UW vs. UNLV football preview: Notes, quotes and video

My top key for Wyoming Saturday in its season-finale football game against UNLV:

Balanced offense: Wyoming needs to run the ball, but it also needs to get the pass game going. A big reason why the Cowboys have scored 10 points over their last two games is that the production through the air hasn’t been there. The weather will be cold and more geared toward running the ball, but UW can’t be one dimensional and must make some plays throwing the ball.

Here are more keys in my preview video:

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Cowboys’ O-line showing progress, will return experience

Two of the eight seniors on the Wyoming football roster are seniors — guard Troy Boyland and center Rafe Kiely.

Troy Boyland

Troy Boyland

However, in offensive line coach Scott Fuchs’ mind, he returns five starting offensive linemen for the 2016 season.

That’s because sophomore Charlie Renfree started the first 10 games this season at center. Kiely did some good things in practice late in the season, and Renfree was a bit banged up. Kiely started in UW’s Nov. 14 game at San Diego State and will start in the Cowboys’ season-finale Saturday at home against UNLV. Renfee and Kiely have split time in UW’s first 10 games, but Renfree saw most of the playing time.

Boyland started in nine of 11 games, but true freshman Kaden Jackson started two. And, both have played in all 11 games this season. Boyland moved from defensive line to offensive line this season.

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New roles for UW wide receivers amid Gentry injury

Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said Monday he’s “hopeful” junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry will play Saturday at Boise State after suffering a sprained shoulder in UW’s 28-21 win over Nevada last Saturday.

Gentry’s status for the game won’t be known until later this week, but it’s probably a long-shot that he plays. Gentry leads UW with 37 catches for 678 yards, and is tied for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns. His receiving  yards is 15th in the country, and his 96.9 receiving yards per game is 19th.

So, who steps up for the Cowboys while Gentry is out, whether it is just the Boise State game or future games?

Jake Maulhardt

Jake Maulhardt

The first guy is junior Jake Maulhardt, who is second behind Gentry with 36 catches for 366 yards, and is tied with Gentry on the team with four touchdowns. Maulhardt plays the ‘X’ receiver spot, while Gentry plays the ‘Y.’ Maulhardt is a bigger target than Gentry at 6-foot-6, but doesn’t have the speed Gentry has.

“My number may be called more,” Maulhardt said. “I need to capitalize on it an make plays for the team. If it happens, Im ready for it.”

The two guys who likely will see more playing time if Gentry is out are a pair of true freshmen — James Price and Joe Parker. Combined, those two have caught 7 passes for 68 yards this season.

James Price

James Price

Maulhardt thinks Price is similar to Gentry in terms of his size (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) and abilities. Parker is smaller (5-10, 182) and seems like more of a slot receiver than an edge guy. Maulhardt said true freshman Justice Murphy played a lot more last week against Nevada, and is “one of the most athletic guys on the team.”

Gentry and Maulhardt have caught 57 percent of UW’s completed passes this season. Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said human nature often takes over when guys are pressed into stepping up for a team due to an injury to a teammate as compared to trying to compete for playing time when everyone is healthy and front-line guys are being productive.

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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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Media Monday: News, notes, video from UW football’s weekly news conference

Most of the talk on this day was the moves UW is making defensively, especially at linebacker.

Lucas Wacha

Lucas Wacha

Junior Lucas Wacha moves from weak-side to the middle. Sophomore Tim Kamana moves from the strong-side to the weak-side. Junior Eric Nzeocha is benched and now will back up Wacha in the middle.

UW also wills start true freshman Antonio Hull at one of the two cornerback spots, opposite of sophomore Robert Priester.

Here is UW defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Stanard on the moves:

What do you think folks, do you think these moves will help UW’s defense, especially against the big plays it has given up (12 of 30 yards or more, nine of which for touchdowns)?

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UW football Media Monday: Some thoughts, notes and video

As Wyoming prepares this week for its first Mountain West game, the question was posed to a lot of the players, and coach Craig Bohl, if this week was a sort of fresh start. You know, kind of a feel like a season-opener with the first conference game after a frustrating 0-3 start to the season.

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

Most of the people I talked to didn’t take that approach. Sophomore running back Brian Hill described the game as a “must win.” Bohl said this is another week for the team to show improvement.

Here’s Bohl on that and several other things during his news conference Monday:

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Cowboys’ offensive line seeking improvement

Scott Fuchs

Scott Fuchs

I asked Wyoming offensive line coach Scott Fuchs this week what some of the glaring concerns were with his guys in the Cowboys’ 24-13 season-opening loss to North Dakota last Saturday.

Fuchs wouldn’t use the term “glaring concerns,” but had this to say about what needs to improve heading into Saturday’s home game with Eastern Michigan.

“We talked about having  good idea of what (North Dakota) was going to do, some things get tweaked here or there, and our ability to adjust on the fly needs to be sharpened,” he said.

Troy Boyland

Troy Boyland

Fuchs said senior right offensive guard Troy Boyland didn’t play like a “savvy veteran,” but he isn’t as last week was his first college game along the offensive line after being an interior defensive lineman.

“It was much faster. Not to say we don’t practice fast, but during a game things like defenses slanting are really fast,” Boyland said. “It took us a while to adjust and get a hand of what they were doing. Once we settled down we did a lot better.”

UW ran for only 29 yards, and its top two running backs — senior Shaun Wick and sophomore Brian Hill — combined for only 16 carries. Boyland said the entire line needs to do a better job of making its blocks at the second level where the linebackers are.

Penalties also hurt where UW had eight for 96 yards in the game. Not all of those were on the offensive line, but there were a fair share of holding and face-mask penalties.

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Olive looks to translate weight room numbers to the field

There’s two things that stand out when you talk to Wyoming junior defensive tackle Uso Olive in person.

One, he’s an upbeat and charismatic guy.

Uso Olive

Uso Olive

Two, he’s big.

Olive is 6-foot, and when I talked to him prior to spring drills he said he was 306 pounds with 15 percent body fat. That’s a whole lot of muscle.

Olive said prior to the end of winter conditioning that he can rep more than 500 pounds on the bench press and squat around 700 pounds. That’s freaky-strength right there.

Second-year coach Craig Bohl said during spring drills that he would like to see Olive’s numbers in the weight room translate more onto the field this season. Bohl also said there have been sign’s this spring that they might.

“We need him to have the size and strength to occupy two men, sometimes, and not get knocked off the line of scrimmage,” Bohl said. “The next step is to play more reps in a game — to take more than four plays in a row. The other thing we’re expecting him to do is be disruptive and push the pocket where we can get a guard in on the quarterback’s lap.”

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A look at the first depth chart of spring for Wyoming football

Wyoming released its first depth chart of spring drills Monday. Here is the link to the depth chart:

http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/wyo/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/2014-15/depth_chart_non_event/4-13-15_depth_chart.pdf

Will this what it will look like in less than two weeks when spring drills end, or when the Cowboys open the season Sept. 5 against North Dakota?

Some positions, yes. Others, no.

Here is a fairly quick and short breakdown of what I think of this first depth chart:

Cameron Coffman

Cameron Coffman

Locks: Senior Cameron Coffman at quarterback, senior Shaun Wick and Brian Hill at running back, juniors Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt at wide receiver, junior Jacob Hollister at tight end, sophomore Drew Van Maanen at fullback, junior Chase Roullier at left guard, seniors Eddie Yarbrough and Siaosi Hala’api’api at defensive end, junior Uso Olive at defensive tackle, junior Lucas Wacha at one of the three linebacker spots (which one is still uncertain) and junior Ethan Wood at punter. I don’t see much movement at any of these spots barring injury.

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What to take from Wyoming’s first scrimmage of spring drills

Normally after Wyoming football or basketball games I will post my three takes or other observations.

Since the Cowboys’ first scrimmage of spring drills was closed to the public and media Saturday, it’s hard to do that, but I can offer you some stats, quotes and a couple of opinions based off those items.

First, here’s coach Craig Bohl after the scrimmage:

The offense ran for 226 yards — averaged 4.6 yards per carry — and the passing game was 13 of 38 for 136 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Bohl said he liked how sophomore running back Brian Hill ran the ball, but he had only five carries for 15 yards. Sophomore Josh Tapscott and redshirt freshman Nico Evans led the Cowboys with 65 and 51 yards, respectively. I would think UW has a good idea of what Hill and senior Shaun Wick can do at running back (Wick had 40 yards on seven carries and lost a fumble).

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