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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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.

A DB take on the QBs

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen doesn’t want redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr. and true freshman Brett Smith talking to the media this spring. Those two are battling for the starting job, and will be joined by true freshman Adam Pittser later this summer.

Junior safety Kenny Browder has got a good look at both QBs in practice, and should today in the Cowboys’ first spring scrimmage at 9 a.m. at the indoor practice facilty in Laramie.

Here’s what Browder said about both: “Emory is really shifty. I’ve seen him shake a couple of linemen out there. It kind of makes me mad, but it’s good to see we have some moves back there. Brett is showing some ACS (former quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels) out there. A little show-and-go.”

For more on Browder and sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff, see my story in Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.

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Here are some other news and notes from this week:

— Christensen’s assessment of his receivers: “(Junior) Chris McNeill has been very consistent. He’s battled some minor injuries that have slowed him down some. (Sophomore) Robert Herron’s done some good things. He’s shown great speed and quickness inside. (Senior) Mazi Ogbonna is making some plays and having a better spring than he did last year. He’s picked up a little bit where he left off last year.”

–I loved this quote from secondary coach Alex Grinch on what he told his players prior to the start of spring drills: “You can have a bad play but you can’t have a bad day.”

–On signing day back in February UW wasn’t sure what to do with true freshman Mark Nzeocha from Germany. At 6-3, 220 he was listed at a safety prior to spring drills, but has been taking snaps at middle linebacker. I’m really curious to see what he does there.

–As stated earlier this week on the blog, Christensen has been pleased, and perhaps a little surprised, with the play of the offensive line so far. The player I am most anxious to see in tooday’s scrimmage and the rest of spring is junior Kyle Magnuson at right tackle. Listed as a left guard prior to spring, the 6-6, 317-pound Magnuson played in only four games last season and started one. He didn’t play as a redshirt freshman in 2009. If Magnuson works out at right tackle, that would be a huge boost for an offensive line that remains a question mark heading into the season. I don’t think many of the coaches thought Magnuson would be a significant contributor this season. He’s getting his chance now.

UW players suspended, leave team

After a rather uneventful practice Wednesday morning, things really got interesting Wednesday afternoon when Wyoming announced three players will be suspended for the season-opener against Southern Utah and three others are no longer with the team.

Sophomore starting place-kicker Ian Watts, sophomore cornerback Kenny Browder and true freshman running back Nehemie Kankolongo are suspended for the Sept. 4 opener for that all so popular “violation of team rules.”

Sophomore receiver David Tooley and redshirt freshman safety Larry Mitchell left the team for personal reasons. Redshirt freshman receiver Turmour Battle was kicked off the team for the violation of team rules.

Battle and Mitchell never played so it’s hard to miss guys that hadn’t done anything in a game. They also hadn’t challenged to get into the two-deep roster during their brief time.

Tooley showed promise late last season with a TD catch at San Diego State, and a key grab at CSU that set up a touchdown. He tore two ligaments, some cartilage and cracked a bone in his left leg on that catch and even though he was back for fall camp, he looked tentative.

Obviously, you have to wonder why these kids left or were suspended.

Privacy rules involving student-athletes and schools allow speculation to run rampant on these issues. I’m not going to get into that game. But if you are kicked off a team, it was pretty significant. If it was for one game, it was pretty serious, too. You can punish players with extra running or missed practice time. Taking games away, even if just one, is serious stuff.

Is there a discipline problem in coach Dave Christensen’s program?

Well, you can look at it in two ways:

1. Players did something wrong and that is never good, and it’s never good to hear or read about it. It’s easy to remember when someone does something wrong, and when you see it then the impression is there is a problem.

2. Its not like we see this happen every week. But when it does, action is taken. Christensen seems to be holding players more accountable than they have been in the past. That may be the case with team rules, and other things off the field. Remember, these are college-aged kids. Do you remember when you were their age and in college? I’m not condoning breaking rules, but if these players learn from it and seeing their names in these situations don’t become a pattern then chalk it up to a lesson learned.

I hope the suspended players realize that their actions have an effect on the entire team. Will UW need them against Southern Utah? One wouldn’t think so, but what if the game came down to a final kick and UW didn’t have its best guy because of a mistake he made? Watts made three-game winning kicks last season.

On the other hand, players leaving and being suspended gives others an opportunity to show what they can do. And sports in general is all about opportunity.

I wonder who steps up in this instance?