UW-Texas State what to watch for

My No. 1 item for Wyoming to have success Saturday against Texas State:

Defensive improvement: The Cowboys have to play better at all 11 positions. Fans are already losing patience with this unit after giving up 541 yards last week to Weber State. A particular area of interest will be in the secondary.

For more keys to the game, and how playing Texas State means more to UW junior safety Luke Anderson more than just a game, see Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang. Also check back to the blog Saturday morning for a video interview with Anderson.

Also wanted to get your thoughts on what Weber State football coach Ron McBride said about UW as he prepares his team to play Utah State Saturday. Remember, UW and Utah State play each other Oct. 8 in Logan, Utah. Here’s the link to the story.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsususports/52539197-55/state-wyoming-lot-mcbride.html.csp

Video: Tashaun Gipson

This is my second video interview with Gipson in less than a week, but he gets into his struggles against Weber State and what needs to happen to fix them heading into Saturday’s Texas State game.

Would love to hear your comments on this interview, and the one I also posted with defensive coordinator Marty English.

Video: UW defensive back Tashaun Gipson

Wyoming’s veteran leader in the secondary talks about the player suspensions in his unit, as well as playing safety again this season — among other things.

Check out the blog for links to Thursday’s live chat, which will start at 3 p.m. Also see Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang laramieboomerang.com for my column on offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, and a story on junior running back Alvester Alexander.


 

 

 

News conference news and notes

Here are some highlights from Monday’s news conference and interview session with Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen and players:

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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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UW post-spring depth chart

Wyoming just released its football depth chart heading into fall camp.

Here’s the link: http://www.wyomingathletics.com/auto_pdf/p_hotos/s_chools/wyo/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/4-14-11depthchart

Coach Dave Christensen said after the spring game, and after he talked to the media, that the depth chart would be done to please the pre-season college football publications if for nothing else. Most, if not all of the spots will be up for grabs when fall camp starts in early August.

Some quick thoughts:

–A little surprised at the starters along the offensive line, although they were they ones who played the best near the end of spring ball. The starters are: LT John Hutchins, LG Tyler Strong, C Nick Carlson, RG Brandon Self and RT Kyle Magnuson.

No surprise on Carlson and Magnuson since they kept those jobs all, if not most of spring. Good to see Self, a senior, emerge. The biggest surprise is Strong. He moved from defensive line this spring. Guys with starting experience like LT Clayton Kirven and RT Josh Leonard are listed as backups. A lot can change in fall camp. If he comes back healthy, don’t be surprised of redshirt freshman Daniel Fleischman overtakes Kirven and Hutchins as the starer at left tackle.

–Sophomore Brandon Miller listed as the starter at running back over junior Alvester Alexander, who didn’t do much this spring with an injury. Alexander was in this spot last year at this time, but I think he will be fine. Nice effort by Miller, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship this January. Sophomore Nehemie Kankolongo fell to fifth in the depth chart. Even true freshman Kody Sutton is ahead of him. Kankolongo missed the spring game for a violation of team rules.

–Emory Miller OR Brett Smith is how the depth chart looks at quarterback. No surprise there.

–Good job by junior Luke Ruff to keep his starting strong safety job heading into fall camp. He still will battle JC transfer Luke Anderson, who was timed in the 4.2-second range in the 40 prior to spring ball. Both likely will play, but Ruff did a good job of competiting and keeping the starting spot. … for now.

–Despite missing the spring game for a violation of team rules, JC transfer Korey Jones is listed as a possible starter at one of the two outside linebacker spots. It’s Jones OR true freshman Mark Nzeocha. Sophomore Devyn Harris will backup senior Oliver Schober inside, which gives UW some nice athleticism out there. Senior Brian Hendricks is the other starter outside, and the efforts of sophomore Todd Knight in the spring earned him the backup job. Knight was arguably UW’s most productive defensive player this spring. He needs to get bigger at 6-2, 210 pounds.

–Right now sophomore Marqueston Huff will be the No. 1 punt returner and will join Brandon Miller as the No. 1 kickoff duo. But there wasn’t much kickoff, punt or any kick coverage work done the spring so that also could change in fall camp.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the depth chart.

English expects defensive improvement

Wyoming’s first season with a 4-3 defense was challenging to say the least.

UW allowed 30.3 points, 205.8 rushing yards and 351.8 total yards per game.

Eight starters return, including virtually everyone in the two-deep along the defensive line and linebacker. Three new starters need to be found in the secondary.

With a year of the 4-3 under the players’ belts, defensive coordinator Marty English’s top goal for the defense is simple, yet complex.

“Last spring was changing the defense and getting used to it. Now we want to start perfecting it, advancing it and growing with it,” he said. … “It’s not a new defense anymore.”

English said getting players to realize why mistakes were made and how to correct them will be emphasized this spring. So will having some players learn multiple positions.

For instance, a player like sophomore outside linebacker Devyn Harris may also learn to play in the middle in nickel situations so UW can utilize his athleticism in passing situations.

Look for senior Tashaun Gipson to see time at both cornerback and safety this season depending on the opponent and situation. He did that some late last season.

“It’s a challenge I’m willing to accept,” he said. “I feel like I’m a versatile player I feel like I can line up anywhere on the football field and make things happen.”

English said junior defensive tackle Kurt Taufa’asau is a player that “has got to show up and step forward.” Taufa’asau redshirted last season after transfering from New Mexico Military Institute.

English would like to find out where freshman Mark Nzeocha of Germany fits best, at safety or linebacker. At 6-3, 220 that should be fun to watch.

Linebacker Korey Jones and safety Luke Anderson — both junior-college transfers — can go a long way to securing starting jobs with a good spring. So could redshirt freshmen Darren White and junior James Caraway at cornerback.

And, English said UW will look at more ways to bring pressure other than with the front four. UW had 20 quarterback sacks in 12 games last season.

“In each situation we’ve got to figure out how to get our best 11 athletes out there to help us make it work,” English said.

I will have top five points of emphasis for UW football this spring in Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com. Would love to hear yours.

Also see my column in Thursday’s papers on the next big challenge for UW interim men’s basketball coach Fred Langley. It could be more daunting than when he took over last month for Heath Schroyer.

Cowboy Combine concludes

Wyoming held its second annual Cowboy Combine Monday afternoon at the indoor practice facility. Players were tested for the final time before the start of spring drills on Saturday.

Players were tested in the: 40-yard dash, I-drill (tests lateral movement), L-drill (also known as the cone drill), standing broad jump and standing vertical leap.

Coach Dave Christensen won’t release times and distances. As he told me in his office Monday morning: “That’s for our opponents to find out on the field.”

This was the last of five consecutive weeks of testing for UW, and I would estimate there easily was 30 personal-records set by numerous players.

Some quick highlights:

–One of the fastest, if not the fastest player on the team looks to be junior-college safety Luke Anderson from Blinn College in Texas. He had PR-ed in the 40, I-test and L-drill.

“I was the fastest at Blinn and I came in here hoping I would be the fastest here. I’m not going to say I’m the fastest,” Anderson said.

If that kind of speed can translate on the field, Anderson will have a great chance to start at one of the two safety positions vacated by Chris Prosinski, who was a senior last season, and sophomore Shamiel Gary, who left after the season and who is currently a walk-on at Oklahoma State.

–Juniors B.J. Sumter and Kurt Taufa’asua, both transfers from New Mexico Military Institute and were redshirted last season, set PRs in the 40, broad jump and L-drill. Both were brought in to play defensive tackle, but Sumter was moved to offensive line, where he will get a look at guard this spring. Sumter said he played offensive tackle in high school in South Carolina.

–Senior safety Tashaun Gipson had PRs in everything but the vertical jump. Gipson said he’s up to 210 pounds and looks bigger. Last year’s roster listed him at 6-foot, 203 pounds, but Gipson said he played at about 195.

–“The thing I notice the most is the guys that weren’t really competing last year have really stepped up and are showing themselves. Those are the guys you notice coming out of their shells.” — senior defensive end Gabe Knapton.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more from the Cowboy Combine, including a couple of key defensive players who have added weight but haven’t lost any speed or skill.

Cowboys sign four mid-year JC transfers

Wednesday was the first day colleges could sign junior-college players who will enroll in school in January, and Wyoming inked four late in the afternoon.

They are:

Safety Luke Anderson (5-10, 200) from Blinn College in Texas

Linebacker Korey Jones (6-2, 220) from Garden City (Kan.) Community College

Defensive end Miraldo Michel (6-3, 286) from Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College

Offensive guard Zach Rushing (6-3, 290) from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

All will have two years of eligibility with UW. Three played on teams that finished on teams that were ranked in the top 15 junior colleges in the country. Jones, who is from Rocky Mountain High in Fort Collins, Colo., was 10th nationally with 108 tackles.

Michel verbally committed to UW a while back and was listed at 250 pounds, but is now at 286. That’s impressive and a couple of coaches familiar with Ellsworth told me this guy is the “real deal.”

I would say all four have a chance to help UW right away. That’s why schools sign JC players, right?

But the fact all four will be here in January helps. And, three of the four are on the defensive side of the ball. There’s a lot to learn, but usually defensive guys have a little better chance at grasping the system than offensive guys, especially in UW’s spread offense.

Last year, UW signed a mid-year offensive lineman in guard Nick Puetz, and he earned the starting job early in spring ball. However, Puetz unexpectidly quit after spring drills. Rushing should get a shot to see what he can do right away.

UW signed six junior-college players last year, but along with Puetz quitting, defensive back Austin Daniels didn’t make it to Laramie for fall camp because of academics.

For more on this story, see Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.

UW will have another player enroll in January. Quarterback Brett Smith from West Salem High in Salem, Ore., will graduate high school early. However, UW can’t release his name and coaches can’t talk about him per NCAA rules until he is officially enrolled in school and classes start.

UW gets five verbal commitments

The University of Wyoming football program received verbal commitments from five players who visited Laramie over the weekend.

They are:

–Safety Luke Anderson (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) from Blinn College in Texas.

–Offensive guard Rafe Kiely (6-3, 288) from Wheaton North High in Wheaton, Ill.

–Receiver Dominic Rufran, (5-11, 175) from Palmer High in Colorado Springs, Colo.

–Offensive guard Zach Rushing (6-4, 290) from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

–Quarterback Brett Smith (6-1, 185) from West Salem High in Salem, Ore.

Kiely and Smith both are rated as two-star recruits out of five stars by Rivals.com. Smith finished his career with school records in passing yards (5,064), touchdown passes (52), rushing yards (2,326), rushing touchdowns (43) and points scored (260).

Smith had scholarship offers from San Jose State, where he originally verbally committed, and also from New Mexico State, Eastern Washington and Portland State. Nevada and Wake Forest also recruited Smith.

Smith’s commitment is ironic because junior-to-be and two-year starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels originally committed to San Jose State before he switched to UW.

According to Smith’s Twitter account, he will graduate from high school early and start classes at UW in January.

Smith is the second quarterback commitment UW got during the week. The other was Adam Pittser (6-1, 200) from Burton High in Richmond, Ill. Smith and Pittser likely will be the only two quarterbacks this recruiting class. If another one is signed it probably means Emory Miller Jr., Sam Stratton and Austin Woodward — all freshmen who were redshirted this past season — will switch positions or not be at UW next season. There’s no indication any of the three are leaving.

Kiely had a scholarship offer from Army, and also was recruited by Illinois, Kansas and Northern Illinois.

Anderson and Rushing will have two years of eligibility at UW. Anderson has been timed at 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, recorded 77 tackles, 11 pass break-ups, two sacks and recovered a fumble last season. According to the Blinn College website, Anderson won’t join UW until fall camp in August.

Rushing helped his team to a 10-2 record and a win in the Mississippi Bowl.

Rufran has 4.47-second 40-yard dash speed and also was recruited by Colorado.

UW has 17 verbal commitments for its 2011 recruiting class, and can sign a maximum of 25 players. Kiely and Rushing are the first two offensive linement in the class. Some other interesting notes so far in this class:

–Four junior-college transfers.

–Four defensive backs, three of which are listed as safeties.

–Nine different states and Germany are represented in this class.

–Four of the 17 have received three-star ratings out of five by Rivals.com, and six are two-star prospects.

Verbal commitments are non-binding, and NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from talking about recruits until they have signed national letters of intent.