make his first-ever start as senior Jesse Sampson injured a knee in last Saturday’s 20-19 UW win over Florida Atlantic in Laramie.

Kamana’s uncle and grandfather both played college football at USC, so football is in the family blood. Here is what Kamana said about Saturday’s game:

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UW football coach breaks down Cowboys after three games

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl spoke to the media for about 25 minutes Monday during his weekly news conference, and one of the questions he was asked to assess the Cowboys after three games.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

“We have two good running backs (junior Shaun Wick and sophomore D.J. May). A quarterback (senior Colby Kirkegaard) who is making progress and shown he can make plays when he has to, has made decisions under duress and done some good things. He’s still inconsistent at times.

“Our offensive line is making progress, but is not as dominant as what we like. We have an experienced and capable receiving corps. I think they can make a lot of plays. We have a big, strong and physical defensive line that plays really hard, but we’re not as explosive as where we need to be. Our linebackers are solid. (Senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha has shown he can run and play with most anybody out there.

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UW-No. 2 Oregon postgame thoughts

I don’t think anyone was surprised Wyoming lost 48-14 at No. 2 Oregon Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

But there were some surprises that came from the game.

Even though Oregon’s offense is loaded with speed and athleticism, I thought the Cowboys would stop the Ducks at times. But they didn’t.

Oregon rolled up 556 total yards and scored touchdowns on seven of 10 drives. On the ones it didn’t score on, it went 78 yards on the first drive of the game and UW made one of its few stops of the day on a fourth-and-2 play from the Cowboys’ 3. The other two were when the backups were in late. ne drive was at the end of the game as Oregon ran out the clock after UW was held inside the Ducks’ 10-yard line.

The Ducks punted only once — with their backups in the third quarter.

Here is senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha, who had a game-high 11 tackles, on the Oregon offense.

Oregon junior quarterback Marcus Mariota showed why he is a leading Heisman Trophy candidate. He was 19 of 23 for 221 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 5 times for 71 yards and two TDs. UW coach Craig Bohl said if the voting was today, he would vote Mariota for Heisman, and urged those in the media who have votes to seriously consider Mariota for the award.

Here’s what Bohl said after the game to the media:

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Wyoming team captains talk Monday

Wyoming announced its four captains for the 2014 football season Monday.

They are redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard, senior receiver Dominic Rufran, junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough and senior free safety Darrenn White.

Here is Kirkegaard and White about that and Saturday’s season-opener against Montana.


Said UW senior cornerback Blair Burns about the captains:

“It’s a group that definitely deserves it. They’ve been working had like the rest of us to be the best we can be and those guys have been pushing guys to the limits. I am proud of D. White and seen him grow from a shy guy to the vocal leader he is today.”
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UW fall camp – Day 18

The schedule says Thursday was practice No. 22 of fall camp, but as senior quarterback Sam Stratton led the team break after stretching, he said it was the start of game week preparation for the Aug. 30 opener against Montana.

And, there was some evidence of that as true freshmen quarterbacks Nick Smith and Austin Fort wore No. 10 jerseys — the same as Montana senior quarterback Jordan Johnson.

Either way, UW practiced in shoulder pads and shorts in War Memorial Stadium.

Ethan Wood

Ethan Wood

Sophomore punter Ethan Wood was back for the first time since his parents were killed in a plane crash Aug. 9. Prior to practice Wood and senior Stuart Williams did some punting. There was no punt rush or anything like that. However, Wood looked pretty good as he got some good height and distance on many of his at or near his own end zone. Wood drew some praise from first-year coach Craig Bohl.

UW started practice with some 11-on-11 work. There was not a lot of big plays by the offense, but redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard threw a nice, medium-ranged pass to senior receiver Jalen Claiborne along the sideline. Kirkegaard was accurate throughout the drill. Sophomore Tom Thornton, Kirkegaard’s backup, was the only other quarterback to take snaps in the drill.

The Cowboys rotated guys along the offensive line. Sophomore guard Sam Hardy took snaps at both the left and right side. Junior Jake Jones did as well. Sophomore Chase Roullier also took some snaps at center, as did sophomore Jacob English.

Here is what Bohl said after practice:


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Pokes look to be getting healthier

Wednesday marked the ninth spring practice for the Wyoming football team, and there seemed to be fewer guy wearing red jerseys due to injuries.

All of UW’s receivers who were out or limited on Monday were back on the field: senior Keenan Montgomery, and sophomores Tanner Gentry and Trent Sewell.

Junior offensive guard Jake Jones also was back at practice for the first time in about a week. Junior tight end Jacob Hollister returned after an ankle/leg injury last week.

Here is what first-year coach Craig Bohl said after practice:


There was one player in street clothes — redshirt junior cornerback Tyran Finley. Finley was not in a walking boot, cast or brace of any kind. His head hit the turf hard during Monday’s practice, but later returned. His injury/ailment does not appear to be serious.

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Upon further review …

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl talked to the media for the first time Monday since last Saturday’s first scrimmage of spring drills.

After looking at the film, Bohl said there was a lot to be encouraged about.

As of now, the top two quarterbacks are redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard and senior Sam Stratton. Bohl said sophomore Aaron Young is still learning, but doing some good things, and sophomore Tom Thornton is behind the other three — as of now.

For more on that, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

Here is what Bohl said after Monday’s practice:


Bohl said redshirt sophomore D.J. May and junior Shaun Wick have separated themselves at the running back spot. “D.J. has more breakaway ability,” Bohl said. “Shaun is really paying attention to the details, and is getting his reads and assignments down.”

UW’s starting defensive line of senior Sonny Puletasi and junior Eddie Yarbrough at the ends, along with senior Patrick Mertens and sophomore Uso Olive at defensive tackle is solid. Depth behind Mertens and Olive is not.

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Scrimmage notes and quotes

Normally after Wyoming football or basketball games I offer some postgame thoughts.

Can’t do that after UW’s first scrimamge of fall camp Saturday in Laramie since it was closed to the public and media.

The scrimmage was not scored, but the offense scored one touchdown and made two field goals. The offense gained 255 yards of total offense (3.8 yards per play) and turned the ball over once. But the day belonged to the defense as it had seven sacks, nine tackles for loss and one fumble recovery.

Here is what first-year UW coach Craig Bohl had to say after the scrimmage:


The defensive standout was senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha with a scrimmage-best nine tackles and five solo stops. Nzeocha also had a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

“I was encouraged with Mark, and he’s done as well as anybody picking up the defense,” defensive coordinator Steve Stannard said. “He’s a smart guy, not vocal, but very smart. He’s athletic and has a great burst. He’s (strongside) right now and (weakside) in or nickel package.”

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Cowboys ready for first scrimmage

The first six spring practices for the Wyoming football team were not easy, and there was some hitting.

But the real hitting will be Saturday as the Cowboys hold their first scrimmage of spring drills at 11 a.m. The scrimmage is not open to the public or media.

“I’m ready to hit some running backs,” said senior linebacker Jordan Stanton. “(Redshirt sophomore running back) D.J. May has been cutting back a lot in practice, so I am ready to lay some licks and have some fun.”

Senior offensive tackle Connor Rains heard what Stanton said and laughed.

“He has to touch (the running backs first),” he said with a laugh. “He is not going to chase down D.J. or Shaun (junior Shaun Wick).”

Rains also said he’s “anxious to hit” Saturday.

Here are some highlights from the early portions of Friday’s practice:


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