Pokes entering fourth week of spring drills
* University of Wyoming Athletics media relations release
LARAMIE -- After conducting their first full-contact scrimmage of the spring last Saturday, followed by a Tuesday practice that included several full-contact periods, a number of individual Cowboys have had a chance to shine over the past week.
After practice concluded Tuesday evening, head coach Craig Bohl emphasized the need for the Cowboys to get in more full contact work in order to measure the team’s progress at this point of spring.
“It was a physical day (on Tuesday),” said Bohl. “This spring we’ve probably been more physical and had more full-contact practices than what I can remember. We’ll use the full allotment (of full-contact practices) that the NCAA allows us. I feel like we’ve got a lot of unproven players who we need to expose to full contact. When you do that, you get concerned that you are exposing your team to injury, but that is a line we need to walk.”
Making Their Mark
Among the players who Bohl highlighted after Tuesday’s practice were junior quarterback Andrew Peasley, running backs Titus Swen and D.Q. James and safety Wyett Ekeler.
Bohl also singled out the offensive line as a group that he has been pleased with during spring.
“We did some live work today -- some third down and long situations,” said Bohl. “I thought Andrew Peasley handled things fairly well. He’s still got a learning curve to go through, but I was pleased with his performance. Wyett Ekeler made a couple open-field tackles, which was really encouraging. Sometimes guys can go through practice and look pretty good, but until you get in a situation where you really need to make a play in space you don’t know (how players will react) and he did that.
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“D.Q. (James) did some great things on Saturday and also today. He is an added running back that gives us a different pace. He’s got good speed, and he’s got excellent change of direction.
“I think we’ve got a really good, young offensive line. I’m pleased with the progress there. They’re protecting well and their run-blocking capability I think is excellent, and I think we have a heck of a tailback. Titus Swen had really good production last year and his yards after contact were great. He’s got unbelievable explosion.”
Last Saturday’s Scrimmage
Regarding last Saturday’s first major scrimmage of the spring, Bohl was asked how he felt about the scrimmage after having a chance to evaluate it on tape.
“I was happy with it when I watched it,” said Bohl. “Offensively, we had only one turnover in 77 plays. You don’t want to have any turnovers, but it was a good hit by the defense that forced a fumble. There was not an illegal procedure (penalty) called, which was encouraging, and there were no foolish penalties.
“Defensively, we showed some good speed and I thought we covered well. I’m really pleased once again with our pass rush. Olu (Oluwaseyi Omotosho), when we recruited him we saw him run 4.5 (in the 40-yard dash), so we knew it was there but it hadn’t transitioned into football speed. What he also wasn’t able to do early in his career was to be an effective defensive end where he could play both the run and pass. He’s still not where we want him to be against the run, but he really did some great things with his speed in the scrimmage and would have had a couple sacks. Sabastian Harsh on the other side (at defensive end) along with DeVonne Harris are guys who are excellent pass rushers.”
Bohl was also asked about how linebacker Easton Gibbs move from the weak-side linebacker spot to middle linebacker position was progressing. Bohl responded by saying that there were a few veterans who were only given a few reps in the scrimmage due to the coaching staff not wanting to expose them to unnecessary contact. Gibbs and running back Swen were two of those players.
“We really limited his (Easton Gibbs’) repetitions. I think he got seven reps in the scrimmage,” said Bohl. “He’s proven to us that he can make plays, and we wanted to see some other guys in there plus there are a couple guys we’ve been pulling back (on their reps). Titus (Swen) is another guy. Titus might have gotten four or five reps. I’m not going to say we’re protecting them, but we’re not going to expose them to unnecessary contact.”
With Gibbs moving to the middle linebacker position, that leaves his old weak-side spot open for competition. Bohl is looking forward to seeing more tape on the group competing at linebacker.
“Their coming along. I wouldn’t say they’ve arrived yet,” said Bohl. “We’re still very much unsure of who our WILL (weak-side linebacker) is going to be. There are some guys in there competing. I think next Saturday’s scrimmage will really be important and I want to watch today’s tape because there was some live work today. We did inside run live and we did PUP (pass under pressure) live, and those drills are where linebackers need to show up.”
The Passing Game
The passing game was another area that Bohl was asked about after Tuesday’s practice. He was asked if he could compare the status of Wyoming’s passing offense this spring to where it stood a year ago at this time.
“I would say this -- we’re more accurate,” said Bohl. “I don’t know if we’re throwing the ball as well deep, but the throws in the mini-field (mid-range throws) which really come off of the West Coast offense, which we run, I’m pretty pleased with that right now.”
Among the leading targets in the passing game this season will be a deep tight end group comprised of several returning veterans, including: fullback/tight end Parker Christensen and tight ends Treyton Welch, Jackson Marcotte, Colin O’Brien and Nick Miles.
“Parker Christensen is doing some great things,” said Bohl. “Treyton Welch has improved his blocking. I would like to see him come up with a contested reception here or there, and I’ve talked with him about that before -- like the play he made against Montana State last year. We’re going to expect more of those from him. Jackson Marcotte is doing some good things as is Colin (O’Brien). We’ve got some good tight ends that we’re going to be able to use and the great thing about our offense is they can do different things as opposed to a lot of other schools in our league that don’t have multiple tight ends. We think that can be beneficial for us.”
Among those multiple looks Bohl referred to are the use of the tight ends in a variety of roles: lining them up in the backfield as a fullback, playing them in a traditional tight end position on the line of scrimmage, lining them up as slot receivers and playing with two tight ends to enhance blocking for Wyoming’s consistently effective rushing attack.
In terms of the overall offense, Bohl said, “We’ll always try to be a run-first football team. I think that’s important at Wyoming, but to be able to throw the ball efficiently is something I know is important for us to improve this next year. It’s not like you’re going to see the Cowboys put up the ball up 55 times a game, but we need to be more efficient and we need to throw the ball more.”
Bohl mentioned that there were a few players who were unable to finish Tuesday’s practice. Bohl said offensive lineman Eric Abojei suffered a minor knee injury. Nose tackle Gavin Meyer wasn’t able to finish due to a leg injury. Cornerback Deron Harrell was going to be evaluated for a possible concussion. Linebacker Shae Suiaunoa suffered a minor knee injury in Saturday’s scrimmage and was cleared to practice on Tuesday but was unable to finish Tuesday’s practice.
Spring Practice Continues Thursday
Wyoming’s next practice will be on Thursday. The Cowboys will scrimmage again on Saturday, April 23 leading up to the annual Brown and Gold Spring Game on Saturday, April 30 at 2 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium.
The April 30 Spring Game will be free and open to the public. All other spring practices and scrimmages are closed.
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