LARAMIE -- Craig Bohl is taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously.

For one, he is sporting one of those obnoxious clear face shields that straps to the front of his cap and covers his entire face.

Secondly, he carries a stick at practice.

It's six-feet long. It's used to keep players away from him. Even staff.

"I maybe bopped a couple guys on the head to get back," Bohl joked Wednesday night over a Zoom meeting. "I even got a coach today."

Despite the social distancing, safety precautions and rollercoaster of emotions that come with the cancelation and reimbursement of a football season, Wyoming's seventh-year head coach said enthusiasm is high through the Pokes' first five days of practice.

"I think it's been a challenge," Bohl said. "When you're a college coach, if you look at something three weeks out, it seems like it's right around the corner. But to young people, that seems like an eternity. Getting themselves all geared up to play, then being put in a pause and now being engaged in practice again -- I think there was some feeling (by the players) initially that, "okay is this season really going to happen?" They had emotionally and physically invested earlier and then kind of got kicked in the gut, so now they're asking, "is our season really going to begin in a month?"

This early part of fall camp hasn't been without its share of storylines, either.

The school announced Wednesday night that the Cowboys would be without three starters on the defense this season, including two more on that side of the ball. Rome Weber, Solomon Byrd and Mario Mora have all opted out because of "medical concerns." Davon Wells-Ross and Claude Cole are also sitting 2020 out.

Bohl also announced offensive lineman Alonzo Velazquez suffered a torn labrum. Two other players, offensive lineman Gavin Rush and long snapper Jesse Hooper have decided to retire.

Despite all of that, the Pokes' first day in pads left their head coach with plenty of optimism.

"Even in these uncertain times, there is a real sense on our team that everyone is bought in and they know their teammates are hungry to play," Bohl said. "We have a lot of veteran players back who understand the competitive nature of our league and the abilities of players and coaches in this conference. Knowing that, they understand it will once again be a challenging league and season ahead."

Twice, Bohl has mentioned to the media how practices have been ramped up because of the schedule ahead.

There are no warm-up games against cupcakes or other non-conference opponents. Wyoming, like every other team in the Mountain West, is heading straight into the fire.

It's go time -- immediately.

"The enthusiasm is really high. Typically, we'd be in the middle of camp right now and everyone would have tired legs at this time, but that is not where we're at," Bohl said Monday night. "I know our guys have worked hard. I think it's great knowing that we're playing someone in the conference each week this season and it's 'game on' right from the start of the season. There is a sense of urgency.

"I know as a coaching staff we're engaged, and I think we really have an engaged football team that is really excited about playing football."

The Cowboys will travel to Reno to face Nevada Oct. 24 in the season opener.

Here is the rest of the Pokes' 2020 schedule:

Oct. 24 at Nevada
Oct. 31 vs. Hawaii
Nov. 7 at Colorado State
Nov. 14 vs. Air Force
Nov. 21 vs. Utah State

Nov. 28 at UNLV
Dec. 5 at New Mexico
Dec. 12 vs. Boise State
Dec. 19 Mountain West Championship Game


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