No mixing and matching for O-line this season

If one thing’s been consistent along Wyoming’s offensive line this season, it’s been the lineup.

UW has used the same five starters in all four of its games, and it’s expected to be the same again when the Cowboys open Mountain West play at Nevada Saturday.

The Cowboys used seven different starting lineups each of the last two seasons due to injuries and production — or lack there of.

“We’re not as deep as we’ve been,” coach Dave Christensen said. “We’re trying to redshirt a couple of guys, and there are a couple of guys in our two-deep we’re trying not to play because they’re not ready to play yet.

“If there was a guy that was equal to somebody that was in there we would certainly play them. We’re not in a position where we’re going to switch anybody out right now.”

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Video: Jake Jones

Jake Jones made his Wyoming debut last week as the starting right guard against then 15th-ranked Texas. When asked what he did to earn the starting job, he modestly said: “I don’t know. I put a lot of time and work in like all of us linemen did.”

Hear more on what Jones said here, and read about this and more Wednesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Laramie Boomerang and online at wyosports.net.

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 Media Monday

Wyoming faces the nation’s leading rusher Saturday in San Diego State sophomore Ronnie Hillman, who averages 138.8 yards per game and has 10 rushing touchdowns.

Do you think he’s the best back UW has faced?

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Media Monday news and notes

There were no new changes on the depth chart Monday for Wyoming, but it doesn’t mean they still aren’t coming.

“We’re still competing in practice,” coach Dave Christensen said. “We’ve given a lot of players opportunities in practice. There are no significant changes yet, but there’s certainly ongoing competition at all positions. That will continue through Thursday. We’re not going to make any decisions as long as the competition is good right now.”

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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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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.