Video: Brandon Self

The Wyoming senior offensive guard is in his fifth year and his first year of playing full time. Great to see him rewarded for his hard work throughout his career. Self talks about that, UW’s rotation along the offensive line and the challenges of blocking against San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense. For more on that, see today’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang.

UW’s media Monday

Notes and quotes from Wyoming’s Monday interview session with coach Dave Christensen and selected players and assistant coaches:

–“Two years ago we won a number of games that had nothing to do with our offense and defense. We won those games because of turnover margin and our kicking game. That was obviously the case last Saturday,” said Christensen on his team forcing six turnovers and blocking two kicks last Saturday at Bowling Green.

–Christensen said he talks to the players at least twice a week on turnovers and ball security. Will continue to do so, if not talk about it more.”

–Christensen said in the Bowling Green game there some “good, bad, ugly and really good.”

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Video: Zach Rushing

What makes Wyoming junior offensive guard Zach Rushing so unique? Find out in Wedensday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle or Laramie Boomerang, or also check out this video interview. A neat kid to talk to, can’t help but dig his southern accent.

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 #3

The third of four scrimmages of fall camp for the Wyoming football team is Tuesday morning, starting at about 9:20 a.m.

Here are some things I will be most interested in:

–Coach Dave Christensen said the scrimmage will be about half as long as the first two, which should be around 60 or 70 plays. With fewer plays, it’s vital everyone takes advantage of their opportunities. Not just at quarterback, which I know we all are interested in, but at every position. Those who take advantage of their opportunities the most are likely going to be the guys we see a lot not just in the season-opener on Sept. 3, but through much of the season.

–True freshman quarterback Brett Smith will run exclusively with the No. 1 offense for the third straight scrimmage. Another solid day from Smith likely solidifies the starting job. Who separates themselves at No. 2 among true freshman Adam Pittser and junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard may be the most intriguing thing to watch. Christensen didn’t say if there will be a lot of ones vs. ones, etc. I would think Pittser and Kirkegaard would split time with the twos and threes. Who has the better day could go a long way to who is No. 2 at the start of the season.

–UW is moving two defensive linemen — junior end Mat Birkeness and redshirt freshman tackle Riley Lange — to H-back to bolster the position after the loss of senior Bryson Studnicka because of a season-ending injury. Birkeness was a backup who has played in every game the last two years, and Lange was a promising prospect inside, despite being undersized at about 260 pounds. Who steps into their roles along the defensive line will be interesting, not to mention how they block on offense.

–Christensen mentioned there is good competition going for starting jobs at both tackle and guard spots. Who grabs the latest edge will be interesting. At guard, senior Brandon Self and sophomore Tyler Strong have played with the ones the first two scrimmages. Seniors Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins have both garnered time with the ones in the first two scrums at left tackle. Who else puts their name in the hat for playing time and/or a starting job. Tuesday could be a big day for guys like junior-college transfer guard Zach Rushing and junior tackle Josh Leonard at right tackle. If anything, UW appears to be deeper along the line, or at least at guard and tackle, which is good.

–Will the young kickers be healthy and kick better? Christensen gave true freshman Daniel Sullivan and redshirt freshman walk-on Stuart Williams some time off since the last scrimmage to get over some nagging injuries and soreness.

–I’m anxious to see junior Ghaali Muhammad play running back. He hasn’t played in any of the first two scrimmages as a precaution from an injury in the spring. Christensen said he should see some time Tuesday.

–Will any freshmen receivers step up? I though Dominic Rufran and Trey Norman has good days as true freshmen in the second scrimmage, as did redshirt freshman Sam Stratton. Also watch for true freshman Josh Doctson — I really like this young receiver.

What do you guys think, or want to see Tuesday.

Hopefully you will join me during the scrimmage for another live chat to discuss these matters, and more. The first one was a blast, thanks to the great participation. Here is the link http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2011/08/15/live-blog-cowboys-3rd-scrimmage-august-16th-9am/

Talk to you in the morning.

Number crunching through two scrimmages

Was crunching some numbers from Wyoming’s first two scrimmages of fall camp to try and come to some conclusions on who we might see play this season. Here’s what I came up with.

At quarterback, true freshman Brett Smith has the best numbers so far. He’s 39 of 51 (76.5 completion percentage) for 483 yards with four TDs and one INT. His yards-per-completion is 12.4. Smith has ran the No. 1 offense in both scrimmages, and based on those numbers I would guess he will continue to.

Junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard seems to have an edge over true freshman Adam Pittser right now in the backup battle. He is 35 of 46 (76.1 completion percentage) for 221 yards with no TDs or INTs. Pittser is 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) for 210 yards with a TD and a INT. Both guys played better in last Friday’s second scrimmage compared to the first last Tuesday. I’ve been impressed with Kirkegaard’s accuracy, although he hasn’t attempted a lot of deep throws.

At running back, sophomore Brandon Miller has ran 19 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and a team-best 7.7 yards per carry (thanks in large part to a 53-yard run Friday). Junior Alvester Alexander has the most carries at 24 for 104 yards and three TDs. True freshman Kody Sutton has 23 carries for 114 yards. All three have shown some good things, and we’ve yet to see junior Ghaali Muhammad (injury). I think UW will be fine at running back, whoever gets the carries.

Sophomore Robert Herron and redshirt freshman Sam Stratton are the top receivers so far with 11 catches apiece. Senior Mazi Ogbonna has eight catches for 150 yards and two TDs, including a 76-yard touchdown. Miller has caught seven passes for 77 yards out of the backfield. Among the true freshmen receivers, Dominic Rufran has 12 catches for 65 yards, Trey Norman has five catches for 50 yards and Josh Doctson has four for 17. I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of them play this season.

Perhaps most impressive than anything from the receivers so far? Only three dropped passes in the first two scrimmages.

Haven’t seen a lot of movement or experimentation along the offensive line so far, which I think is good as the coaches must like what they’re seeing. Seniors Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins each have took turns playing with the No. 1 offense at right tackle. Wouldn’t be surprised if that continues all season.

Defensively, junior-college transfer linebacker/defensive end Korey Jones has been spectacular with 12 tackles, including five for loss. True freshman defensive end Eddie Yarbrough has six sacks. I really like the looks of this kid and could see him playing this season. Sophomore linebacker Todd Knight is taking advantage of his opportunity with some injuries at the position with 16 tackles. I would like to see how this defense can play when it gets some of its other LBs back like senior Brian Hendricks and true freshman Mark Nzeocha.

Other than Yarborough, I’ve been impressed with true freshman cornerback Blair Burns, who has 10 tackles, two pass break-ups and one tackle for loss in the two scrimmages. He saw a lot of time with the No. 2 defense in the second scrimmage. He could be a solid nickel back behind senior Tashaun Gipson and sophomore Marqueston Huff.

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Here are some links to stories for some of UW’s 2010 opponents. Note the trouble brewing at Colorado State.

http://www.standard.net/stories/2011/08/11/turnovers-most-important-stat-wildcats-2011

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20110814/SPORTS/108140352/CSU-suspends-3-due-rule-violations

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/aug/13/sdsu-riddle-one-ball-four-starting-tight-ends/

http://www.lvrj.com/sports/unlv-freshman-jefferson-steps-into-void-as-qb-s-key-protector-127677558.html

http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/08/14/1759969/defense-dominant-in-first-scrimmage.html

http://www.golobos.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/081411aac.html

http://www.gazette.com/sports/cobb-123199-fullback-steffon.html

Hope you will check out and vote in the new poll question on the blog. Another possible shake-up in terms of the college athletics landscape could be coming if Texas A&M and others go to the SEC. I don’t see this move having an impact on the Mountain West. If others follow A&M’s lead and leave the Big XII, then things could get interesting. But even then, I see the MW being OK and surviving all this. Thoughts?

Also hoping to do another live chat for Tuesday’s third scrimmage at UW. Will post more on that on Monday.

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/

 

UW post-spring depth chart

Wyoming just released its football depth chart heading into fall camp.

Here’s the link: http://www.wyomingathletics.com/auto_pdf/p_hotos/s_chools/wyo/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/4-14-11depthchart

Coach Dave Christensen said after the spring game, and after he talked to the media, that the depth chart would be done to please the pre-season college football publications if for nothing else. Most, if not all of the spots will be up for grabs when fall camp starts in early August.

Some quick thoughts:

–A little surprised at the starters along the offensive line, although they were they ones who played the best near the end of spring ball. The starters are: LT John Hutchins, LG Tyler Strong, C Nick Carlson, RG Brandon Self and RT Kyle Magnuson.

No surprise on Carlson and Magnuson since they kept those jobs all, if not most of spring. Good to see Self, a senior, emerge. The biggest surprise is Strong. He moved from defensive line this spring. Guys with starting experience like LT Clayton Kirven and RT Josh Leonard are listed as backups. A lot can change in fall camp. If he comes back healthy, don’t be surprised of redshirt freshman Daniel Fleischman overtakes Kirven and Hutchins as the starer at left tackle.

–Sophomore Brandon Miller listed as the starter at running back over junior Alvester Alexander, who didn’t do much this spring with an injury. Alexander was in this spot last year at this time, but I think he will be fine. Nice effort by Miller, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship this January. Sophomore Nehemie Kankolongo fell to fifth in the depth chart. Even true freshman Kody Sutton is ahead of him. Kankolongo missed the spring game for a violation of team rules.

–Emory Miller OR Brett Smith is how the depth chart looks at quarterback. No surprise there.

–Good job by junior Luke Ruff to keep his starting strong safety job heading into fall camp. He still will battle JC transfer Luke Anderson, who was timed in the 4.2-second range in the 40 prior to spring ball. Both likely will play, but Ruff did a good job of competiting and keeping the starting spot. … for now.

–Despite missing the spring game for a violation of team rules, JC transfer Korey Jones is listed as a possible starter at one of the two outside linebacker spots. It’s Jones OR true freshman Mark Nzeocha. Sophomore Devyn Harris will backup senior Oliver Schober inside, which gives UW some nice athleticism out there. Senior Brian Hendricks is the other starter outside, and the efforts of sophomore Todd Knight in the spring earned him the backup job. Knight was arguably UW’s most productive defensive player this spring. He needs to get bigger at 6-2, 210 pounds.

–Right now sophomore Marqueston Huff will be the No. 1 punt returner and will join Brandon Miller as the No. 1 kickoff duo. But there wasn’t much kickoff, punt or any kick coverage work done the spring so that also could change in fall camp.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the depth chart.