LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Wyoming Cowboys practiced in half pads on Thursday in preparation for its second major scrimmage of spring practice this coming Saturday. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl met with media after Thursday’s practice to discuss not only the recent performance of his team but to talk about what the plans are for Saturday’s closed scrimmage.
“I thought our defensive guys had a great spring in their step today,” said Bohl. “I thought we were a little bit off offensively. Austin Conway (junior wide receiver) went down during today’s practice. He did something to his hip, hopefully it’s not serious. He wanted to try and finish practice but he couldn’t. We’ll find out a little bit more tomorrow.
“We would like to increase this week’s scrimmage from 70 plays (last Saturday) to 90 plays (this Saturday). Saturday will be our last real opportunity to evaluate a lot of our players this spring. We’ll have to see where we are health-wise in terms of determining how many plays we will run.
“Our guys are going out practicing hard. They’re going out with a sense of purpose, and I think we’re improving everyday. We’ve been going back and forth as to which team is doing better — offense or defense. I thought the defense maybe had the upper hand today, but we’ll watch the tape and get ready for a scrimmage on Saturday.”
In terms of what the he is hoping to see in Saturday’s second major scrimmage, Bohl said, “This will be our last closed scrimmage before the Spring Game (on Saturday, April 21). We hope to finalize a good portion of our depth chart, and get some more playing experience for some of our younger players who have not yet played a lot.
“This scrimmage will provide us as a coaching staff with one of our final evaluations of the spring. The Spring Game is more an opportunity to give the players a feel of a game-like situation in War Memorial, with officials on the field and fans in the stands as opposed to an evaluation. We’ll look at the Spring Game some in evaluating our players, but this Saturday will be a big, big day for our guys.”
And what positions will the head coach be looking at most closely as he and his staff continue to evaluate the 2018 Cowboy squad?
“We’re certainly going to be looking at quarterback — number one,” said Bohl. “We’re looking to solidify our offensive line. It’s a little bit difficult to evaluate running backs right now, simply because a lot of them are not going to be in a position to play on Saturday.
“Over on defense, we’re going to take a hard look at who are going to be our back-up safeties. What’s going to happen at corner? Antonio Hull can play well, but between Keyon Blankenbaker and C.J. Coldon, which guy is going to rise to the top at cornerback.
“We’ll probably do some more kicking, because we didn’t do any last Saturday.”
One of the running backs who will not be participating in this coming Saturday’s scrimmage will be redshirt freshman Xazavian Valladay. The freshman had a good first scrimmage, but Bohl said they haven’t gotten final word on the injury to Valladay’s hand that he suffered in that first scrimmage. Bohl said Valladay would definitely be held out of the upcoming scrimmage. He joins running backs Kellen Overstreet and Trey Woods, who are out with shoulder injuries.
Bohl was asked if he would also hold some veteran players out of the upcoming scrimmage as he had done last week.
“Yes, simply because as we try to find back-ups — say at safety — it is counter productive to rep someone like Andrew Wingard, who has played a lot of football for us. It is better for us to give those repetitions to the younger players. Some of the other guys who we will likely not scrimmage will be Logan (Wilson) and Youhanna (Ghaifan). Those are the guys who you have to ask is it really prudent to have them take reps away from younger players.”
One of the young defensive players that Bohl was asked to comment on after Thursday’s practice was sophomore linebacker Ryan Gatoloai-Faupula.
“He is making progress. I would say the term ‘emerging’ would be a correct way to describe his progress,” said Bohl. “He’s way further along than he was in the fall, but he still has things to improve upon.”
In terms of the development of redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, Bohl said, “I think he is making good decisions. We have made it hard for those quarterbacks. They’ve had to read disguised coverages and have had to change pass protections. He is a bright football player. He did some nice things in the scrimmage with his feet. There are some things he needs to improve on, but there are things for a freshman that I think he has done well. Nick (Smith) has also done well. Nick has gotten better.”
Following its scrimmage on Saturday, April 14, Wyoming will conclude its fifth and final week of spring drills with practices next Tuesday and Thursday prior to 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.