Players come and players go for UW

Monday was the first day of classes for the spring semester at Wyoming, and a busy day in the form of announcements as UW announced three mid-year signees and four scholarship players that won’t be back.

The biggest news among the player depatures was receiver Josh Doctson. As a true freshman Doctson caught 35 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Three of those scores came in UW’s final two games — two against Colorado State and one against Temple on the New Mexico Bowl. He became UW’s big-play threat late in the season.

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Scrimmage quick hits

Some thoughts and observations from Wyoming first spring football scrimmage Saturday, which consisted of 116 plays and was held indoors at the school’s indoor practice facility:

–I really liked the way true freshman quarterback Brett Smith looked. He was 21 of 27 for 208 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a team-high 73 yards. He did this mostly against the No. 2 defense, but it was impressive nonetheless. Will be curious to see if and when Smith gets a chance to work with the No. 1 offense, and go against the No. 1 defense.

–Redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr. wasn’t horrible, but the No. 1 defense gave him fits. Miller was 13 of 22 for 83 yards. He scored on a 9-yard TD run, but finished with minus-16 rushing yards mostly due to sacks.

–First-year offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon told me about 75 to 80 percent of the offense has been installed, and that he likes the progress the entire group — including his quarterbacks — has made after seven spring practices.

–Senior receiver Jonathan Aiken caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Smith, and finished with three catches for 40 yards. Coach Dave Christensen said Aiken won’t move up the depth chart until he takes care of some academic issues.

–Sophomore receiver Robert Herron caught a scrimmage-high eight passes, most of which were from Miller. “Me and Emroy are growing on each other. Every time he sees me open he triesto get it to me,” Herron said. (Miller and Smith are not being made available to the media this spring).

–I thought junior safety Kenny Browder played well at free safety. He had three tackles and two pass break-ups. He looked fast and broke to the ball well. Maybe my feature today on him and sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff didn’t jinx them. Here is the link: http://www.wyomingnews.com/articles/2011/03/26/sports/19sports_03-26-11.txt

–Many got a laugh from watching the players UW has right now at kicker. There are a pair of redshirt freshmen walk-ons in Everett Scott and Stuart Williams, along with senior linebacker Oliver Schober. Williams and Schober made all four of their extra-point attempts. Scott was 3 of 4. But the three were a combined 4 of 13 in field goals. Schober kicks the ball hard, but often too low. Schober could have hurt someone if the ball would have hit them. True freshman Daniel Sullivan is expected to take care of the kicking duties when he arrives this summer.

–There were 10 penalties for 63 yards in the scrimmage, eight of which were on the offense. That didn’t make Christensen happy. There were a couple of illegal blocks on some big plays that really made him mad. Another one, a taunting penalty on senior cornerback Tashaun Gipson on a Miller pass, nullified the pick and Christensen sent Gipson to sideline for a while. This is what Brandon said about the penalties: “If we give great effort, that’s not always good enough. You have to play smart football.”

All in all a pretty decent first spring scrimmage. By the way, the offense defeated the defense 55-37 in the elaborate scoring system for both sides. See Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.comfor more on the scrimmage, including a big day for one of UW’s new receivers.

UW adds safety from Germany

Mark Nzeocha, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound safety from Neusitz, Germany, verbally committed to Wyoming this week.

Nzeocha visited Laramie last weekend. He runs a 4.48-second 40-yard dash and has a 4.15-second time in the 20-yard shuttle.

Nzeocha is 20 and plays for the Franken Knights football club. He is scheduled to enroll at UW in January. If he does he will have four years of eligibility.

Nzeocha is friends with current UW junior linebacker Oliver Schober, who is from Munich, Germany. They didn’t play on the same club team. Schober played for Feodor-Lynen.

UW now has six verbal commitments for its 2011 recruiting class. The others are:

–Malkaam Muhammad, LB, 6-0, 210, Central HS, St. Joseph, Mo.

–London Muse, WR, 5-11, 170, Dulles HS, Sugar Land, Texas

–Trey Norman, ATH, 6-1, 170, Liberty-Eylau HS, Texarkana, Texas

–Chad Reese, DB, 5-11, 174, Lee HS, Tyler, Texas

–Cole Stoudt, QB, 6-4, 195, Coffman HS, Dublin, Ohio

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Nice to see true freshman running back Robert Herron at practice this week. After a solid game at TCU two weeks ago, Herron missed last week’s game with Utah with an injury.

Herron looked good in Wednesday’s practice with a couple of nice runs and catches.

“He adds a speed element we’ve lacked some offensively. He’s a 100 percent ready to go and we’ll try to get him involved in the game plan” coach Dave Christensen said.

Some fans have asked me about junior receiver Jonathan Aiken, and why after a solid fall camp why he hasn’t done much this season.

“He’s out of the dog house now so he’s getting more and more work,” Christensen said. “The think around here is you have to do things right, and if you don’t you’re not going to play. He’s doing a better job of doing all the right things off the field, as well as making some play at practice and executing on the field.”

Aiken has two catches for nine yards in three games this season.

Friday afternoon is when Christensen updates the media on players that will miss the BYU game. So far, the only one out is true freshman defensive lineman Tyler Strong. I will be surprised if there are many more added to the list.

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UW held its men’s and women’s basketball media day Wednesday afternoon in the Arena-Auditorium.

It was a typical media day where players and coaches were probably asked the same questions a million times.

Nice to put some faces with some names.

Some early thoughts on both teams:

–Don’t expect junior forward Afam Muojeke to play a ton or be back to his old self for quite some time. There have been no setbacks from his knee injury back in January. But it takes time to recover from when your patellar tendon detaches. I did the same thing to my knee a few years a go and I am floored at the progress Muojeke has made. Still, UW will be slow and cautious with his recovery.

–Had a good talk with junior point guard JayDee Luster on what he learned from his first season in 2009-10. Luster was pretty honest with me, and if he can work on some of those things I think he will be a much better player. More on that later.

–The Cowgirls have four solid seniors in Hillary Carlson, Aubrey Vandiver, Jade Kennedy and Randi Richardson — all expected to start. Who that fifth starter is, a who comes off the bench are huge questions going in. A lot will depend on the back of junior guard Kristen Scheffler. But even if she is OK, others need to emerge.

See Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on UW footballl and men’s and women’s hoops. Also join me at 3 p.m. Thursday for our weekly chat on UW sports. http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2010/10/19/weekly-u-of-w-live-chat-thursday-3pm/

Carta-Samuels practices well

Just got done watching Wyoming’s Wednesday football practice. It was a pleasant fall afternoon in Laramie, but one the sun started to set it got a little chilly.

Sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels practiced as UW gets ready to host No. 11 Utah Saturday. He didn’t show much rust after missing last week’s game at No. 4 TCU due to an injury.

“He looked good today,” coach Dave Christensen said. “He hit on some deep balls. He looked like he might even have better touch on the ball. He made one bad throw on a fade route, then I saw make four or five nice deep-ball throws.

“He practiced well (Tuesday), and practied well today.”

Saw a couple of nice catches from junior receiver Jonathan Aiken, and some impressive pass break-ups from the Gipson brothers at cornerback.

Even saw a “spirited” exchange between some offensive and defensive linemen during one of the sessions.

“We haven’t had any issues with the effort we get out of practice,” Christensen added. “We practice physical and we practice with speed. I have no complaints whatsoever with the work ethic of our kids.”

See Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.comfor a story on football scheduling. It covers what the immediate future looks like, which is uncertain, and on the possibility of playing Utah once it is a member of the Pac-10.

Also see my analysis piece on the first half of the season for the Cowboys, and a look ahead to the second half.

And, don’t forget to join me at 3 p.m. Thursday for my weekly live chat. We can hit on football and even basketball as the MWC had its men’s and women’s media days this week. Just come to this blog and look for the link.

Christensen happy with Crum

Wednesday’s fourth and final scrimmage for Wyoming was dedicated mostly to backups and youngsters.

Senior Dax Crum looks like he solidified his spot as the No. 2 quarterback behind sophomore Austyn Carta-Samuels. As he did in all four scrimmages Crum took all the snaps with the No. 2 offense and was 8 of 11 for 96 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. There was a fumble on a hand-off to true freshman Robert Herron, but Crum recovered.

Crum had a 34-yard pass to junior running back James Davis for the longest play of the scrimmage.

True freshman Emory Miller Jr., was impressive with the No. 3 offense. He was 8 of 9 for 70 yards and ran three times for 10 yards.

“We’re going to still look at it,” said second-year coach Dave Christensen on the battle for the No. 2 quarterback job. “I think Emory did some good things today. But Dax has had a good camp. He’s progressed quite a bit from the time I arrived until now. He’s done a lot of good things and we’re not going to base anytong on one scrimmage or one practice It will be based upon all the practices. I’m pleased where (Crum) is at.”

The No. 1 and No. 2 offensive and defensive units got about 20 snaps. The only touchdown came from the defense when true freshman defensive back Darrenn White returned a fumble 37 yards for a touchdown. True freshman safety Dylan McElveen forced the fumble after a hard hit on junior receiver Jonathan Aiken.

Christensen said a depth chart for the season opener a week from Saturday against Southern Utah will be released Monday.

Other thoughts and observations from the scrimmage:

–Junior Austin McCoy had a much better day kicking field goals. He was 6 of 7 with a long of 43. In last Saturday’s scrimmage he was 3 of 6. McCoy will kick in the opener as sophomore Ian Watts serves a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.

–True freshman Nehemie Kankolongo saw his first scrimmage action in a couple of weeks since he re-injured a knee. He had one carry for one yard. Christensen said he will practice with the scout team this week and then get back in the running back mix the following week. Like Watts, Kankolongo was suspended for the season-opener.

–UW ran for only 59 yards on 32 carries. UW also mixed and matched its offensive lines with starters and backups to give certain guys looks with other players.

–As far as who will redshirt, Christensen said: “We won’t make any decisions until we get closer to the end of the season. Normally with three weeks left in season we don’t want to pull their redshirt, but up until that point we’re certainly going to play who we have to play to win a football game.”

–No injuries were reported from the scrimmage, and Christensen was pleased with how his team made it through camp with no significant injuries to key players.

“A lot has to do with (strength and conditioning coach) Trent Greener and his staff along with (head athletics trainer) Bob Waller and his staff,” Christensen said. “They do a great job of training the kids an rehabbing the kids. The players also are working hard to get in great shape.

“I’m pleased our kids understand what it takes to come out  and practice hard day in and day out. We haven’t had a bad practice yet.”

Game preparation for Southern Utah begins Friday.

“We want to get out there and play someone, and beat up on someone else besides our teammates,” junior defensive end Gabe Knapton said. “I think everyone is fired up about that.”

See Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on the scrimmage. See my top five things learned from fall camp, along with some bonus items.

And once again, thanks to all those who joined me for the live blog today. Can’t wait to get one going for a real game. Stay tuned here to a live chat coming prior to the opener next week.

Scrimmage No. 3 update

The offense finally came to life for Wyoming in its third scrimmage of fall camp Saturday morning in Laramie.

The No. 1 offense scored 17 points on its three possessions. Sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels was 11 of 13 for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 26 yards on four carries.

“I knew we had it the whole time. But then two (scrimmages) in a row it doesn’t happen and you wonder where it went and when will it come out again,” Carta-Samuels said. “It came out  today. I knew we were going to be fine, it’s good to see it come out today rather than in Week 1 or Week 2.”

Carta-Samuels threw an 11-yard TD pass to junior Jonathan Aiken in the back of the end zone in the first quarter. During a two-minute drill near the end of the scrimmage, he connected with senior David Leonard for 15 yards. Leonard did most of the work on his own.

“(Carta-Samuels) played well and made good decisions with the football,” coach Dave Christensen said. “I thought he did a lot of good things. He used his feet well, he made good throws, he protected the football. He had a good day.”

So did all of the offensive units with 345 yards and 6.5 yards per play. They also didn’t have a turnover and didn’t commit a penalty (or at least one that was accepted).

Christensen would like to see better play from his red zone offense, and said that will be worked on a lot leading up to the season-opener in two weeks against Southern Utah.

The No. 1 defense didn’t allow any points, but Christensen didn’t like the fact the No. 2 offense drove it 65 yards in 12 plays on its second possession. A blocked field goal by senior Marcell Gipson kept the offense off the board.

Some other notes and observations:

–True freshman Robert Herron looked good at running back, and took several snaps with the starters. He finished with 17 yards on four carries, and caught one pass for 31 yards.

“I want to watch the video and make sure he’s running hard and making the right cuts,” Christensen said. “He protected the ball and took some shots. I would like to see him do some more Wednesday in our next scrimmage.”

See more on Herron in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

–Oliver Schober had the play of the scrimmage. The junior middle linebacker returned a Dax Crum interception 59 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the day. Schober is playing with the starters as junior Brian Hendricks recovers from an injury.

“It’s a normal competition but (Hendricks) has been helping me a lot and I have a lot of respect for that man,” Schober said.

Schober also had three kickoffs all go into the end zone.

“I still have to work on that and my consistency so I kick every one out (of the endzone),” he said.

–Junior Austin McCoy struggled kicking field goals. He was 3 of 6 with a long of 32. He had a 23-yarder blocked. He will kick in the season-opener as sophomore Ian Watts serves a one-game suspension. Watts made all seven if his field-goal attempts. McCoy was 4 of 6 last year in field goals, but all of his makes were from 20 to 29 yards.

–True freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr., continues to look good with the No. 3 offense. He had a 21-yard touchdown pass to true freshman receiver C.J. Morgan, and he was the second-leading rusher with 27 yards on four carries.

–No injuries were reported.

For more on the scrimmage, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang. Also what WyoSports senior columnist/writer Bob Hammond thinks of BYU and its actions this past week.

Thanks to those who joined me for the live blog today during the scrimmage. It was a blast as always. We will do it again Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. for the final one.

Practice news and notes

Wyoming just completed its first practice since Tuesday’s second scrimmage of fall camp Wednesday morning. The team was in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts under sunny skies, warm temperatures and little wind.

No changes on the depth chart for the ones or twos after the scrimmage. Junior middle linebacker Oliver Schober was with the No. 1 defense at  for junior Brian Hendricks (ankle). Hendricks hurt his left ankle in the scrimmage, and he missed a couple of games last year with a right ankle sprain. Hendricks said he should be back soon, even though he didn’t practice and was in a protective boot.

True freshman receiver Robert Herron got some snaps at running back. This was his first day there and he told me he took a lot of hand-offs on fly sweeps in high school in Los Angeles. Herron took snaps with the No. 1 offense, but also with the No. 3s.

“When I get the ball in my hand I can make something happen for the team,” Herron said.

Added coach Dave Christensen: “We’re trying different ways to get the ball in his hands and see what he can do as a play-maker.”

Other notes and observations:

–Senior Jack Tennant, who has missed time with a calf strain, had been working a lot the backup center behind sophomore Nick Carlson. But Tennant hurt his left leg or foot early in practice and didn’t return. True freshman Skyler Hinton (back) played some at center and guard before he was hurt. True freshman Travis Bogard and redshirt freshman walk-on Jed May of Casper are the backups now. May worked on his shotgun snaps after practice.

–Sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels scored on a 25-yard run against the No. 2 defense in a two-minute drill near the end of practice.

–The two-minute drill was set up with the offense down two points, 1:50 was on the clock and there were two time outs. The No. 1 defense held the No. 2 offense. In a battle of No. 3 units, the offense moved the ball for about a 35-yard field goal, but both senior Austin McCoy and sophomore Ian Watts missed.

–Junior-college transfer receiver Jonathan Aiken has earned the nickname “Slim” by receivers coach Derek Sage.

–The receivers did some extra conditioning work after practice for some of their struggles during practice.

–Junior cornerback Tashaun Gipson fielded some punts behind senior David Leonard.

–Sophomore tight end David Tooley returned to practice for the first time in more than a week. He left last week for personal reasons but decided to return. He worked with the No. 3 offense. For more on him, see Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang.

Scrimmage No. 1 thoughts

The optimists will say the defense was just that good.

The pessimists will say the offense was that bad.

I think it was a little of both for Wyoming in its first scrimmage of fall camp Friday morning.

The defense, both the ones and twos, flew around and played well, especially in pass coverage. UW quarterbacks ran 23 times, and I would guess 80 percent of those were because the coverage down field was good.

Or, as coach Dave Christensen said: “Most of the issues were guys not getting open. The pass protection seemed good to me.”

The defense won the 128-play scrimmage 52-33 in  UW’s scoring system. There were no ones vs. ones. It was all starters vs. backups, or threes vs. threes.

The No. 1 offense scored just 10 points, and sophomore QB Austyn Carta-Sameuls was less than stellar. He was 9 of 17 for 89 yards and an interception (should have had two). He bolted after the scrimmage to talk to some of his coaches and didn’t come back until about 30 minutes later to talk to the media.

“I’ve always been a winner, and I hate losing,” Carta-Samuels said. “I haven’t done much losing, to be honest. After that I really needed a break and didn’t want to talk to anybody other than my coaches and air what I was feeling and what was going on for me. For me to lose leaves me a very sick feeling in my stomach. I’m 19 years old and I can cry like a baby after I lose.”

“I let down my teammates down, but there is a lot of room to improve.”

Some other observations:

–UW’s new Thunder and Lightning combo (see my story at www.wyomingnews.com or www.laramieboomerang.com) of true freshman receiver Robert Herron and JC transfer Jonathan Aiken saw a lot of playing time. Herron caught three passes for 32 yards. Aiken didn’t catch a pass but had a couple of long passes thrown his way.

–The longest play of the scrimmage was a 49-yard run by true freshman walk-on running back Vincent Bobbitt with the No. 3 offense.

–The defense had seven sacks and 24 tackles for a loss of 66 yards. Redshirt freshman Patrick Mertens and sophomore Mike Purcell looked great at defensive tackle with the No. 1 defense. They combined for 10 tackles and four tackles for loss.

–Some bad news at defensive tackle as junior Alex Stover’s career is done because of a lingering groin injury. He will remain as a volunteer student assistant coach.

–A ruling is out on linebacker Oliver Schober’s eligibility. The 23-year-old from Germany will have three years to play two. He was listed as a true freshman. Per NCAA rules, after you turn 21 and play with some “club” level sports, you lose a year of eligibility for each year you play.

–A buzz is going on about Schober’s ability to kickoff. Two of his three went for touchbacks in the scrimmage. One was an ugly line-drive that bounced at about the 20 and trickled into the end zone.

–Two of the more impressive freshmen today were defensive ends Sonny Puletasi and Riley Lange. Puletasi had two sacks and Lange had one. They worked mostly against the No. 3 offense.

–Senior Austin McCoy took the first reps with the No. 1 field goal and extra point team. He made a 24-yard field goal, but had a 20-yarder blocked. He doesn’t get the ball up as fast as sophomore Ian Watts, who will miss the season-opener because of a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.

–The MRI on true freshman running back Nehemie Kankolngo’s knee is in, and Christensen said he expects him to be ready for the Sept. 11 game at Texas. Like Watts, Kankolongo was suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules. He didn’t play in the scrimmage.

Wyoming returns to practice twice Saturday, with the first at 8:45 a.m. Will post live updates via Twitter at www.twitter.com/rpgagliardi.

Thanks to all those that joined me for the live blog from today’s scrimmage. It was a blast and tons of great conversation. Will try to do it again Tuesday.

Christensen unhappy with defense

 Wyoming coach Dave Christensen let his defense know his displeasure during Wednesday’s eighth practice of fall camp on the way it played in team goal-line session with the No. 1 offense at the end of practice. He didn’t hold anything back as the offense scored a few short TD runs.

“He has high expectations for the defense, and we have high expecations for ourselves. When its live and down here on the goal line, he expects us to amp it up a bit. We could have done better,” junior linebacker and co-captain Brian Hendricks said.

Sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels scored a couple of those TDs. After his last one, he was pushed pretty hard by sophomore safety Shamiel Gary in the end zone. A lot of pushing and shoving ensued on both sides.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Hendrics added. “Emotions are going to be running high. There are a bunch of fighters out there and a bunch of guys that want to win. What happeed out there is just part of the game,a nd it’s good to see.”

Other practice observations from Wednesday:

–Junior cornerback Tashaun Gipson had two interceptions. He is having a great fall camp, and continues to impress since the end of last season. See my column in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang for more on that.

–Two new receivers continue to rotate in with the No. 1 and No. 2 offense. True freshman Robert Herron and junior-college transfer Jonathan Aiken continue to look good. UW offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo worked one-on-one with Aiken on some patterns during practice. With all that has to get done during fall camp, Arroyo and UW must see something in Aiken to do that. Herron made some nice catches and ran some good routes in practice, and continues to get a look as a return specialist. These two have already come up with a nickname for themselves which should be familiar to UW fans. More on these guys leading up to Friday’s first scrimmage.

–True freshman running back Nehemie Kankolongo appeared to hurt a leg in practice. He stayed on the field, but didn’t do any football-related drills. There was no update on his status after practice. If he misses any time, UW is down to to running backs on scholarship — sophomore Alvester Alexander and junior James Davis — who hasn’t played in a college game.

–The hit of the day came from redshirt freshman defensive back Andrew Meredith of Green River. He de-cleated redshirt freshman walk-on running back Tedder Easton in an 11-on-11 team session.

More bad news for junior defensive tackle Alex Stover and his injured groin. Stover will see a specialist in Denver Thursday after he re-injured it Monday. This kid just can’t catch a break. See my story in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie for more on that.