UW football Media Monday

He was humbled by the experience, sorry that it happened and grateful to be back.

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen was all of that Monday, which was his first time talking to the media since he was suspended by UW last week for the Oct. 13 tirade after the Air Force game. Christensen returned to work Sunday.

“Not being able to coach this football team was probably the most difficult pill I’ve ever had to swallow,” he said.

“These players mean the world to me. There’s no one else to blame for what happened except for myself. I also ask for forgiveness and an opportunity to move on and make the best of a bad situation.

“I’m sorry for it. I regret it and now I’m gong to move on.”

For more on Christensen’s return and his comments, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and also log on to www.wyosports.net.

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Former high school teammates reunite this week

Wyoming junior receiver Robert Herron is back, and should play in his first game since the opener at Texas when the Cowboys begin Mountain West play at Nevada Saturday.

For more on that see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

But what I found interesting was what Herron told me after my interview with him.

One of Herron’s high school teammates at Dorsey High in Los Angeles was Charles Garrett, who happens to be a sophomore starting cornerback at Nevada. Herron said both have been texting and talking to each other this week. It will be interesting to see if Herron actually draws Garrett in pass coverage.

Some other news and notes from UW’s Monday interview session with players and coaches:

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Hala’api’api to start against Toledo

Siaosi Hala’api’api has good size at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds (at least that what his coaches say he weighs). He has good instincts and is aggressive, too.

Now you can add starting middle linebacker for Wyoming when the Cowboys play their home-opener Saturday against Toledo.

The true freshman’s name appeared atop the depth chart today. Out is junior Devyn Harris, who was hurt in last Saturday’s 37-17 loss at No. 15 Texas with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Coach Dave Christensen said Monday he’s not sure how long Harris will be out.

Another interesting tidbit at middle linebacker is senior Oliver Schober is available this week. He missed last week with an injury, but is not listed on the two-deep roster. Seldom-used junior Todd Knight is Hala’api’api’s back up. It’s uncertain what’s going on with Schober, but now it seems not injury-related.

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UW depth chart vs. Texas

Not a lot of surprises here, and very similar to what I predicted on Sunday.

A little surprised redshirt freshman Zack Berg is the starter at SAM linebacker, and same with redshirt freshman Jake Jones at right guard. Expected both to play a lot in the opener Saturday at No. 15 Texas, and expect to see their backups as well.

The depth chart will be listed below, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

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UW spring football notes

Spring football at Wyoming begins March 19, or two weeks from Monday.

Been doing interviews with players and coaches for stories leading up to the start of practice, but wanted to share a few notes with you now:

–Sophomore quarterback Brett Smith won’t go through any contact drills and won’t scrimmage this spring after surgery earlier this winter. Smith, coach Dave Christensen and offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon all told me the surgery went well and Smith is expected to be fine for fall camp in August. “We don’t hit him anyway,” said Brandon about Smith and any of UW’s quarterbacks during practice.

Smith has been throwing the ball around lately and working out with teammates. UW doesn’t disclose injuries to specific players, but through social media Smith had surgery stemming from an injury to his right thumb/hand.

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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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Number crunching through two scrimmages

Was crunching some numbers from Wyoming’s first two scrimmages of fall camp to try and come to some conclusions on who we might see play this season. Here’s what I came up with.

At quarterback, true freshman Brett Smith has the best numbers so far. He’s 39 of 51 (76.5 completion percentage) for 483 yards with four TDs and one INT. His yards-per-completion is 12.4. Smith has ran the No. 1 offense in both scrimmages, and based on those numbers I would guess he will continue to.

Junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard seems to have an edge over true freshman Adam Pittser right now in the backup battle. He is 35 of 46 (76.1 completion percentage) for 221 yards with no TDs or INTs. Pittser is 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) for 210 yards with a TD and a INT. Both guys played better in last Friday’s second scrimmage compared to the first last Tuesday. I’ve been impressed with Kirkegaard’s accuracy, although he hasn’t attempted a lot of deep throws.

At running back, sophomore Brandon Miller has ran 19 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and a team-best 7.7 yards per carry (thanks in large part to a 53-yard run Friday). Junior Alvester Alexander has the most carries at 24 for 104 yards and three TDs. True freshman Kody Sutton has 23 carries for 114 yards. All three have shown some good things, and we’ve yet to see junior Ghaali Muhammad (injury). I think UW will be fine at running back, whoever gets the carries.

Sophomore Robert Herron and redshirt freshman Sam Stratton are the top receivers so far with 11 catches apiece. Senior Mazi Ogbonna has eight catches for 150 yards and two TDs, including a 76-yard touchdown. Miller has caught seven passes for 77 yards out of the backfield. Among the true freshmen receivers, Dominic Rufran has 12 catches for 65 yards, Trey Norman has five catches for 50 yards and Josh Doctson has four for 17. I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of them play this season.

Perhaps most impressive than anything from the receivers so far? Only three dropped passes in the first two scrimmages.

Haven’t seen a lot of movement or experimentation along the offensive line so far, which I think is good as the coaches must like what they’re seeing. Seniors Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins each have took turns playing with the No. 1 offense at right tackle. Wouldn’t be surprised if that continues all season.

Defensively, junior-college transfer linebacker/defensive end Korey Jones has been spectacular with 12 tackles, including five for loss. True freshman defensive end Eddie Yarbrough has six sacks. I really like the looks of this kid and could see him playing this season. Sophomore linebacker Todd Knight is taking advantage of his opportunity with some injuries at the position with 16 tackles. I would like to see how this defense can play when it gets some of its other LBs back like senior Brian Hendricks and true freshman Mark Nzeocha.

Other than Yarborough, I’ve been impressed with true freshman cornerback Blair Burns, who has 10 tackles, two pass break-ups and one tackle for loss in the two scrimmages. He saw a lot of time with the No. 2 defense in the second scrimmage. He could be a solid nickel back behind senior Tashaun Gipson and sophomore Marqueston Huff.

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Here are some links to stories for some of UW’s 2010 opponents. Note the trouble brewing at Colorado State.

http://www.standard.net/stories/2011/08/11/turnovers-most-important-stat-wildcats-2011

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20110814/SPORTS/108140352/CSU-suspends-3-due-rule-violations

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/aug/13/sdsu-riddle-one-ball-four-starting-tight-ends/

http://www.lvrj.com/sports/unlv-freshman-jefferson-steps-into-void-as-qb-s-key-protector-127677558.html

http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/08/14/1759969/defense-dominant-in-first-scrimmage.html

http://www.golobos.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/081411aac.html

http://www.gazette.com/sports/cobb-123199-fullback-steffon.html

Hope you will check out and vote in the new poll question on the blog. Another possible shake-up in terms of the college athletics landscape could be coming if Texas A&M and others go to the SEC. I don’t see this move having an impact on the Mountain West. If others follow A&M’s lead and leave the Big XII, then things could get interesting. But even then, I see the MW being OK and surviving all this. Thoughts?

Also hoping to do another live chat for Tuesday’s third scrimmage at UW. Will post more on that on Monday.

News, notes and quotes from Scrimmage #2

After looking so good Tuesday, one had to figure true freshman quarterback Brett Smith wouldn’t be as sharp in Friday’s second scrimmage for the Wyoming football team.

Smith threw an interception on his first series against the No. 2 defense, but came back and threw a 16-yard TD pass to senior Mazi Ogbonna later on. Smith was 15 of 23 for 160 yards with a touchdown and interception.

“(Smith’s) only struggles came against the No. 1 defense, really,” said coach Dave Christensen, who isn’t allowing quarterbacks to talk to the media. “That’s not all bad. I hope our No. 1 defense is better than our twos. It was good for (Smith) to go against the top guys, even though he does every day in practice. I thought he was fine. He made a couple of rookie mistakes, but that’s why you practice and get them corrected.

Smith guided the No. 1 offense only for the second straight scrimmage. In four series against the No. 1 defense, Smith was able to generate a field goal and that came in the red zone period.

True freshman Adam Pittser and junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard were much better today, especially Pittser. Kirkegaard was 16 of 21 for 124 yards; Pittser was 15 of 32 for 133. He struggled a bit late, but Pittser looked much more comfortable.

“I thought Adam and Colby improved drastically from the last scrimmage, which was great,” Christensen said. “I would have liked (all three quarterbacks) to be where they’re at now. If we were further behind we’d be in trouble. They’ve made great progress.”

Christensen didn’t name a starter after today, nor would you expect him to. I think Smith still has the advantage, but the gap may have been closed somewhat.

Some other notes and quotes:

–Christensen said junior running back Ghaali Muhammad could play in the next scrimmage, but may hold him out until the final scrimmage a week from Saturday. He said Muhammad has taken live reps in practice this week. He’s still nursing an injury suffered in the off-season.

–Senior defensive end Gabe Knapton is sporting quite the beard these days. He’s been growing it since Christmas and doesn’t plan to shave it any time soon. “I’m too lazy to shave it right now. I’ve been playing good with it and I think I’m going to keep it,” he said. Knapton said his girlfriend isn’t the biggest fan of the beard, but thinks his teammates like it. Said junior linebacker Korey Jones: “I like the beard. It’s a nice look and style for Gabe. Knapton said he doesn’t trim the beard, but puts some “product” in it once in a while. When asked if it stinks, Jones said: “I never got close enough to tell.”

–UW’s top three receivers in the scrimmage were freshmen. True freshman Dominic Rufran caught eight passes for 63 yards. Redshirt freshman Sam Stratton caught seven for 63 yards, and true freshman Trey Norman caught five passes for 50 yards. All three were impressive.

–Christensen didn’t seem concerned that true freshman kicker Daniel Sullivan struggled. Sullivan didn’t play because of an injury Tuesday. He was only 5 of 10 in field goals Friday with a long of 32. He often kicked the ball low. Christensen said both he and redshirt freshman walk-on Stuart Williams needs to heal up and get over some soreness.

–Was very impressed by junior linebacker/defensive end Korey Jones. Nine tackles in the scrimmage, including three for loss. He’s going to have a good season.

–Speaking of linebackers, true freshman Mark Nzeocha didn’t play in the scrimmage due to injury, but Christensen said he would be ready for the first game. Injuries to him and others like seniors Brian Hendricks and Oliver Schober, have forced UW to move some guys around position-wise, and also just on the field to try and confuse teams. Jones is a good example of that playing sometimes as a stand-up end or a traditional linebacker. “The more you can move the more of an effect you can have on our opponent. They can’t study on one thing. You can confuse the offene nand I like it,” said senior defensive end Gabe Knapton, who also has played at defensive tackle in some situations during camp.

–True freshman defensive end Eddie Yarborough had three sacks and eight total tackles. It all came mostly against the second and third-team offenses, but he has 15 tackles and four sacks in two scrimmages. “He’s had a great camp,” Christensen said. “He’s going to be a heck of a player for us. Eddie is fortunate in that he’s playing a position where we have a lot of experience right now. If we play him or redshirt him it’s not all that bad. I don’t see a negative in either one. He’s big enough and physical enough to play, and if we had him in his fifth year he could be an All-American by then.”

–Friday marked the eighth day of fall camp for UW, and it’s already had two scrimmages. I asked junior safety Kenny Browder, who has been around for all three fall camps under Christensen, if this was the most physical fall camp he’s been a part of with the Cowboys: “Definately. Coach C makes it a point to be physical every day. … “It’s toug and a grind, but that’s football.”

See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on Friday’s scrimmage. Thanks to all those who joined me for the live chat today. I hope to do it again for Tuesday’s scrimmage.