UW spring football roundup – Day 1

It was back to work Monday for the Wyoming football team as it held its first of 15 spring practices.

UW used both its indoor facility and War Memorial Stadium for its workout, which lasted a little more than two hours. Players will be in shorts and helmets for the first two practices. They won’t be in full pads until the third practice on Saturday.

Here are some highlights from the first practice. Media is allowed to stay for only the first 30 minutes.


A few points of observation from Day 1:

–UW did some walk-through work prior to the start of practice and the guys who got most of the reps with the No. 1 offense along the offensive line were sophomore Ryan Cummings (left tackle), junior Chase Roullier (left guard), sophomore Charlie Renfree (center), redshirt freshman Richard Bettencourt (right guard) and sophomore Taylor Knestis (right tackle). Another who got in some work on the left side was sophomore tackle Kurtis Stirneman.

Cameron Coffman

Cameron Coffman

–Senior Cameron Coffman always seemed to be the first guy when the quarterbacks did individual drills, and he also worked with the No. 1 offense the most of the other four guys. What that means this early in spring is debatable, but I still believe he is the guy to beat in terms of UW’s starting quarterback.

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Three concerns for Wyoming football heading into spring drills

Are you ready for some football?

Wyoming is, and it starts spring drills Monday. It will be culminated by its spring game on Saturday, April 25.

I will have an analysis piece and feature in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and also at wyosports.net with more on UW spring football in terms of things to watch, etc.

But for now, here are my top three concerns for the Cowboys heading into spring:

Lucas Wacha

Lucas Wacha

1. Linebacker: Other than junior Lucas Wacha, there really isn’t much experience at any of the three linebacker spots. Senior Malkaam Muhammad returns, but even though he’s played in 17 games over his career, it mostly has been on special teams. Players and coaches have raved about Wacha this offseason, and he’s up to about 218 pounds now compared to 205 last season. Wacha will be the middle linebacker this season, and 218 pounds is awful small for that position. However, Wacha has shown that size doesn’t always matter for him as he’s been productive over his first two seasons along the outside. Muhammad must show he can play consistently well. Several players have switched positions and moved to linebacker. I think one of the outside spots will be secured by

Will Tutein

Will Tutein

junior Will Tutein, who moved over from safety. Tutein played more of a linebacker in UW’s final game against New Mexico last season, and he has good athletic ability to play there. Also will be curious to see how junior Eric Nzeocha makes the transition from receiver/tight end to linebacker. The brother of former UW linebacker Mark Nzeocha, Eric has some good natural ability and athleticism. How he makes the transition from offense to defense will be interesting. If I had to guess right now, those would be the three guys I think would be the starters coming out of spring.

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Bohl says Fresno State game was UW’s most complete effort this season

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl began his Monday news conference like he has the others this season — giving a quick recap of the previous game.

And he said the Cowboys’ 45-17 win at Fresno State last Saturday was his team’s most complete game in all three phases of the game this season.

Here is video of the entire news conference:


One question asked by the media that wasn’t on the video was about if there was renewed enthusiasm among the players after the win, and if thoughts or goals of getting bowl eligible with two more wins were being talked about.

Bohl said that hasn’t been an emphasis this season, and that the only goal this team has is to prepare to host Utah State Friday night.

Another good thing that came from the Fresno State game was no new injuries. However, Bohl said senior defensive ends Sonny Puletasi (leg) and Riley Lange (concussion), along with senior safety Jesse Sampson (knee) remain day-to-day. None of those three practiced Monday. UW defensive ends coach AJ Cooper wasn’t optimistic that Lange would play this week.

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No change on injury front for Cowboys

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl didn’t have a lot of updates regarding injuries prior to Tuesday’s practice, which was held outdoors in War Memorial Stadium.

Bohl said senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi (leg) and senior safety Jesse Sampson (knee) wouldn’t practice today. They will continue to be monitored throughout the week, but Bohl said even if they could play Saturday night at Fresno State, it would likely be in an emergency situation.

Redshirt freshman Tim Kamana and sophomore Will Tutein likely will start at both safety spots at Fresno State. Sophomore Xavier Lewis also will play. UW also will give true freshman cornerback Ryon’e Winters some snaps at safety this week..

Fresno State uses a lot of three and four wide receiver formations, which means UW could play a lot of nickel defense with more defensive backs in the game. That could help its depleted linebacking corps, who is without senior Mark Nzeocha (knee) and junior Malkaam Muhammad (elbow).

Senior linebacker Devyn Harris has played just about every linebacker position there is in his time at UW, and Bohl said Harris has been “a soldier” in terms being willing and able to learn multiple linebacker positions.

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UW-Colorado State postgame thoughts

Do you take any positives from Wyoming’s 45-31 loss at Colorado State Saturday?

The offense scored 28 second-half points, including 21 in the fourth quarter. Yes, those points came after the game was no longer in doubt. But, was it a positive and something the team can build on?

True freshman running back Brian Hill looked good after junior Shaun Wick left with a broken hand on the first series. Hill had 121 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. I think UW fans are going to like watching him run the ball in the future.

Defensively … OK, hard to draw many positives there as more injuries and missed tackles hurt the Cowboys (no pun intended) once again. Tim Harkins, UW’s sports information director who has been at the school more than 20 years, said he doesn’t remember this many injuries to a Cowboys’  team since former coach Joe Tiller’s first season in 1991 when around 20 players under went surgeries due to injuries.

Here is what first-year coach Craig Bohl said after the game:


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Bohl to see much improved Colorado State team Saturday

On Sept. 8, 2012, coach Craig Bohl took his North Dakota State team into Colorado State and beat the Rams 22-7.

That was the second game for then first-year Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, and the first of six straight losses for the Rams as they finished 4-8.

Craig Bohl

Craig Bohl

A little more than two years later, Bohl will take another team to Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins. This time as the first-year coach at Wyoming. While some of the Rams’ players and coaches will be the same, Colorado State is a much different squad.

Different in the fact that it is the hottest team in the Mountain West. The Rams have won five straight games, are 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference and became the first bowl-eligible team in the MW after its 16-13 home win over Utah State last week. The Rams also have won 12 of their last 15 games dating back to last season.

“They’ve made great strides with the program and it will be a big challenge,” said Bohl during his Monday news conference.

“You look at their quarterback and (senior Garrett) Grayson’s a guy who’s played an awful lot of football; he’s got 27 starts. He’s throwing the football well and he’s got a great touchdown-to-interception ratio (16 touchdowns, five interceptions). He’s operated the offense very well and I’ve seen significant improvement in him personally the last couple of years.

“While they replaced an awful lot of offensive linemen, they’re playing well as a group together. And they got good skilled players. On defense they have a strong conviction in their scheme and what they’re doing. Probably their strongest part of their whole football team is their special teams. When you put all three of those phases together, you’ve got a solid football team that’s well coached and that’s why they’re receiving top 25 votes.”

Here is video of Bohl’s news conference from Monday:


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UW fall camp – Day 10

Wyoming has an interesting situation forming at linebacker, and not just for this season.

All three of its projected starters — Mark Nzeocha and Devyn Harris on the outside, and Jordan Stanton inside — are seniors. Stanton’s backup, Alex Borgs, third-string outside linebacker Nehemie Kankolongo also are seniors.

There are only four linebackers on the depth chart on scholarship that are not seniors: sophomore Lucas Wacha, juniors Jeff Lark and Malkaam Muhammad and true freshman Alex Bush.

Lucas Wacha

Lucas Wacha

Wacha is the only one of that group that has seen significant and meaningful playing time, and that was last season as redshirt freshman. Right now, Wacha is out with a concussion.

It is safe to assume linebacker will be an emphasis for the 2015 recruiting class. But aside from getting the starters solidified and ready for the season, what about getting those non-senior backups ready not only for this season, but for the future?

“I’m focused right now who our best three guys in our base situation, and then who our best two nickel linebackers,” UW defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Stanard said. “As far as only having five guys coming back next year, (head coach) Craig Bohl focuses more on that stuff. He’s our director of player personnel.”

Steve Stanard

Steve Stanard

Stanard said Lark, Nzeocha’s backup, had a good summer and has had a good fall camp so far. Same with Harris. Stanard said the staff is trying to see if Bush can help the team on special teams.

Here is what Bohl said after Wednesday morning’s practice.


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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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Bohl impressed with veteran defensive ends

One of the first things first-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said that stood out about Saturday’s first spring practice in full pads (third overall) was the play of two veteran defensive ends — senior Sonny Puletasi and junior Eddie Yarbrough.

“That was real encouraging,” said Bohl on both players so far this spring. “We have some seasoned and veteran guys there, and it is important for them to get acclimated to the 4-3. Their leadership on the field has been good. We are young inside, but I’ve seen our ends pop up.”

Yarbrough led all of UW’s defensvie linemen last season with 89 tackles. He also had team-highs with 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks as he earned First Team All-Mountain West honors.

Puletasi, who switched his jersey number from 12 to 50 this season, had 47 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season. Puletasi has started in 21 games.

Here are some highlights from the defense from Saturday’s practice:

Bohl said no one has stood out among the five quarterbacks this spring. “We have a lot of work to do there,” Bohl added. We’re putting in a lot of offense. I think the guys are paying attention to detail, but it’s not easy.”

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UW’s defense gets boost with Mertens, Harris

The Wyoming football program got some good news this week when the school announced that defensive tackle Patrick Mertens and linebacker Devyn Harris were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Here is the story: http://www.wyosports.net/university_of_wyoming/football/ncaa-grants-harris-mertens-a-sixth-year-of-eligibility/article_de2dc0ee-7da0-11e3-9fd0-0019bb2963f4.html

Devyn Harris

Devyn Harris

This is good for UW because it needs all the help it can get defensively. We all know how much this group struggled last season  by allowing 36.7 points, 220.2 rushing yards, and 482 total yards per game.

Both players bring a lot of experience back, which can’t hurt. Combined, both have played in 74 games and started 48.

Patrick Mertens

Patrick Mertens

The weakest part of UW’s defense last season was the defensive line, and with new coach Craig Bohl wanting to run a 4-3 scheme, the importance of interior linemen is huge. Mertens doesn’t solve all of UW’s issues there, but it gives it another guy that his proven with 107 career tackles.

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