UW spring football notes & quotes entering week No. 3

Wyoming spring football practice has hit about the midway point.

No final decisions on who will play and start in the 2019 opener against Missouri Aug. 31 have been decided, but even though the coaches won’t say as much, they likely have a good idea at some positions.

One concern this spring has been along the offensive line. UW lost junior guard Gavin Rush for the season with a torn ACL. That was a big blow to this group. Junior guard Logan Harris missed some time last week with a back injury, but is back at practice. Redshirt freshman Zach Watts has moved around between guard and tackle. Sophomore Keegan Cryder, who earned Freshman All-America honors last season as a center for the Cowboys, has been getting some reps at tackle. Cryder wasn’t supposed to do much this spring due to off-season knee surgery.

Not sure UW will have a lot of definite answers there coming out of spring, and it better hope junior tackle Alonzo Velasquez (knee) returns healthy for fall camp.

Because of the issues along the offensive line, UW hasn’t been able to double-rep much — if at all — this spring, meaning having two groups of offense vs. defense getting snaps.

“We’re a little bit behind where we normally would have been, but some springs are like this,” sixth-year coach Craig Bohl said.

— Last week I did a story on UW’s two most experienced interior defensive linemen in juniors Ravontae Holt and Javaree Jackson. When I asked UW defensive tackles coach Pete Kaligis about who else is developing this spring behind Holt and Jackson, he mentioned a kid who may not see the field for the Cowboys, but had glowing things to say about — junior walk-on Justice Borton of Wheatland.

“Justice is so selfless, and that’s why he is a leader. He may not get on the field, and he knows that, but he will do anything for this team. The most important thing to him is we win on Saturdays. The team is more important to him than playing time. I can’t say enough about him. I am blessed to coaches all of these guys, but I love that kid. He is a rock in the locker room, and he’s going to pick people up.”

Borton has never played in a game for UW. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 272 pounds. He has practiced along both the offensive and defensive lines. Hard not to root for a kid like him, but any successful team needs guys like Borton.

— Another story I did last week was on senior wide receiver Austin Conway and his experience as a high school basketball official in Wyoming the last couple of years. Here is a link to that story in case you missed it.

Conway has been one of UW’s most productive and consistent receivers the last three years. This is what he said after I asked him his goals for his final season of playing college football.

“Trying to win a Mountain West championship and as many games as I can to leave a foundation for guys to continue on how coach Bohl wants to run this football team. Since I have been where we almost were MW champs, a bowl winner and not going to a bowl. I’ve seen it all. Stat-wise, I don’t care. I just wnat to win games. I want to come out with another couple of rings on my hand with a MW championship and a bowl win.”

— One last thing: I want to give a huge thank to you to Bohl. After practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays so far he has provided the media with dinner as we do interviews after practice. One night there was pizza, followed by sliders and fried oysters and then some barbecue. Bohl said it was for his appreciation to the media. As a media member for more than 25 years, it is very much appreciated.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

Notable gains for Cowboys as spring drills begin

Wyoming concluded its first week of spring football practice this week — three practices in all.

Due to WNIT duties for the Cowgirls basketball team and no media access to Saturday practices, I didn’t get to see a whole lot or talk to a lot of players/coaches.

However, I did talk to UW’s top two strength coaches for football — Ben Iannacchione and Eric Donoval. I talked to them mostly about a cool feature that will run in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and online at wyosports.net.

But I did ask them if they could point to any specific players who did well during UW’s seven weeks of winter conditioning. Iannacchione worked with the linemen, and said junior defensive tackle Ravonte Holt had one of the best winters. He played at the high 250s-low 260s in terms of his weight last season. Iannacchione said he challenged Holt to get to 275 at the start of spring practice, and he did.

Ravonte Holt

“He’s gotten really strong and put weight on in good areas — butt, hips and quads,” Iannacchione said.

Donoval worked with the skilled guys, and said sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay weighed in at or over 200 pounds, and so far has done a good job of maintaining that weight. Valladay played at around 190 last year, and Valladay said he’s added about 15 pounds of muscle over the winter.

Xazavian Valladay

“It was a little bit of a surprise,” Valladay said of putting on the weight. “It was just hard work, dedication and trusting the process. It doesn’t feel too bad. I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

Valladay was second in rushing for UW last season with 396 yards on 71 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

Valladay is the only scholarship running back participating in spring drills right now. Sixth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said sophomore Jevon Bigelow is dealing with an illness. Bohl expects Bigelow to return, but isn’t sure when. Bigelow ran for 292 yards and two touchdowns in nine games last season.

Iannacchione said it was good to get junior offensive guard Gavin Rush back in the weight room over the winter. Rush missed last season after he tore his right bicep early in fall camp. I wrote about Rush this week, and I hope I didn’t put the Gagliardi jinx on him because after I interviewed him after UW’s first spring practice, he injured a knee in the second. The severity of that injury isn’t known.

Here is the link to that story.

UW will practice in full pads next week. On Saturday, April 13, it will practice in Casper at Natrona County High which is open and free to the public. The spring game is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.

Cowgirls update

UW plays at Arizona at 3 p.m. MT Sunday in the quarterfinals of the WNIT. This is the Cowgirls’ 10th appearance in the WNIT, and its first road game in this event since 2003.

The game isn’t on regular television, but here is a link to watch it online from pac-12.com.

I also will have a cool feature on UW senior Bailee Cotton and how she’s playing her best basketball in her final year after dealing with two different injuries to the same knee early in her career. Be sure to check out the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and at wyosports.net or that story.

MW football power rankings – Nov. 25

Here are my Mountain West football power rankings at the end of the regular season.

1. No. 19 Boise State (10-2 overall, 7-1 MW): This may not be the best team in Boise State history, but it is tough, gritty and Mountain Division champs. The Broncos also defeated Fresno State and Utah State, and get Fresno State on the blue turf for the Mountain West championship.

2. No. 25 Fresno State (10-2, 7-1): The Bulldogs took care of San Jose State to set up its rematch of last year’s MW championship game with Boise State. Can the Bulldogs break through on the road? 

3. Utah State (10-2, 7-1): The Aggies are still very good, but not playing at the same level it did a few weeks ago. Maybe that’s because they are playing tougher teams.

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UW at New Mexico – pregame reading

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.

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Thanksgiving thoughts and favorites from Wyoming football

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope each and every one of you have a wonderful day and weekend with family and friends.

I’ve done this before on this holiday, and for others, but I asked some Wyoming football players and coaches what they were most thankful for and their favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.

Would love to hear yours.

Senior free safety Marcus Epps

Thankful for: My family, to be a part of this team and the University of Wyoming.

Food: Yams

Senior wide receiver James Price

Thankful for: My family, friends and the support system I have.

Food: Mom’s sweet potato pie.

Senior defensive lineman Conner Cain

Thankful for: This team this year.

Food: Cranberry sauce.

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UW vs. Air Force live chat replay

Here’s the replay of my live chat from Wyoming’s 35-27 victory over Air Force on Saturday, Nov. 17.

For more UW sports coverage, see the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net.

Live Blog Wyoming vs. Air Force football live chat

UW vs. Air Force – pregame reading

A few notes and quotes to get you ready for Wyoming’s home finale against Air Force Saturday. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. MT from Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNEWS.

First, my No. 1 key for the Cowboys:

Assignment sound: Meaning every player on Wyoming’s defense must do their jobs each and every play against Air Force’s option-oriented offense. This is an important aspect in any game, but it gets magnified going against option football. One missed assignment could result in a big play or touchdown.

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MW football power rankings – Nov. 12

Here are my weekly Mountain West football power rankings heading into this week’s games.

1. No. 14 Utah State (9-1, 6-0): The Aggies move up to the top spot after it won their ninth straight game, are the highest ranked team in the conference in the national polls and continue to put up video-game like numbers on offense.

2. No. 23 Boise State (8-2 overall, 5-1 MW): A gritty and hard-fought home win over Fresno State last week. The Broncos showed their toughness, despite a depleted defense due to injuries.

3. Fresno State (8-2, 5-1): The Bulldogs saw their eight-game winning streak snapped at Boise State, but they still control their own destiny to win the West Division. They finish the regular season with two home games. 

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