A look at position battles for UW heading into fall camp

Fall camp begins Monday for Wyoming football, and a lot needs to be figured out prior to the season-opener Aug. 30 against Montana.

But in terms of position battles, things likely will be relatively quiet.

UW’s depth chart prior to fall camp lists three positions that are “or” in terms of the starter. But no matter who the starter is, let’s make one thing clear: both guys at those positions will play — and need to play. All three are on defense, which is dangerously thin in terms od depth to begin with.

With that said, here is a breakdown of those three spots and who will likely end up as the starter.

Middle linebacker

Candidates: Jordan Stanton, Sr., 6-0, 246; Alex Borgs, Sr., 6-2, 229.

Jordan Stanton

Jordan Stanton

Who will start: Stanton, because he led the team in tackles last season — his first at UW after transferring from junior college — with 134. He also was tied for second with 10 tackles for loss and led the team with two interceptions. He simply is productive, which is what you want from your middle linebacker. Borgs has six career tackles in three seasons. However, he has a want-to that many coaches would like to see from all their players. Borgs is from Germany and has had to deal with numerous defensive schemes and changes over his career. If he picks up where he left off from spring drills, he will be a good backup behind Stanton and can give UW some quality snaps. It is vital that Borgs can, even in a backup role, so Stanton is not on the field so much.

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Bohl wants to see Cowboys finish

Wednesday marked the final spring practice in full pads for Wyoming prior to its spring game at 2 p.m. Saturday.

And, first-year coach Craig Bohl said after Wednesday’s practice he could tell that some of the players may have been looking ahead to Saturday’s spring game, a Friday practice in just sweats and the end of spring drills in the coming days.

“I think some of our guys might have had the attitude that they want to get through today’s practice and spring ball is about done,” Bohl said. “We have to learn how to finish, and I don’t think we are there yet.”

“It’s a process. They want to do well and want to win, but I’m not confident they know how to win.”

UW continues to work on its kicking game this week. Senior kicker Stuart Williams looked good kicking several field goals from different distances.

The Cowboys continue to work with different kickoff returners. Senior receivers Jalen Claiborne and Trey Norman, sophomore receiver Trent Sewell and redshirt sophomore D.J. May and junior Shaun Wick — both running backs — are getting reps.

Here are some highlights of that, and other early portions of Wednesday’s practice:

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UW quarterbacks take their hits in second scrimmage

Most of the time, quarterbacks are off limits in terms of being hit during practices or scrimmages.

Not Saturday for the four University of Wyoming quarterbacks in the Cowboys’ second scrimmage of spring drills.

Quarterbacks were live, and did take some hits.

“That first hit I took was a little bit of a shock,” said senior Sam Stratton, who was 7 of 10 for 69 yards and touchdown passes to sophomore receiver Nico Brown and sophomore running back Omar Stover. “It had been a while, and it was like ‘okay, we’re playing tackle football.’ It felt good, and after that first hit your brain goes into a different place.”

Redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard was 8 of 12 for 126 yards and a touchdown to senior receiver Keenan Montgomery. Kirkegaard’s long pass was 50 yards to Montgomery. Stratton said he didn’t remember who hit him, but Kirkegaard remembered his first hit by senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha on a run up the middle.

“That first hit wakes you up a little bit and you realize you don’t have that blue jersey on and will just get tagged on the shoulder instead of being hit. It’s real football.”

Kirkegaard had ice on his right throwing shoulder after the scrimmage and during interviews with the media, but he said he does that after every game and practice.

Sophomore Aaron Young was 3 of 12 for 28 yards, and sophomore Tom Thornton was 4 of 5 for 45 yards and a touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Jake Maulhardt.

First-year coach Craig Bohl said he wants to look at the film before making an evaluation on the quarterbacks. Bohl is expected to release a “fluid” depth chart as early as Monday. The scrimamge was closed to the public and media, but here is what Bohl told the media about the scrimmage:


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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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Christensen fields questions about last year’s Air Force tirade

First off, Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen answered questions about this year’s Air Force team — the one the Cowboys play Saturday night at Air Force to open Mountain West play.

But you knew questions would soon follow about Christensen’s obscenity-laced tirade toward Air Force coach Troy Calhoun after last season’s 28-27 Cowboys loss to the Falcons in Laramie.

Wyoming will wear is camo-patterned uniforms for Saturday's game at Air Force. The Cowboys wore these uniforms for last year's game with the Falcons. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Wyoming will wear is camo-patterned uniforms for Saturday’s game at Air Force. The Cowboys wore these uniforms for last year’s game with the Falcons. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Christensen, who was suspended one game and fined $50,000 for the incident, answered the questions with class and calmness. But one could tell he didn’t want to spend all of Monday answering questions about it.

“I am not playing one snap, and I don’t think Troy is, either,” he said. “Our focus is on execution and being ready to play Saturday night. My behavior is going to be much better. I will watch my Ps and Qs.”

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UW-Northern Colorado post game thoughts

I wrote my column for Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and for wyosports.net, on the fact that UW’s offense hasn’t been that great the last two weeks. The statistics are not bad, but it has not been consistent, and at times it hasn’t executed well.

Agree or disagree with me there. The Cowboys beat Northern Colorado 35-7 Saturday, but had two defensive touchdowns — impressive in its own right.

Have we put too high of expectations with this offense after what it did in the opener at No. 23 Nebraska (who will be out of the polls come Monday after being blasted at home by UCLA)?

What do you think?

UW allowed four sacks. Junior quarterback Brett Smith hurt his right ankle,and said it hurt after the game despite not missing any time. The deep pass hasn’t been there the last couple of weeks.

Things need to get better, and fast, and Smith better be able to play. I don’t think he will do much in practice early this week. Smith said he will have an x-ray on the ankle soon.

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UW announces depth chart for Nebraska

Wyoming’s first depth chart of the season for Saturday’s game at Nebraska came out Monday, and there were not a lot of surprises.

Eight first-year players are projected to start — three true freshmen, one redshirt freshmen, two redshirt juniors and two junior-college transfers. Here are some notable items from Monday’s depth chart:

–True freshman receiver Tanner Gentry will start at one of the four receiver spots. Gentry rapidly climbed up the depth chart throughout fall camp. He beat out junior Trey Norman.

–Senior Robert Herron, juniors Dominic Rufran and Jalen Claiborne are the other starting receivers. Others listed on the depth chart this week are redshirt freshmen Eric Nzeocha, Nico Brown, Trent Sewell, Tanner Simpson and Jake Maulhardt; senior Jarrod Darden (a transfer from Colorado), and juniors Keenan Montgomery, Norman and Justin Berger.

–Junior-college transfer Tyran Finley will start at cornerback opposite of junior Blair Burns. Not a surprise there since the injury to junior DeAndre Jones midway through camp.

–Three of the four backups at the cornerback and safety positions are manned by guys who have never played a game at UW. True freshman Tim Hayes is behind Burns at one cornerback spot. Redshirt freshman Cortland Fort, who has gone back and forth from cornerback and safety, is behind Finley. True freshman Xavier Lewis is the backup at strong safety behind junior Darrenn White. Jones, who was the starter at cornerback when fall camp started before he was injured, is the backup for senior Marqueston Huff at free safety.

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Spring offensive leaders/analysis for Cowboys

Here are some of Wyoming’s offensive statistical leaders from three scrimmages and its spring game, which was last Saturday.

Passing

Brett Smith

Brett Smith

Brett Smith              44-70 (62.8 percent) 661 yards, 9 TD, 2 INT

Jason Thompson     51-74 (68.9 percent) 568 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT

Colby Kirkegaard    20-35 (57.1 percent) 259 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT

Tommy Thornton     15-31 (48.3 percent) 158 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

My thoughts: Smith is hands down the starter. Thompson has a lot of ability and potential, but remember, he has not been in college a full year yet and he came in after running a Wing-T offense in high school. He still has a lot of development to go. Nonetheless, UW has two quality guys at this spot. Kirkegaard should be the No. 3 guy heading into fall camp, and is a senior. Thornton showed good arm strength in the spring.

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Cowboys continue to experiment on defense

Marqueston Huff

Marqueston Huff

Wyoming has been taking a look at a lot of guys at a lot of different positions this spring, especially on defense.

The latest experiments has senior cornerback Marqueston Huff getting a look at safety, and junior Sonny Puletasi and sophomore Siaosi Hala’api’api on the field together at defensive end, with Hala’api’api playing the buck (combination defensive end and outside linebacker). Puletasi has spend most of the spring as the starting buck.

Also, sophomore defensive end Eddie Yarbrough is getting some looks at defensive tackle.

“We are just moving guys around, as I’ve said all spring,” coach Dave Christensen said after Monday’s 12th of 15 spring practices. “He’s got the ability to do it. We are search for all the right pieces at the right places.”

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