Thoughts on first week of spring practice for UW football

One week down, four to go.

Wyoming completed its first week of spring football practice Saturday in War Memorial Stadium. Saturday’s practice marked the first one in full pads.

Here’s what fourth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said after practice:

Media members are allowed to watch the first 30 minutes of each practice, so there isn’t a ton of specific information I can provide, but here are some of the things that stood out to me after the first week:

— A lot of people ask me who made the most gains weight-wise from the end of last season until now. UW’s spring roster lists weights from last season. But I can tell you that junior offensive tackle Zach Wallace, who played at 297 last season, is up to around 310 this spring. All of UW’s tight ends did well in the weight room. I hardly recognized junior Josh Harshman when I went to the first practice. He looks a lot thicker, and I’ve been told he is around 235-237 pounds. He was in the 220s last season. Also, junior safety Marcus Epps looks a lot thicker.

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Roullier, UW offensive line off to solid start this season

The Wyoming offensive line is off to a solid start through three games of the 2016 season.

Chase Roullier

Chase Roullier

The Cowboys have averaged 216 rushing and 210 passing yards per game, and they’ve allowed just one quarterback sack.

There was some concern prior to the season when UW moved senior all-conference guard Chase Roullier to center, and put in true freshman Gavin Rush at left guard. To say the line play has been perfect would be false, but to say it’s been a weakness would be, too.

UW has started and played the same five guys through the first three games. Along with Roullier and Rush, there is sophomore Zach Wallace (left tackle), sophomore Kaden Jackson (right guard) and junior Ryan Cummings (right tackle).

“Things have gone really well,” Roullier said. “Most of the guys have at least a full year of experience, and that’s really helped us out.”

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Preseason predictions for the Pokes

The first day of summer is upon us, and it’s that time of year when many sports fans are counting the days until football season — more specifically college football season.

Brian Hill

Brian Hill

Many of the preseason college football publications are out there, and as you probably can  imagine, junior running back Brian Hill is getting a lot of attention.

Lindy’s college football preview magazine lists Hill as the 18th-best running back in the country. Twenty-five running backs were ranked, and two other running backs in the Mountain West were ranked ahead of Hill — San Diego State senior Donnel Pumphrey was eighth and Boise State junior Jeremy McNichols was 17th.

Long-time Denver Post sports writer Natalie Meisler did the MW previews for Lindy’s, and has been for while. She picked the Cowboys to finish third in the Mountain Division, behind Boise State and Air Force. She said UW is a “dark horse special contingent on rapid maturation of young participants.”

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UW football’s biggest gainers

Here are some of the biggest “gains” in terms of Wyoming football players and weight from the end of last season and as spring drills began Tuesday in Laramie.

Weights are from UW’s depth chart prior to its 2015 season-finale against UNLV and its current depth chart before the start of spring football. In the case of running back Brian Hill, I went off the weights he told me personally. Players’ classes in terms of eligibility are listed next to each weight.

Player                                End of 2015                          Spring of 2016

OT Zach Wallace                    265 (Fr.)                                    297 (So.)

QB Josh Allen                       216  (So.)                                 230 (RSo.)

FS Andrew Wingard               194  (Fr.)                                   207 (So.)

LB Lucas Wacha                    214  (Jr.)                                    230 (Sr.)

LB Eric Nzeocha                    218  (Jr.)                                     231 (Sr.)

NT Dalton Fields                    274  (So.)                                   293 (Jr.)

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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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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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UW-New Mexico football notes, quotes and video

My No. 1 key for Wyoming Saturday if it hopes to win its first game of the season, and its Mountain West opener against New Mexico:

Complete offensive game: Wyoming averages 400 yards of total offense per game, has the Mountain West leader in rushing in sophomore running back Brian Hill (411 yards) and a quarterback in redshirt senior Cameron Coffman who has thrown for 578 yards and four touchdowns in two games. Yet, the Cowboys are 10th out of 12 teams in the MW in scoring (18.7 points per game). It’s great UW has shown it can move the ball, but it has to finish drives with points.

Agree, disagree? There are many more things the Cowboys must do well if they hope to win. See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net for more on that.

You also can see how I break down this game from my preview video:


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Safety shuffle for Cowboys may be slowing down

Three games and three different combinations at the two safety spots for the Wyoming football team.

But when UW (0-3) hosts New Mexico (1-2) in the Mountain West opener for both teams Saturday, it expects to keep the same two starters who played most of the game in last Saturday’s 31-14 loss at Washington State.

Andrew Wingard

Andrew Wingard

True freshman Andrew Wingard is slated to start at free safety, and redshirt freshman walk-on Marcus Epps at strong safety. Wingard made his first-career start Sept. 12 against Eastern Michigan, and he led the Cowboys in tackles at Washington state with 12. Wingard has 24 tackles in the last two games. Wingard played mostly on special teams in UW’s opener against North Dakota on Sept. 5.

Epps started at free safety against North Dakota, and had 11 tackles. He suffered a concussion in that game and missed the Eastern Michigan contest. Epps produced the Cowboys’ first turnover of the season with an interception in the third quarter. Epps also had five tackles and broke up one pass.

The Cowboys had three different starters at strong safety in their first three games. Redshirt freshman Chavez Pownell Jr. started the opener, followed by redshirt freshman walk-on Adam Pilapil against Eastern Michigan.

Marcus Epps

Marcus Epps

UW safeties coach and pass game coordinator Curt Mallory said all four safeties have played both positions during fall camp, and Epps, Pilapil and Pownell did the same during spring drills. Despite the youth, Mallory likes this group and the way it approaches the game.

“All four guys have been competing, and is a fun group to coach because they’re unselfish and want to help one another,” Mallory said. “It’s shown on the field. On the sideline at Washington State Chavez and Adam, even though they weren’t playing, were right in the ears of Marcus and Andrew. That’s maturity, and I’m pleased with that. Marcus and Andrew made some strides for having their second start. I’m encouraged with that.”

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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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Finley hopes to give a struggling UW defense a boost

He’s a senior by class only.

One of the changes Wyoming made defensively was putting senior cornerback Tyran Finley in the starting lineup when it plays at Washington State Saturday.

Tyran Finley

Tyran Finley

But it’s not like Finley has a ton of game experience with the Cowboys.

The junior college transfer started in UW’s opener in 2013 at No. 18 Nebraska, but injured a knee and was lost for the season. He was granted a medical redshirt.

Last year, with new coach Craig Bohl and staff, Finley struggled to adjust to a new system. He played in 11 games, but early on most of that time was on special teams. But in UW’s 45-17 win at Fresno State on Nov. 1, 2014, Finley had two interceptions and returned one of them 51 yards for a touchdown. He led UW with those two interceptions, and the team had only one other interception that season.

During spring drills, Finley was beat out by redshirt freshmen walk-ons. And, he missed about a week because — for a lack of a better term — he needed an attitude adjustment in Bohl’s opinion. But now, as a senior Finley gets a chance to start just this third game for the Cowboys and play in his 15th game of his career. And, he gets to do it against a pass-happy team like Washington State that may throw it 60 times Saturday.

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