A look at position battles for UW heading into fall camp

Fall camp begins Monday for Wyoming football, and a lot needs to be figured out prior to the season-opener Aug. 30 against Montana.

But in terms of position battles, things likely will be relatively quiet.

UW’s depth chart prior to fall camp lists three positions that are “or” in terms of the starter. But no matter who the starter is, let’s make one thing clear: both guys at those positions will play — and need to play. All three are on defense, which is dangerously thin in terms od depth to begin with.

With that said, here is a breakdown of those three spots and who will likely end up as the starter.

Middle linebacker

Candidates: Jordan Stanton, Sr., 6-0, 246; Alex Borgs, Sr., 6-2, 229.

Jordan Stanton

Jordan Stanton

Who will start: Stanton, because he led the team in tackles last season — his first at UW after transferring from junior college — with 134. He also was tied for second with 10 tackles for loss and led the team with two interceptions. He simply is productive, which is what you want from your middle linebacker. Borgs has six career tackles in three seasons. However, he has a want-to that many coaches would like to see from all their players. Borgs is from Germany and has had to deal with numerous defensive schemes and changes over his career. If he picks up where he left off from spring drills, he will be a good backup behind Stanton and can give UW some quality snaps. It is vital that Borgs can, even in a backup role, so Stanton is not on the field so much.

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Bohl wants to see Cowboys finish

Wednesday marked the final spring practice in full pads for Wyoming prior to its spring game at 2 p.m. Saturday.

And, first-year coach Craig Bohl said after Wednesday’s practice he could tell that some of the players may have been looking ahead to Saturday’s spring game, a Friday practice in just sweats and the end of spring drills in the coming days.

“I think some of our guys might have had the attitude that they want to get through today’s practice and spring ball is about done,” Bohl said. “We have to learn how to finish, and I don’t think we are there yet.”

“It’s a process. They want to do well and want to win, but I’m not confident they know how to win.”

UW continues to work on its kicking game this week. Senior kicker Stuart Williams looked good kicking several field goals from different distances.

The Cowboys continue to work with different kickoff returners. Senior receivers Jalen Claiborne and Trey Norman, sophomore receiver Trent Sewell and redshirt sophomore D.J. May and junior Shaun Wick — both running backs — are getting reps.

Here are some highlights of that, and other early portions of Wednesday’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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Tuesday’s football practice notes

Some news and notes from Tuesday’s Wyoming football practice:

–Coach Dave Christensen on the practice, which lasted a little more than two hours: “We had a good practice. We haven’t had a lot problems coming out and practicing well. We have some things we need to get cleaned up, but the effort was there today. It was a good, physical practice.”

–The battle on who starts at center, strong safety and strong-side linebacker is in full go. Sophomore Rafe Kiely and junior Albert Perez both took snaps with the No. 1 offense at center. Junior Chad Reese took advantage of his reps at strong safety. He had an interception of junior quarterback Brett Smith. Junior Mark Nzeocha looked to have the best day at strong-side linebacker. Nzeocha, the starter so far this season, intercepted Smith early in practice on a pass that as tipped by freshman receiver Tanner Gentry.

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Norman makes impact in different ways

Wyoming junior receiver Trey Norman was involved only in two pass plays in last week’s 38-31 homecoming win over New Mexico.

Trey Norman

Trey Norman

But they were significant plays — for different reasons.

On UW’s first series of the game, Norman caught a 30-yard pass along New Mexico’s sideline. Officials ruled it a catch, it was reviewed by video replay and it held up. Two plays later, sophomore running back Shaun Wick scored on an 11-yard touchdown run to put UW up 7-0.

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UW-New Mexico postgame thoughts

It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was ugly at times.

But the bottom line is that Wyoming is now 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West after its 38-31 homecoming win over New Mexico Saturday in Laramie in front of a season-best crowd of 22,853 at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

There were times the offense and defense looked good … and times both struggled.

But in the end the defense forced three turnovers. The final one — an interception by junior safety Jesse Sampson in his first-ever game at UW — led to a 48-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Brett Smith.

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UW’s scout team being tested this week

Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen liked the the effort from his players during Tuesday morning’s practice inside Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

UW hosts New Mexico Saturday, as well as the Lobos’ top-ranked rushing offense in the nation. The Lobos run a lot of different looks out of its pistol formation, and also run some triple-option.

What is interesting with games like this is how UW’s scout team simulates the opposition’s offense, and who does what.

Junior receiver and former quarterback Sam Stratton has been the option quarterback of New Mexico on the scout team. Senior Colby Kirkegaard has been the throwing quarterback. New Mexico could play two quarterbacks Saturday.

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Kankolongo suspended for targeting

Just minutes before coach Dave Christensen’s Monday news conference, media members got word that Wyoming junior linebacker Nehemie Kankolongo was suspended for one game by the Mountain West for targeting.

This coming after a hit by Kankolongo on Air Force running back Anthony LaCoste on a

Nehemie Kankolongo

Nehemie Kankolongo

kickoff return in the second quarter. It was a big hit. It caused a fumble, UW recovered and scored a touchdown en route to its 56-23 road victory.

There was no penalty on Kankolongo on the play. There was a penalty, but it was for too much celebrating by the Cowboys. The MW reviewed the play, and made its decision, and according to its press release had the right to make that decision.

What do you think folks, was this targeting and should Kankolongo have been suspended? Let me know what you think.

From what replays I saw, it looked like he used his arm to make the initial hit. One could argue he lunged his body toward LaCoste, but it also looked like he was blocked or pushed into him as well.

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Christensen fields questions about last year’s Air Force tirade

First off, Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen answered questions about this year’s Air Force team — the one the Cowboys play Saturday night at Air Force to open Mountain West play.

But you knew questions would soon follow about Christensen’s obscenity-laced tirade toward Air Force coach Troy Calhoun after last season’s 28-27 Cowboys loss to the Falcons in Laramie.

Wyoming will wear is camo-patterned uniforms for Saturday's game at Air Force. The Cowboys wore these uniforms for last year's game with the Falcons. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Wyoming will wear is camo-patterned uniforms for Saturday’s game at Air Force. The Cowboys wore these uniforms for last year’s game with the Falcons. Photo by Robert Gagliardi/WyoSports

Christensen, who was suspended one game and fined $50,000 for the incident, answered the questions with class and calmness. But one could tell he didn’t want to spend all of Monday answering questions about it.

“I am not playing one snap, and I don’t think Troy is, either,” he said. “Our focus is on execution and being ready to play Saturday night. My behavior is going to be much better. I will watch my Ps and Qs.”

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UW-Northern Colorado post game thoughts

I wrote my column for Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and for wyosports.net, on the fact that UW’s offense hasn’t been that great the last two weeks. The statistics are not bad, but it has not been consistent, and at times it hasn’t executed well.

Agree or disagree with me there. The Cowboys beat Northern Colorado 35-7 Saturday, but had two defensive touchdowns — impressive in its own right.

Have we put too high of expectations with this offense after what it did in the opener at No. 23 Nebraska (who will be out of the polls come Monday after being blasted at home by UCLA)?

What do you think?

UW allowed four sacks. Junior quarterback Brett Smith hurt his right ankle,and said it hurt after the game despite not missing any time. The deep pass hasn’t been there the last couple of weeks.

Things need to get better, and fast, and Smith better be able to play. I don’t think he will do much in practice early this week. Smith said he will have an x-ray on the ankle soon.

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