Happy post-Thanksgiving all. Hope you are having a wonderful holiday weekend.
Here is some pregame reading prior to Wyoming’s regular-season finale at New Mexico Saturday. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. MT, and the game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet.
First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:
Good start: Wyoming needs to play well from start to finish, but a good start for the team, and in particular redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, is important. Especially for Vander Waal to get his confidence going and into the flow of the game. We’ve seen this season (last week against Air Force and in the opener at New Mexico State) that when Vander Waal starts well, he plays well through the course of games.
Some notes and quotes leading up to Wyoming’s football game at Missouri Saturday. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. MT from Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri.
— “We had too many mental mistakes and shot ourselves in the foot. Too many penalties and too many third downs we didn’t covernt. We know we can do better and hold ourselves to ta higher standard. We didn’t play up tot hat standard.” — UW redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal on last week’s 41-19 loss to Washington State. Many UW fans are frustrated with the offensive play-calling and not seeing much from Vander Waal throwing the ball over the first two games. I wrote a column on that earlier this week. Here’s the link:
For any of you who read posts on this blog, I like to have a little fun on certain holidays. This week, I asked several Wyoming football players and coaches their favorite Easter candy. Here is what some of them said.
Cornerbacks coach John Richardson: Reese’s eggs.
Redshirt junior cornerback Antonio Hull: “I’d have to call my mom and ask her. I don’t eat candy now that I’m a college football player.”
Here is my No. 1 key for the Cowboys entering this game:
More offense, less defense: Meaning Wyoming’s offense must do a better job of sustaining drives and finishing with points, which will keep the defense fresher and better equipped to make plays. The defense was on the field for two-thirds of the game last week against Hawaii, and 97 plays two weeks ago against Oregon. Even though the defense has played well for the most part, it can’t be on the field that long game after game. Yes, the defense can help itself by making more plays to get off the field sooner, but it needs more help from the offense.
I feel like I’m sounding like a broken record about this No. 1 key the last few weeks.
The second half of fall camp for the Cowboys started Monday morning as they practiced in full pads in War Memorial Stadium.
Injury-wise, fourth-year coach Craig Bohl said junior tight end Austin Fort of Gillette will have an MRI on his knee Monday. Fort hurt his right knee in a non-contact drill Friday. He watched Monday’s practice wearing a large brace on the knee.
“We think he is okay, and the initial response was positive with some improvement over the weekend,” Bohl said. “We’ll get more information, but Austin has had a great fall camp. We are at the point now where we have experienced tight ends and more depth.”
Fort and junior Josh Harshman of Casper entered fall camp as tied atop the depth chart, with junior Tyree Mayfield not far behind. Fort played only three offensive snaps last season — his first in making the transition from quarterback to tight end.
Players reported Sunday, and the first practice of fall camp for the Wyoming football team is Monday morning. There is no media access to Monday’s practice because UW will have its media day for football at noon Monday.
But during the MW Media Summit in Las Vegas I talked to fourth-year coach Craig Bohl and junior safety Andrew Wingard about a few things about the team heading into camp.
This is what Bohl said about the position battles he expects to see in camp: “At running back, we made progress during the spring, and I would like to and see someone come to forefront there. At tight end, we have a lot of players, but they are guys who have not played a lot. I also see a pretty intense battle at cornerback. We have some experienced players, but a young guy like (sophomore) Tyler Hall really came on during the spring.”
Sophomore Milo Hall came out of spring as the starter at running back, but junior Nico Evans and redshirt sophomore Kellen Overstreet aren’t that far behind. Two Wyoming
products are atop the depth chart at tight end in junior Josh Harshman of Casper and junior Austin Fort of Gillette. Junior Tyree Mayfield may be the most talented tight end UW has, but he is listed third on the depth chart entering fall camp. Hall earned one of the two starting jobs at cornerback after spring drills, but junior Antonio Hull and seniors Robert Priester and Rico Gafford have played a lot of football for the Cowboys.
“The only position we don’t figure to be a lot of competition (in terms of being the starter) is at quarterback,” said Bohl with a smile when talking about junior quarterback Josh Allen, the preseason MW Offensive Player of the Year voted on by the media.
Wyoming football is in the homestretch of spring football with nine of its 15 practices in the books.
The Cowboys’ scrimmage in Casper this past Saturday provided some glimpses of what could be this season, although its difficult to get a great gauge of what to expect this season when a team goes against each other.
Still, it appears that junior quarterback Josh Allen is making good progress in building chemistry with the weapons around him. Allen was relatively sharp in Casper, going 11 of 19 for 133 yards with a pair of touchdown passes to junior wide receiver James Price. However, sophomore wide receivers C.J. Johnson and Austin Conway also looked good.
Here is Allen after the scrimmage:
Earlier this spring, fourth-year UW coach Craig Bohl was concerned about the way the tight ends were catching the ball. But in Casper, juniors Josh Harshman, Austin Fort and Tyree Mayfield all showed good skills catching the ball.
As far as the running backs go, I still contend that UW will have more of a three-back attack this fall. Redshirt sophomore Kellen Overstreet (11 carries 49 yards in the scrimmage) showed some nice speed and power, as did junior Nico Evans (10 carries, 30 yards). Don’t be surprised if sophomore Milo Hall becomes a third-down weapon out of the backfield, both carrying the ball and catching it.
It will be nice once the illness bug that has run through this team finally ends. UW was without its starting center in Casper — sophomore Gavin Rush — due to illness. Backup Boyd Draeger also was out with a concussion. Rush needs as many reps as possible the rest of spring. But I thought junior Cole Turner more than held his own at center in the scrimmage so perhaps some depth is being established there.
UW’s defense had its moments in the scrimmage. Sophomore defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan stood out to Bohl. Junior nose tackle Sidney Malauulu looked good — going mostly against backup — as well with a sack and a fumble recovery.
Casper’s Logan Wilson played only 21 snaps in 70-play scrimmage at middle linebacker, but that was by design to get other younger players some looks. Wilson and sophomore Cassh Malauia should be a solid duo, and it appears senior Jalen Ortiz is establishing himself well at the other outside linebacker spot.
The dismissal of three players, and suspensions of five others earlier this week for a violation of team rules was unfortunate, but it also creates opportunities for others. One player who may benefit the most is sophomore cornerback Tyler Hall. Hall is one of four UW corners who have been getting a lot of reps with the No. 1 defense all spring, but with junior Antonio Hull suspended, don’t be surprised if Hall is the starter coming out of spring along with senior Rico Gafford. Hall isn’t all that big at 5-10, 184 pounds, but he’s tough and has shown good effort most of the spring.
Here is Bohl after the scrimmage:
The Cowboys return to practice Tuesday for their 10th spring practice. They will also practice on Thursday and Saturday. The spring game is set for 2 p.m. April 22.
If you have any questions or comments about the Cowboys, I’d love to hear them. You can post comments on this blog, or shoot me a question via Twitter: @rpgagliardi.
Also, be sure to check out the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net for more UW spring football coverage.
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.
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.