Offense Growing in Cowboys Spring Practice
Laramie, Wyo. -- While injuries have become a challenge, Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl has seen growth on the offensive side of the ball in spring practice.
“Practice seven (Tuesday) and we worked some pass-under-pressure situations," Bohl said. "I thought our quarterbacks did fairly well,. e’re getting better in the offensive line. We did some live work there, and I thought our running backs ran the ball a little bit better.”
In addition to missing several veterans, who had offseason injuries and surgeries, the Wyoming running back position was hurt hard this past week. Last Saturday, sophomore Trey Woods suffered a shoulder injury after junior Kellen Overstreet had suffered a shoulder injury earlier in the week.
“We did have a couple injuries that we’re concerned about,” said Bohl. “Trey (Woods) is one of those guys. They’re doing an MRI and an x-ray on him. He hurt his shoulder, and I think it is pretty significant. The original report that came back was inconclusive, but he may miss the rest of spring.
“Kellen (Overstreet) will be out for the rest of spring, and he’ll probably have surgery on his shoulder. We’re still trying to work to get Javaree Jackson (sophomore defensive lineman) back, so some pretty impactful guys. Along with the other guys who came into spring hurt, we’ve got a pretty lengthy list.”
With Woods and Overstreet out, senior running back Nico Evans and redshirt freshman running back Xazavian Valladay are handling a large number of the reps at running back.
“Xazavain (Valladay) had a really good day today, so that was encouraging,” said Bohl. “I don’t think Nico (Evans) was able to finish practice (thigh contusion). He was out there, but just wasn’t able to finish.”
The receiving corps also came up with some big plays. Senior tight end Tyree Mayfield caught a couple nice balls across the middle from senior quarterback Nick Smith, and Smith hit sophomore wide receiver Avante’ Cox in stride on a deep ball late in the practice.
Asked how he saw the quarterback competition between Smith and redshirt freshman Tyler Vander Waal at this point of spring, Bohl said, “From my standpoint, today it seemed like things tightened up a little bit. I thought Nick (Smith) threw the ball a couple times right on point. We’ll watch the tape and evaluate it. We did a lot of pass-under-pressure work today where we put our quarterbacks and our offensive line under duress.”
Bohl also voiced his pleasure with the continued development of some of the young defensive backs and with the kicking game during Tuesday’s drills.
“We’re continuing to see good plays from our secondary. C.J. Coldon (redshirt freshman cornerback) made a great pick today. I also think some of the other young secondary guys are starting to make their presence felt.
“We did some good things in the kicking game today. I thought Cooper (Rothe) struck the ball well.”
Rothe in fact hit long field goals from 44 and 53 yards during Tuesday’s practice.
Incorporating physical practices as much as possible continues to be a focus of the Cowboy coaching staff this spring. While the Pokes have suffered some injuries during the spring, Bohl says it is critical to continue to work to become a more physical team in 2018.
“We have a big, big day ahead of us on Saturday,” said Bohl. “We’re going to be scrimmaging, so we’re getting locked and loaded.
“I’d like to think we can stay the course (with physical practices). We are going to do everything we can, and we may have to be a little resourceful. But we weren’t as physical a football team as what we needed to be last year, and sometimes in spring that (having physical practices) is the cost of doing business.
“Right now we are on track. We’re probably razor thin (due to injuries) at a couple different positions. That said, we have to get those live reps in and see who can make plays when people are going full speed.”
Prior to Tuesday’s practice, Bohl had also shared some things he observed from last Saturday’s practice
“We were pleased with some of the younger guys last Saturday,” said Bohl. “Esaias (Gandy, sophomore safety) did some good things. Certainly Alijah Halliburton (junior safety) is coming around well. I thought in the nickel position, Tyler Hall (junior) continues to play well. Rudy Stofer (reshirt freshman offensive tackle) showed some things on the offensive line that were promising, and I thought Tyler (Vander Waal) did some good things at the quarterback position.”
One of the four 2018 Wyoming signees who graduated early from high school this past December and joined the Cowboys for spring football is long snapper Jesse Hooper. Bohl was asked for his impressions of Hooper’s performance entering the third week of spring practice.
“His competency is excellent,” said Bohl. “He’s learning a little bit more about the schemes and some of the other things you need to do to be effective as a deep snapper, but we’re well pleased. His snap times and accuracy are good. I thought (Brendan) Turelli (four-year starter for Wyoming from 2013-16) was excellent, but Jesse is really good.
“In the punting game, the snap has to be right there and the protection needs to be there, as well as being able to get down the field and help cover the punt. Those are all things we will be working with Jesse on.”
The third of five weeks of spring practice will resume on Thursday with an afternoon practice. Practices are closed to the general public. Spring practice will conclude with the Brown and Gold Spring Game on Saturday, April 21. The Spring Game will be open to the public, with a 2 p.m. kickoff planned.