Bath breaks down UW’s running backs this spring

It’s been three months since Wyoming football played its last game, but football returns to UW starting Tuesday with the first of 15 spring practices.

Brian Hill

The Cowboys must replace junior running back Brian Hill, who left UW after his junior year to try his hand a pro football. Hill was UW’s career-leader in rushing yards (4,287) and rushing touchdowns (35).

The top four guys — in alphabetical order — to watch this spring are junior Nico Evans (5-9, 205), redshirt freshman Mike Green (5-11, 205), sophomore Milo Hall (5-8, 190) and redshirt sophomore Kellen Overstreet (5-11, 215).

“Each one of them is unique,” UW running backs coach Mike Bath said. “Nico physically looks good. He’s strong and works his rear end off. I think he can be a Shaun Wick type of guy, which is positive. He’s smart, reliable and understands hat we want to get accomplished.

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Hill takes pride in how opponents try to defend him

Last season, teams knew Wyoming was going to run the football with running back Brian Hill.

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

As a result, opponents stacked with box with eight or nine guys more often than not. Still, Hill ran for a single-season school record of 1,631 yards in 2015.

“I enjoy the attention, and I like the challenge when teams put eight or nine guys in the box,” Hill said. “I would enjoy to see just seven, but to see teams give me that repsct gives me some pride.

“This year, I’m praying for an eight-man box because we have a quarterback that can sling it, and Im excited to see wht he’s going to do.”

Hill is referring to redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen, the clear-cut starter when fall camp begin Monday, Aug. 8.

But until Allen and the rest of the offense proves otherwise, teams will continue to stack the box against the Cowboys.

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UW football’s biggest gainers

Here are some of the biggest “gains” in terms of Wyoming football players and weight from the end of last season and as spring drills began Tuesday in Laramie.

Weights are from UW’s depth chart prior to its 2015 season-finale against UNLV and its current depth chart before the start of spring football. In the case of running back Brian Hill, I went off the weights he told me personally. Players’ classes in terms of eligibility are listed next to each weight.

Player                                End of 2015                          Spring of 2016

OT Zach Wallace                    265 (Fr.)                                    297 (So.)

QB Josh Allen                       216  (So.)                                 230 (RSo.)

FS Andrew Wingard               194  (Fr.)                                   207 (So.)

LB Lucas Wacha                    214  (Jr.)                                    230 (Sr.)

LB Eric Nzeocha                    218  (Jr.)                                     231 (Sr.)

NT Dalton Fields                    274  (So.)                                   293 (Jr.)

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Media Monday: Wyoming starts preparations for Air Force

At 0-5, to say anything came easy for the Cowboys would be grossly false. But the Cowboys start a string of six consecutive Mountain West games this week against teams that went to bowl games last season. The first is at Air Force at 8:15 p.m. MT in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.

Here is second-year-coach Craig Bohl at his weekly news conference Monday.

There wasn’t a lot of movement on UW’s depth chart heading into this game. Bohl is hopeful senior running back Shaun Wick (concussion) will return this week. Wick was not listed on the depth chart.

Sophomore Josh Tapscott was the backup behind sophomore Brian Hill. Tapscott and redshirt freshman Nico Evans both got carries in UW’s 31-13 loss at Appalachian State last week as Wick didn’t make the trip.

Hill had 208 yards on a career-high 30 carries last week, and until Wick returns, look to see a lot of Hill in UW’s backfield.

“There’s a pretty significant drop-off between Brian and the other players,” Bohl said. “We thought about getting (true freshman Kellen Overstreet) in there, but we we also thought having three or four tailbacks in the game would be counter-productive. Depending on the type of run, we can insert Josh and Nico, and they held their own last week. But Brian is going to get the lion’s share of the carries. As he goes, our offense goes.”

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Former Cowboy Nevermann now at North Dakota, but not playing this week

Former Wyoming football player Oscar Nevermann is now playing for North Dakota, and ironically, those two teams open the season at 2 p.m. Saturday at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

Oscar Nevermann

Oscar Nevermann

Nevermann, who is from Sweden and a junior at UND, came to UW as a running back and was moved to linebacker before he left.

Normally when a player transfers from an FBS school, like UW, to a FCS school, like North Dakota, they can play right away without having to sit out a year. But that’s not the case for Nevermann.

UW coach Craig Bohl and UW sports information director Tim Harkins both said Tuesday that UW athletics has a policy that states if a player transfers to a school that’s on the Cowboys’ schedule the following season, that player must sit out a year.

“That’s standard procedure, and it wasn’t any decision I made,” Bohl said.

Tom Miller, who covers North Dakota football for the Grand Forks Herald, told me via email that Nevermann was in fall camp for UND, and “looked pretty good at running back.” Miller also said that UND folks feel Bohl is being difficult because of the North Dakota-North Dakota State rivalry. As most of you know, Bohl coached at North Dakota State for 11 years from 2003-13 before coming to UW. However, UND and NDSU only played once when Bohl was the NDSU coach, and that was in 2003. North Dakota State made the move from Division II to Division I-AA. North Dakota waited a few years before it made the switch.

I will have a Q&A with Miller later this week about the UW-UND game.

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Cowboys begin final week of fall camp

Wyoming first practice of the final week of fall camp was Monday morning in War Memorial Stadium. The Cowboys will practice twice Monday, with the second one at 3:50 p.m.

Monday is the 14th straight day UW has practiced since the start of fall camp, and Monday afternoon’s work out will be its 20th.

Shaun Wick

Shaun Wick

The Cowboys had their full collection of running backs. Senior Shaun Wick (concussion), sophomore Josh Tapscott (illness) and redshirt freshman Nico Evans (hamstring) all practiced, as did sophomore Brian Hill, who didn’t play in last Saturday’s scrimmage due to a tight hamstring.

Here are some highlights from the early portions of practice.


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Saturday’s scrimmage another step forward for Coffman

It’s not a real game, but it’s the next closest thing for Wyoming as it hosts its first and only major scrimmage of fall camp at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Major may not be a good work as coach Craig Bohl said it will consist of around 42 plays. “That’s an indication that we’ve had a pretty aggressive camp,” he said. “We will get some work to some of the guys we think need work. We will hold some guys out. I’ve looked at the number of guys we need to take a look at, and I also want to make sure we go into our first game healthy.”

The scrimmage is closed to the public and media, but here’s what Bohl said after Friday morning’s practice about it, and a few other things.

Cameron Coffman

Cameron Coffman

Redshirt senior starting quarterback Cameron Coffman feels like the scrimmage is important for him. Coffman has not played in a real game since 2013. The last time in a scrimmage-situation was in April in UW’s spring game.

“It’s as close of a look at a real game before our first one,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to go out, compete and act like it’s a real game.

“It’s definitely a whole lot easier going through this offense for the second time. I feel more comfortable with everybody. I know the plays, the playbook and the reads. I’ve gotten better at it, but need to continue to get better.”

As for what he wants to accomplish in Saturday’s scrimmage, Coffman added: “Compete and do well as an offense. Move the ball down the field, get first downs and get in the end zone.”

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Some final UW spring football notes, quotes and video

Some observations and quotes from Wyoming’s spring football game Saturday in Laramie.

–The hit of the game came in the first half when redshirt freshman free safety Chavez Pownell Jr. drilled junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry over the middle. Pownell was penalized for targeting, which could lead to an ejection in a real game. As a learning lesson, UW coach Craig Bohl had Pownell sit the rest of the game.

Tanner Gentry

Tanner Gentry

“I looked up for the ball and he made a really good hit,” Gentry said. “He put his helmet right in my chest. It didn’t feel too good, but he made a good play on the ball and it was a good hit. There was nothing dirty about it.”

Gentry was shaken up on the play, but he came back and played the second half. He led the Gold team with five catches for 62 yards.

Added Pownell: “The quarterback was looking down Tanner, I knew the post was coming so I ended up breaking on the play and it was just football after that. We did all this hard work during the spring and winter conditioning so I just wanted to play.”

–Gentry was one of only three wide receivers who caught passes in the spring game for either team. Junior Jake Maulhardt sat out with a sprained shoulder. “I feel like we have a lot of work to do, for sure,” Gentry said. “We definitely have to get better. I feel like we progressed pretty well this spring. We have to have a great summer.”

UW has four true freshmen receivers that join the team this summer.

Here is Bohl talking with the media after the spring game.


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Quarterbacks picking it up as spring drills draw to an end

There hasn’t been much drama with Wyoming’s quarterbacks in terms of who would be named the starter.

Cameron Coffman

Cameron Coffman

Senior Cameron Coffman was that guy just after UW’s first scrimmage of the spring a couple of weeks ago. Junior college transfer and sophomore Josh Allen remains the No. 2 quarterback.

But one thing second-year coach Craig Bohl has been disappointed with in UW’s two spring scrimmages has been the completion percentage from all of UW’s quarterbacks. The four currently on the roster now are a combined 26 of 66, a completion percentage of 39.3 percent.

Coffman has the best percentage at just under 50 percent at 13 of 27.

Allen, we’ve been told, has a big arm but is still learning to control it — as well as learn UW’s offense. In the two scrimmages Allen is 6 of 17.

Bohl said at the start of Wednesday’s 13th practice of the spring that Monday’s practice was the best day all of UW’s quarterbacks had throwing and completing passes. However, after Wednesday’s Bohl said said he’s still seeing a few too many errant throws and decisions.

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Stats from Wyoming’s first two scrimmages of spring drills

Here are the combined stats from Wyoming’s first two scrimmages of spring drills, along with some quick thoughts.

UW’s spring game is at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 25 in Laramie.

Offense

Josh Tapscott

Josh Tapscott

Rushing: Tapscott 25-177, Evans 21-182 2TD, Wick 12-81 1TD, Hill 14-64. Thoughts: UW know what senior Shaun Wick and sophomore Brian Hill can do. Sophomore Josh Tapscott and redshirt freshman Nico Evans gives UW good depth. Easily the strongest position on the team.

Passing: Coffman 13-27 133 1TD, Allen 6-17 134 1TD, 1INT, Smith 5-12 25 1TD, 1INT, Young 2-10 15. Thoughts: The completion percentage needs to improve for all the quarterbacks. Both scrimmages have emphasized the run more than the pass.

Jacob Hollister

Jacob Hollister

Receiving: Maulhardt 8-110, Gentry 5-82 1TD, Hollister 5-44 1TD, Mayfield 4-52, Lewis 2-15 1TD, Ellis 2-6, Parker 1-9, Tapscott 1-6. Thoughts: Juniors Jake Maulhardt and Tanner Gentry continue to show they are the Cowboys’ top two wide receivers, but only true freshman Joe Parker has caught a pass in the two scrimmages among the other wide receivers. Junior tight end Jacob Hollister will be a threat in the pass game.

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