Cowboys reach halfway point of fall camp

Ten down, ten to go.

The University of Wyoming is halfway through fall camp. Tuesday’s practice was its 10th practice. The Cowboys have 10 more practices before camp breaks, and then it is game week in preparation for their season-opening game against Missouri Aug. 31 at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

Here are some thoughts and observations midway through camp.

— UW got some bad news Tuesday with junior defensive tackle Ravontae Holt being out for the season with a torn ACL. Holt was a projected starter, and based off the daily comments from sixth-year coach Craig Bohl, was having a really good camp. An already thin group of interior defensive linemen in terms of depth got a lot thinner. As of now, UW plans to go with a three man rotation at its two interior line spots with junior Javaree Jackson, sophomore Victor Jones and redshirt freshman Mario Mora. When asked if any other names have started to emerge, Bohl said: “As we go, they’re still unnamed. That’s as clear as I can be.” There is time for others to develop, but one thing is certain, UW will need more than three to get through an entire season.

— Holt’s injury magnifies this issue, but even before that it was evident that if the Cowboys are to be successful defensively this season, they are going to have to do it differently than the last couple of years, which consisted of good play along the defensive line and at safety — especially last season. This isn’t to say those groups can’t or won’t play well in 2019, but depth and proven commodities are simply not there. UW will need to be good at cornerback, especially in passing situations where more man-to-man coverage could be used, and also at linebacker.

— I got a laugh from this quote from Bohl when asked to follow up on a statement he made about the wide receivers needing to be more consistent in practice. He’s talking about their ability to make contested catches. “I always say there’s two hungry dogs and one piece of meat. One dog is getting the meat. We need to get the meat.” That’s the quote of fall camp so far, but a valid point. Bohl said UW’s receivers were decent last season in catching the ball with no one around them. But we all know football isn’t always like that. For an offense that averaged 131.3 passing yards per games, and no returning wide receiver averaging more than 11.1 yards per catch, this area has to improve.

— The battle for the starting job at left guard is still ongoing with sophomores Patrick Arnold and Eric Abojei. Arnold is still working some at center, his natural position. That spot, and perhaps others, should get cleared up more when UW scrimmages on Saturday. That will be its first and likely only major scrimmage during camp. Unfortunately, it is closed to the public and media. We also should have a better idea on who will play at free safety, and the pecking order among UW’s young running backs and wide receivers will be after the scrimmage.

— Been hearing a lot of positive comments about junior right guard Logan Harris of Torrington, who seems to have that starting job locked down. First-year offensive line coach Bart Miller said Harris has made good strides since the spring with his footwork.

— Thank goodness for the new redshirt rule. Last season, freshman defensive end Solomon Byrd saw time in three games and recorded five tackles. Because Byrd played four games or fewer, UW could redshirt him. Now, the 6-foot-4, 243-pounder has emerged to be in the rotation for playing time this season along with senior Josiah Hall and junior Garrett Crall. Now, defensive ends coach AJ Cooper needs to see who will step up behind that trio. There are about five guys in the picture now, including sophomore Davon Wells-Ross, redshirt freshmen Levi Lafaele, Teagan Liufau and Jack Boyer, along with true freshman DeVonne Harris. Liufau and Boyer are walk-ons.

— This is what redshirt freshman starting quarterback Sean Chambers had to say earlier this week about how camp has gone for him: “I think camp has been okay. We’ve done some good things out there. We’ve made some mistakes, but that’s going to happen through the course of camp. I’d say I’m pleased with my performance so far, but there are are lot of things I need to do better. We still have some time, so that’s a positive. I need to be more consistent, not turn the ball over, be accurate and right with the protections. At times it gets frustrating, but I have to remember that this is camp and we’re going against our own team. I can’t take the previous play to the next play — good or bad.”

This likely will be my last post here this week. I am taking some time off to spend some time with my dad. His health isn’t great, and this opportunity to spend this time and do what we have planned is something I can’t pass up. But don’t worry, stories have been planned and written to run through the rest of the week in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net, so check them out.

Cowboys get through first full week of fall camp

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The first full week of fall camp is in the books for the University of Wyoming football team. The Cowboys have practiced eight times going back to Friday, Aug. 2.

Here are some observations and thoughts through the first eight practices.

— UW’s quarterbacks, and in particular redshirt freshman starter Sean Chambers, continue to progress. Chambers is still fully entrenched as the starter. This is what sixth-year coach Craig Bohl said about Chambers’ progress so far in camp.

“He’s not where we want him to be, but we’re much further along than last year and Sean is much further along,” Bohl said. “(Sophomore) Tyler Vander Waal is also doing some good things.”

— If there is a concern at this point in camp, it could be with the interior defensive line. UW has a lot of holes to fill with the loss of some seniors, along with defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan, who would have been a senior this season. Juniors Ravontae Holt and Javaree Jackson have had good camps, especially Holt. However, Bohl said Friday Holt has a sore knee and was to have an MRI. That’s not good news. When asked if any others have started to emerge as options to play, Bohl basically said not yet. He mentioned that UW could move senior defensive end Josiah Hall inside, which UW has done in the past. Not that Hall wouldn’t give UW everything he has inside, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

— There seems to be a good competition going at free safety between junior Braden Smith and redshirt freshmen Rome Weber and Cameron Murray. Bohl said Murray has made a lot of progress from the spring to now. Smith didn’t finish Friday’s practice with a hamstring strain.

— UW is looking for someone to play nickel other than sophomore Keyon Blankenbaker, and it appears true freshman Allen Smith has the edge right now. Smith played nickel in high school in California, and was recruited to UW to play nickel. Smith is still learning, and isn’t the most imposing presence at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, but the coaches have liked what they’ve seen from him so far in camp.

— Gunner Gentry didn’t catch a pass as a true freshman wide receiver last season, but he played in 11 of 12 games and played on all four of the Cowboys’ special teams units. Gentry said he enjoyed playing special teams, and that helped him become a more well-rounded player. Gentry, the younger brother of former UW wide receiver Tanner Gentry who plays for the Chicago Bears now, is looking to have more of an impact at wide receiver this season. It helps that he is healthy. He missed most of the spring with a stress fracture in his foot. However, Gentry also hopes to still be involved on special teams.

— It is always interesting to see which newcomers emerge during camp. Bohl has been somewhat guarded in mentioning specific names, as have some of the assistants. But some of the players mentioned with Smith have true freshmen wide receivers Alex Brown and Isaiah Neyor — both from Texas and 6-4 and 6-3, respectively. True freshman tight end Treyton Welch, a wide receiver in high school, has been mentioned by Bohl a couple of times. True freshman Easton Gibbs at weak-side outside linebacker and redshirt freshman Chuck Hicks at middle linebacker have emerged to possibly give UW some depth. One other player to keep an eye on is true freshman offensive tackle Carlos Harrison.

For more UW football coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net. Also, check back to this blog.

UW football weighs in on favorite Halloween costumes & candy

I always have fun asking Wyoming football players things like this every year.

With today being Halloween, I asked certain players what their favorite Halloween costume was growing up (or if they still dress these days) and their favorite Halloween candy.

True freshman quarterback Sean Chambers

Costume: A soldier

Candy: Snickers

Senior offensive guard Kaden Jackson

Costume: Farmer Fran from “The Waterboy”

Candy: Reese’s peanut butter cups

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Wyoming vs. Boise St. pregame reading

Some notes and quotes leading up to the Mountain West opener for Wyoming and Boise State Saturday. Kick off is at 5 p.m. MT at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

Craig Bohl

— “They’ve got a good coaching staff that positions their players well. You just don’t see any weaknesses. They’ve balanced an explosive offense with a dynamic defense.” — fifth-year UW coach Craig Bohl

— Fans for both teams likely remember the 2016 game in Laramie when UW recorded a fourth-quarter safety for the decisive points in a 30-28 victory. They also remember UW players — mostly defensive end Josiah Hall — doing his “safety dance” in the end zone as the officials decided on the call. Boise State made reference to this in its game notes this week: “Boise State will look to institute a “no-dancing” policy similar to the one in the town of Bomont in the 1984 film “Footloose.”

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Wyoming at Missouri – pregame reading

Some notes and quotes leading up to Wyoming’s football game at Missouri Saturday. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. MT from Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri.

— “We had too many mental mistakes and shot ourselves in the foot. Too many penalties and too many third downs we didn’t covernt. We know we can do better and hold ourselves to ta higher standard. We didn’t play up tot hat standard.” — UW redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal on last week’s 41-19 loss to Washington State. Many UW fans are frustrated with the offensive play-calling and not seeing much from Vander Waal throwing the ball over the first two games. I wrote a column on that earlier this week. Here’s the link:

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Wyoming vs. Washington State – pregame reading

A few notes and quotes leading up to Saturday’s home-opener for the Wyoming football team against Washington State. Kick off is at 1:30 p.m. MT.

Craig Bohl

— “I’ve always believed a football team improves most between its first and second game.” — Fifth-year UW coach Craig Bohl.

— If that’s the case for the Cowboys, things could be fun to watch for the home fans. UW opened the season with a 29-7 win at New Mexico State last Saturday. The offense ran for 312 yards, had more than 400 yards of total offense and the defense held the Aggies to 135 yards of total offense. What could be better for UW? Sustaining drives. The Cowboys failed to convert a good number of third-and-short situations. More balance on offense. The run game was great, but not sure if it will be as effective against Washington State. More plays in the pass game should open up things in the run game. Create turnovers. UW didn’t force a turnover against New Mexico State. Winning the turnover battle — as it is in every game — will be key.

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UW football fall camp – Practice No. 20

The biggest news coming from Tuesday’s practice was that junior wide receiver James Price will miss the next six weeks with a broken left clavicle suffered in last Saturday’s scrimmage.

James Price

Price’s left arm was in a sling as he watched practice in War Memorial Stadium. UW worked out in full pads. Price was listed as a starter, and was emerging as a leader among the Cowboys’ wide receivers.

According to the depth chart UW released late Monday afternoon, sophomore John Okowli is Price’s backup. Fourth-year coach Craig Bohl said true freshman Jared Scott, at 6-6, 230 pounds, also is expected to see more playing time.

Here is Bohl after Tuesday’s practice:

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Poinsettia Bowl postgame thoughts

It wasn’t the ending players, coaches and fans wanted, but if anything, UW’s 24-21 loss to Brigham Young in Wednesday’s Poinsettia Bowl was entertaining and exciting — at least in the second half.

The Cowboys (8-6) followed a familiar pattern as the season concluded. Slow or sluggish starts to games — even extending to the first half and third quarter — and then a furious rally late.

But just like in the 27-24 loss to San Diego State in the MW Championship Game on Dec. 3, that rally fell short.

Some initial thoughts/observations:

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

— Disappointing to see junior running back Brian Hill benched for the first quarter by third-year coach Craig Bohl, who said after the game it was a “coach’s decision.” Obviously, Hill didn’t do anything earth-shattering wrong, but disappointing to see. Would things have changed if he played? Maybe, maybe not. Hill played well when he returned (93 yards, 1 TD, and one catch for 19 yards). I thought senior Shaun Wick played really well — even when Hill returned. Wick had 13 carries for 55 yards and caught one pass for six yards.

— Sunny San Diego didn’t live up to its hype. Yeah, the game was at night but it rained like crazy in the first half. Both teams had to play in it, but it definitely affected UW the worst. A bobbled snap on a punt (the snap was good) and a botched hold on a field goal (the snap was good) cost UW dearly. Other shortcomings cost UW, but those special teams gaffs hurt a lot.

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Cowboys focused on New Mexico, and only New Mexico

After his weekly news conference Monday, third-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl told UW’s sports information staff to tell the players to only talk about the Cowboys’ next

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

game at New Mexico Saturday. Bohl didn’t want any talk about a potential Mountain West Championship Game. He wants his team focused only on New Mexico, and the mantra the team has had all season — going 1-0 for the week.

UW (8-3 overall, 6-1 MW) can win the Mountain Division title with a win at New Mexico Saturday, and that win should enable it to host the MW Championship Game against San Diego State on Dec. 3. UW can win the division with a loss and a Boise State loss Friday at Air Force. If Boise State wins and UW loses, Boise State is the division champ.

I normally post the depth chart for the week, but for some reason the photo of it came out blurry so I won’t bother. Continue reading

Wyoming 34, San Diego State 33 – postgame thoughts

Another game, another amazing, odd, exciting (pick your own word) finish as Wyoming rallied then held on for a 34-33 victory over previously No. 24 San Diego State Saturday at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

How odd and exciting? Check out my late-game highlights that include UW’s game-winning touchdown on a 29-yard pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen to redshirt freshman wide receiver C.J. Johnson. Also included is San Diego State’s Hail Mary pass on the final play to pull to within one (a play that was ruled incomplete and then reversed) and then its failed two-point conversion.

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