Simulating Game Situations The Focus in Final Fall Camp Practices
* University of Wyoming press release
LARAMIE -- As the 2023 season opener draws closer for the Wyoming Cowboy Football team, practices are shifting to creating game-like situations for Cowboy players.
On Friday, the Pokes practice included a Mountain West Conference officiating crew and Saturday morning the Cowboys will hold their second fall scrimmage, which will also utilize Mountain West officials.
Head coach Craig Bohl said Saturday’s scrimmage will be an important evaluation for his team.
"This scrimmage will be live bullets, as we say out West,” said Bohl. “They’ll be some positions that we’re going to stress a little bit more than others, but this will probably be the last final hard grade that we get. We’re constantly evaluating players, but this will show us when the lights are on who can make a play, who can break a tackle. Fur is going to fly in this one.
“We’ll do a dress rehearsal the week prior to our first game,” he added. “We’ll bring in another crew for that and we’ll have a mock game.”
Mountain West Officials at Friday’s and Saturday’s Practices
Bohl highlighted the importance of having Mountain West game officials for this weekend’s practices.
“We have a full Mountain West (officiating) crew here for two days. It’s an investment that all of us our making in the officials within the Mountain West,” said Bohl. “We’ve got a new supervisor of officials, Mike DeFee, who is nationally recognized, to elevate our game. We’re looking for consistency and transparency, and Mike has assured us that is where we’re going to be. We appreciate this crew being here. We’re not the lone rangers. There are a lot of crews working (around the league), and I think it is an indication of our conference commissioner’s (Gloria Nevarez) understanding on how to elevate our whole conference. Along with this, they’ll be doing collaborative replay this year.”
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Friday’s practice ended with some special situational periods, including work on goal-line offense and defense, as well as a few series practicing the team’s two-minute drill.
“Another good day -- we’re continuing to work on the passing game,” Bohl said. “We worked hard at the beginning of practice, and I think we’re making strides. I’m really pleased with some of the play out of the corners (cornerbacks) in particular. I think they’re doing a really nice job. The offensive line is getting better as far as the (pass) protection pickups.
“We did some work on the kicking game. We had a live punt rush and then we had punt return practice. I thought Clayton (Stewart) punted the ball really well.”
One of the position groups where Wyoming returns both starters from last season is at safety.
Both junior free safety Wyett Ekeler from Windsor, Colo., and junior strong safety Isaac White from Pottstown, Pa., return. Ekeler made all of his 10 career starts last season. White has 17 career starts, including starting the last 16 consecutive games. The tandem started the last nine games of the 2022 season beside each other. Behind those two veterans, there is a battle for playing time among a number of young safeties.
Entering 2023 fall camp, Cheyenne, Wyo., sophomore Andrew Johnson was listed as the back-up to White at strong safety and sophomore Buck Coors from Loveland, Colo., was projected as the No. 2 free safety behind Ekeler.
“We have some emerging guys, and we feel really good about the upper echelon guys,” said Bohl. “We’re trying to work with some of the back-up guys, and coach (Jay) Sawvel is doing a nice job of integrating them into tough situations. We have to develop not only depth but competition. We do feel good about our starters, but to think you’re going to go through the whole year with those two starters is a little bit unrealistic. We’re not where we need to be but we’re making progress.”
Bohl followed up his comments about the safety position sharing with media that Coors, unfortunately, suffered a recent broken hand and will be out for awhile. Coors missed the first eight games of last season due to injury, before playing in Wyoming’s final five games of the ‘22 season.
“He (Buck Coors) broke his hand. He’s having surgery today,” added Bohl. “He’s been snake bit, but he will be back. I think it may be a month on him. I feel for him. It’s been every year, but he’s always got a positive attitude. He was in my ear big time last year as far as coming back. It’s always easier to say whoa that giddy up. He was making really good progress, but nonetheless he’s probably going to have a plate in his hand for awhile.”
Bohl was asked about how sophomore Johnson and redshirt freshman Koa McIntyre from Fremont, Neb., were progressing in fall camp. Bohl responded, “We’re certainly looking at those two guys. I think Andrew (Johnson) right now is probably at the forefront there. We’re pleased with his progress.”
Another injury that Bohl made media aware of after Friday’s practice was regarding junior wide receiver Will Pelissier from Big Horn, Wyo., who also was having surgery Friday for a broken finger.
Sophomore defensive end Sabastian Harsh from Scottsbluff, Neb., had to have some follow-up surgery on an injured knee earlier in fall camp, but Bohl reaffirmed his comments from last week, saying that he expects Harsh back before Wyoming’s season opener.
“We’re extremely excited (about Harsh),” said Bohl. “He’s a really polished player not only against the run but also against the pass. He’s smart. He’s got really good instincts. He’s making a good recovery. We anticipate him being able to play in our first ballgame.”
All Wyoming fans know that the leader of the Cowboy defense is junior middle linebacker Easton Gibbs from Temecula, Calif.
But who will be holding down the linebacker positions along with Gibbs is something media was curious about after Friday’s practice.
The returning starter at the weak-side linebacker is junior Shae Suiaunoa from Houston, Texas. Suiaunoa started all 13 games for Wyoming in the 2022 season. His 73 tackles ranked second on the Cowboy squad to Gibbs 121. Another linebacker who had both a strong spring practice session and has played well throughout fall practice is Gibbs back-up at middle linebacker, junior Connor Shay from Danville, Calif.
“We’re really pleased with Connor (Shay). He’s locked in at MIKE (middle linebacker),” said Bohl. “Shae (Suiaunoa) has been playing WILL (weakside linebacker). We’re trying to have some clarity there. Shae has improved his tackling. He’s always been a good blitzer, but had too many missed tackles last year.
"In the first scrimmage (this fall) he really did a nice job of wrapping up.”
The Cowboys will conduct their 15th of 20 fall practices on Saturday morning in War Memorial Stadium. Practices are closed to the public.
Tickets to the 2023 Season
Fans interested in purchasing tickets to the 2023 Wyoming Football season may: go online at www.GoWyo.com/tickets; email email@example.com; call the UW Athletics Ticket Office at (307) 766-7220; or stop by the ticket office on the west side of UW’s Arena-Auditorium. Season tickets start as low as $170 and single-game tickets start as low as $20 for adults.
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