Laramie, Wyo. (April 18, 2017) -- Tuesday saw the Wyoming Cowboys conduct their final padded practice prior to the Saturday’s Spring Game. The Cowboys practiced for a little over two hours in War Memorial Stadium with a blend of several competitive team periods, special teams work and individual fundamental periods. Wyoming will practice in helmets only this Thursday as they make their final preparations for the 15th and final practice on Saturday that will feature a game-like atmosphere for the 2017 Spring Game.
Immediately following Tuesday’s practice, Wyoming Associate Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Brent Vigen met with the media to discuss Tuesday’s practice, as well as what lies ahead for the Cowboys in the final two practices of 2017 spring ball. Vigen was promoted to the position of Associate Head Coach this spring, while continuing in his role as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach.
“It’s the nature of spring football that you want a back and forth affair where both sides of the ball (offense and defense) are doing good things,” said Vigen. “We got a lot of special teams work done today, and we’re getting closer to putting the finishing touches on things. We’ll have a non-padded practice on Thursday and then the Spring Game on Saturday.
“For Thursday while it will be non-padded, it will be a heavy review day and a heavy work day at the same time. Good football teams can practice without pads. Hopefully, the way we look non-padded in practice number 14 (on Thursday) compared to those first two days will be better.
“As far as the Spring Game, we anticipate we’ll be able to split into teams like we have in the past. Coach’s (Head Coach Craig Bohl) philosophy has been to give the guys a game experience, and give the fans a game experience. I think a game with a scoreboard is a lot easier for fans to take in than a scrimmage. We’ll roll the ball out, get as many plays in as we can in a four-quarter game and see how the guys respond. Coaches will be on the sideline. It will be a competitive environment, with the score being kept and time being kept, so that will be a different opportunity than the scrimmages we’ve had thus far in spring.”
Tuesday’s practice was the first one since Wyoming’s major scrimmage last Saturday. Vigen was asked what the coaching staff saw after reviewing the tape of last Saturday’s 100-play scrimmage. Vigen responded by saying, “Running back first of all -- the positive thing was all three guys (Nico Evans, Milo Hall and Kellen Overstreet) got 10-plus carries and all three guys had some good production. I think we had six, 13-plus yard runs and that was spread out amongst those three guys.
“Another positive offensively was we ran 100 plays and didn’t turn the ball over. That is a credit to the backs. That is quarterbacks protecting the ball. In fact in our two spring scrimmages we ran 170 plays and committed only two turnovers but no interceptions, so as the quarterbacks’ coach I think that is a positive.
“I think we’re continuing to see the positions of tight end, receiver, running back have a lot of guys coming along, and we still anticipate those guys will improve greatly between now and when we play our first game in September.”
The offensive line has had a mixture of players miss all or parts of 2017 spring practice due to injuries and illnesses, which has made it a thin group. Vigen was asked to evaluate how the offensive line had performed throughout spring practice.
“It is a little thin and it’s still young,” said Vigen. “Hopefully, we get to next fall not as young as we’ve been (senior tackle Ryan Cummings and junior tackle Brinkley Jolly will return from injury). You look at the growth on a daily basis, with a guy like Jace Webb (redshirt freshman guard) -- he’s had some ups and downs, but that’s the nature of your first spring. It’s a lot easier to take those lumps in the spring as opposed to being a true freshman in the fall. He’s coming along.
“It was good to get Gavin Rush (sophomore center) back out there. He was out two weeks due to illness, and even though he’s probably not himself I like the fact that he’s back out there. Kaden Jackson and Zach Wallace are seasoned veterans and are starting to show a little bit more, so we’re coming along well there. It will be great to eventually get Ryan (Cummings) back out there and Brinkley (Jolly) back, and then you’re talking about seven or eight guys we can put out on the field.”
Vigen was asked to give his assessment of the defense this spring from his perspective of going up against them each day as Wyoming’s offensive coordinator.
“I think it’s maybe a transition back to the roots of the system a little bit more,” said Vigen. “Coach (Scottie) Hazelton has brought in some nuances he has learned in his over five years away from us.
“Getting the guys to play fast is the ultimate goal, and you see that happening more and more as spring ball goes along.
“I know the idea to keep the big plays (by the offense) to a minimum was something they certainly did the first scrimmage. We were able to pop a few this last scrimmage, but you can certainly see the progress and the bottom line is playing fast and getting pressure on the quarterback, which has been pretty significant the last couple of weeks as they’ve added things in.”
Vigen was specifically questioned about what he has observed in the performance of the defensive secondary these past five weeks.
“The corner position I think is continuing to evolve,” said Vigen. “A guy who didn’t play much last year who has really stood out is Tyler Hall. He’s looked good. He’s been very consistent. An old vet like Rob Priester, who has been in and out of the starting lineup, you see him becoming more consistent.
“At the safety position, playing the spring without Andrew (Wingard) has created an opportunity for guys like Alijah (Halliburton) and Josh Boyd. I thought in particular Alijah did some good things in last Saturday’s scrimmage, especially coming up and making tackles.”
Wyoming’s final week of 2017 spring practice will continued on Thursday afternoon and will conclude with the Spring Game on Saturday, April 22 at 2 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium. The Spring Game will be preceded by an Alumni Flag Football Game at 11:30 a.m. on April 22 also in War Memorial Stadium. Both events are free and open to the public.
2017 University of Wyoming Football Spring Practice Schedule
Thursday, April 20 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #14)
Saturday, April 22 2 p.m. (Spring Game, Practice #15)