(UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. – Dressed in helmets and shorts, the Wyoming Cowboys focused on fundamentals Thursday in their second spring practice. The first five of 24 periods were broken down by position group.
Starting in Period 7, quarterbacks, running backs and receivers faced off against the linebackers and defensive backs in three periods of 7-on-7 passing drills. Six periods of Team work followed, with one period of field-goal and extra-point work mixed in. The practice concluded with the final eight periods of work also being team work.
Speaking with media at the conclusion of practice, head coach Craig Bohl singled out the success of Wyoming’s deep passing game in Thursday’s practice, as well as the performance of senior place-kicker and All-America candidate Cooper Rothe.
“It was really a spirited practice,” said head coach Craig Bohl. “I thought we threw the ball really well deep today. Sean (Chambers) had a couple balls that were really well thrown, and we had some guys make good catches.
“In the kicking game, we worked on extra points and field goals today and Cooper (Rothe) was 100 percent, so he’s picking up right where he left off (last season).
“We did have one injury today. We’ll find out a little bit more about Gavin Rush (redshirt junior offensive lineman). He went down and they were examining his knee. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, but we don’t know yet. Anytime you have a player like that go down you get a little bit concerned.
“But it was a spirited practice, and we’ll go out there and go in full pads on Saturday.”
Due to some players sitting out the spring recovering from injuries and offseason surgeries, the Cowboys have not been double-repping as Bohl prefers to do. Asked how the quarterback reps were split up in Thursday’s practice, Bohl said, “We rolled (with multiple quarterbacks). We only had one team going today, But I thought he (Sean) really threw the ball well today. He’s making better decisions, and he’s learning more about our offense. Coach (Brent) Vigen is rolling through with all the quarterbacks. It’s not quite equal repetition, but they’re getting a lot of repetition.”
The Return of Wide Receiver C.J. Johnson and the Expectations for This Year’s Receiving Group
One Cowboy who is making his first appearance in practice in a long time is senior wide receiver C.J. Johnson. Johnson suffered a serious knee injury in Wyoming’s 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win. That injury and the surgery that followed forced Johnson to sit out the entire 2018 season. But he practiced in both Tuesday’s and Thursday’s practices this week, and has already caught a few passes since returning.
“C.J. (Johnson) is doing pretty well,” said Bohl. “He’s back in the groove. He had missed a lot — a long, long time — I think since the Potato Bowl, and so it’s good to have him back out there making plays.”
Bohl was also asked about the receiving corps as a whole and what he is looking for from a group that returns Johnson and fellow seniors Austin Conway, Raghib Ismail and John Okwoli along with a group of younger receivers.
“Play-making ability,” said Bohl. “Beyond being consistent, we’ve got to be able to go up and make plays and win contested balls and also play-making ability as far as extending the field.”
Bohl’s Feeling About the Changes to Wyoming’s Defensive Coaching Staff This Year
Now entering his sixth year as head coach of the Cowboys, Bohl promoted a couple individuals and hired a new linebackers’ coach this offseason. Jake Dickert was promoted to defensive coordinator after coaching the Cowboy safeties the past two seasons, and AJ Cooper, who has coached the Cowboy defensive ends the past five seasons, was promoted to defensive run-game coordinator. Jay Niemann, who is entering his 35th season as a college coach in 2019, was hired to coach the Wyoming linebackers this season. Niemann was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Rutgers the past three seasons. Bohl was asked what his thought process was as he was making those adjustments to his defensive staff this offseason.
“Anytime we have people within our program to promote we want to do that,” said Bohl. “I felt really good about the trajectory and direction of our defense. Both Jake (Dickert) and AJ (Cooper) and their understanding of our defense was a valuable resource to maintain. Every year, we tweek the defense a little bit, but we felt it was important to stay with the continuity, and those guys are going to do a good job for us.”
In terms of the hiring of Niemann, who had not previously worked with Bohl, the head coach said, “We felt like it was going to be important to put a seasoned, experienced veteran coach in the room. Jay (Niemann) has coached a long, long time — a lot of years — and while he’s not our coordinator and he’s still learning our defense sometimes there are things you learn through years of experience that are really valuable. He came highly recommended, and we really felt good about the connection on the interview. He understands his role, and he is a great support guy for those younger coaches.”
Two members of Wyoming’s 2019 Signing Class enrolled at UW for the spring semester and are taking part in Spring Practice. Quarterback Levi Williams, who is a 6-5 and 215-pound true freshman from Canyon Lake, Texas, and wide receiver Devin Jennings, a 6-2 and 175 true freshman from Houston, Texas, are both on campus and participating in Spring Drills.
Wyoming Football will hold two open practices during the spring. The first open practice will be a scrimmage at Dick Cheney Alumni Field in Casper, Wyo., on Saturday, April 13, beginning at 1 p.m. The Spring Game on Saturday, April 27 will be played in War Memorial Stadium on the UW campus and will of course be open to the public, with a 2 p.m. kickoff. All other spring practices are closed to the general public.