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Position battles continue as Wyoming Cowboys close spring

Posted at 10:00 PM, Apr 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:51:46-04

(UW Athletics release)

LARAMIE, Wyo.  —  The Wyoming Cowboys enter the final week of 2018 Spring Practice with a number of position battles still in play as the Pokes approach Saturday’s Spring Game.

After Tuesday’s 13th of 15 spring practices, head coach Craig Bohl provided a review of the Cowboys’ second major scrimmage held last Saturday, as well as reviewed some of those key position battles that continue into the final week of practice.

“There were some good things on Saturday,” said Bohl.  “First of all, I thought we ran the ball well.  We protected the quarterbacks well and both quarterbacks played well.  We’ll make a final analysis after the Spring Game, but we’re encouraged about those things.  I also thought we caught the ball well.

“We were really pleased with the offensive line.  I thought we made some good strides there — not only with their assignments but also with their pad level.  And I thought it was probably the best day for our two quarterbacks from their decision making and the competency.

“I think we’re deeper on the offensive line than we’ve ever been since I’ve been the head coach.  We still have some younger guys who are playing, but I think we are also seeing some guys who are older, like Kaden Jackson (senior offensive guard), continue to do a good job of leading.  That is going to be an important group for us to continue to see progress, because if you’re going to run the football you better have a good offensive line.

“Defensively, there were certain guys (veteran players) who did not play.  But what it’s done is given some guys like Alijah Halliburton (junior safety) more time on the field, and he’s done some really nice things.  Tyler Hall (junior nickel back/linebacker) continues to make plays.

“We didn’t do anything in the kicking game, so we need to get some of that work in this week.  That was limited somewhat due to the fact that we went inside last Saturday due to weather conditions.”

Bohl emphasized that this coming Saturday’s Spring Game will be played outside in War Memorial Stadium,“Come hell or high water,” said Bohl.

When asked if he thought the offense or defense had the upper hand in last Saturday’s scrimmage, Bohl said, “We moved the ball better on offense, but you have to be mindful that our depth in the defensive line is somewhat suspect right now.”

Bohl singled out a couple young offensive players who had good days in the scrimmage.  “Keegan Cryder (redshirt freshman center) probably played his best scrimmage.  Nate Weinman (redshirt freshman tight end) caught the ball well.  He brings a different dimension to our tight end position with his physical presence.  He is able to go up and get the ball and his catch radius is pretty big.”

In the running game, Bohl was pleased with the progress he saw from the tailbacks in Saturday’s  scrimmage.  “I thought Nico Evans (senior running back) really ran well,” said Bohl.  “He made a couple guys miss.  We were pleased with that.  We’ve made some strides there.”

Entering the final two practices of spring, what are the position battles the head coach feels are key to sort out?

“The quarterback battle (between senior Nick Smith and redshirt freshman Tyler Vander Waal) is really key, but they’re bringing the best out of each other,” said Bohl.  “I think we need to finalize where we’re at, at the cornerback position.  And the other thing that comes into play is to make sure we have the right offensive linemen out there.”

The Cowboys had a non-padded practice on Tuesday, which Bohl recapped for media

“We were in non-pads today, and that fulfilled our third day of non-pads in spring,” said Bohl.  “Thursday’s practice will be padded and we need to mix it up a little bit.  We’ve had some guys be able to return (from injuries)  to practice now, and we need to get some good work in on Thursday and get ready for our Spring Game.”

With all the injuries in spring to the running back position, Bohl was asked if he felt like the evaluation of that position will need to start from scratch when fall practice begins.

“We will be (starting from scratch) to a certain extent and that’s disappointing,” said Bohl.  “But that is sometimes how the chips fall during the course of spring football.  I do think it’s been good to see and evaluate the guys who have been able to be out there and compete.  As I said earlier, I think Nico (Evans) has done some good things.  Mike Green (sophomore running back) has done some good things, and we appreciate their effort.  We’ll have two healthy running back for the Spring Game.”

In terms of injury updates, Bohl did say that sophomore wide receiver Avante’ Cox was suffering from a shoulder sprain.  Bohl said he hoped that Cox would be available on Saturday, but added that he may not.  Junior fullback Austin Lopez is currently out, and his status for the Spring Game also is undetermined.  Redshirt freshman running back Xazavian Valladay has his injured hand in a splint and Bohl said he didn’t believe he would play on Saturday.

The Cowboys have one spring practice remaining on Thursday afternoon 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.  There will also be the Second Annual Alumni Flag Football Game on Saturday at 11 a.m. that is open to the public.