Following two good days of practice on Thursday and Friday, the Wyoming Cowboys will conduct their first major scrimmage this fall on Saturday morning. The Cowboys are expected to scrimmage for approximately 70 plays on Saturday. The scrimmage will be closed to media and the public.
After Friday morning’s two-hour practice, head coach Craig Bohl spoke with media about his team’s recent performance and what he and his staff hoped to see in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“We had a good practice today, and we’ll have a scrimmage tomorrow,” said Bohl. “We’ll meet as a staff this afternoon and determine how many plays we’d like to go tomorrow. Some of that will be contingent upon our health, and some of it will be contingent on how much work we think some guys need. We certainly need some live work, particularly with the younger units.
”We generally would like to run about 70 plays at this point of fall camp. I don’t know if we’ll get that many plays in, but we want to make it a game-like situation as much as possible. We’ll have game officials here to do the scrimmage, and all the coaches will be off the field.
“This is a critical time for us to evaluate our team. There are only so many times that you ramp it up and go live because you want to make sure you have your best guys out there for the first game and not get them hurt in practice. But we need to get live work in to evaluate all of our players.
“We’re looking at not just who are our starters, but who is going to be our No. 2 outside linebacker, who is going to be our No. 2 left tackle. The Mountain West is a competitive league, and developing depth is important. It is pretty naive to think you’re going to go through an entire season without injuries. Last year in the Air Force game, we had four guys go out with concussions, and next thing we know we’re playing with younger guys.”
Bohl was also asked to evaluate how his team responded the past two days after he challenged his team earlier in the week to practice at a higher level.
“I was a little bit disappointed earlier in the week, but after watching the film from practice it probably wasn’t as bad as when I came in here right after practice (to talk to the media). I was a little cranky then,” joked Bohl. “But we have seen progress over the past couple of practices. Now the proof is going to be in the putting in how we perform tomorrow in the scrimmage.
“These are days where you have to make improvement. I thought overall we did okay today. In the kicking game, we made all our extra points and field goals, which is drastically different than it was last year. I believe we are making some progress there.”
One position that returns a great deal of experience for the Pokes from a year ago is tight end, where the top three players all return in senior Jacob Hollister, sophomore Tyree Mayfield and sophomore Josh Harshman. Add to that group converted quarterback Austin Fort and the position that was virtually non-existent when Bohl and his staff brought their pro-style offense to Wyoming is now a position that could become a strength in 2016.
“We’re extremely happy with Jake (Hollister),” said Bohl. “In our pro-style system, we utilize tight ends a lot. He is a lean 240 pounds. We believe he is coming out of his breaks sharper. He’s providing excellent leadership, and in my mind I think he is going to make a lot of plays in the Mountain West.
“Having some other players behind him that allow us to run two tight end sets and run more shifts and motions certainly does give us more flexibility.
“I would say that there is a separation between Jake and our other tight ends. We’re hoping that between Tyree (Mayfield), Josh Harshman and Austin Fort that those guys continue to improve. We’re further along than we have been at tight end since we’ve been here. It is a good position for our football team. We’re hoping it can be a great position.”
On Thursday, Bohl announced to media that he and his coaching staff were looking at moving senior offensive guard Chase Roullier to center and taking a look at true freshman Gavin Rush at left guard. Roullier has been a mainstay at left guard for Wyoming the past two seasons, while senior Du'Ryan Ebbesen had been playing with the No. 1 offensive unit at center throughout last spring and into fall practice. After Friday morning’s practice, Bohl was asked if those changes on the offensive line were still the direction he and his staff were leaning.
“That is correct,” said Bohl. “First of all, Chase (Roullier) is a bright guy. He’s an engineering major, and he’s played a lot of games. While some may not recognize the significant difference in going from guard to center, the center position is kind of like a catcher (in baseball) in that a lot of things start with that position. A lot of the assignments are similar. Guards and centers are a little bit more interchangeable as far as their assignments as opposed to tackles. But nonetheless, there is a little bit of a learning curve there that Chase will have to go through.
“Beyond determining who are the best five players on the offensive line, it is a matter of identifying which five players are playing the best together. We really like what is going on with Gavin (Rush) right now. I think he is ahead of the curve for a freshman in terms of how quickly he is learning our offense. We are leaning that way right now.
“But I don’t want to minimize Du’Ryan’s (Ebbesen) progress. He’s been in our program four years, has earned a scholarship and we’ll need Du’Ryan in the mix this year.”
The head coach was asked about what message he thought it sent to his team for Roullier to be willing to make the move to center to better the team after being a Second Team All-Conference honoree last year at guard and a Preseason First Team All-Mountain West selection and an Outland Trophy candidate entering the 2016 season.
“That is what you are starting to see with our entire football team,” said Bohl. “A lot less about ‘what’s in it for me’ and a lot more about ‘what can I do to help the team win’. If you brought Chase in here he would probably echo that. When you start to get that mentality from the players that ‘I’m a team player’ you’re going to start making progress.”
On the injury front, Bohl shared with media an injury suffered in Thursday’s practice to sophomore outside linebacker Adam Pilapil.
“Everyone got through practice today, but yesterday Adam Pilapil sprained his ankle pretty severely, so it looks like he may be out as long as a month,” said Bohl. “He was a backup WILL (weak-side) linebacker, so we’ll have to find someone in his stead. We’re looking at Cassh Maluia and Ben Wisdorf as two candidates. We have some depth there, but they certainly haven’t had the kind of repetitions that we would like.”
Bohl also announced that true freshman safety Josh Boyd would be academically ineligible this fall. In a ruling by the NCAA, Boyd will be able to continue to receive his scholarship this fall but will not be allowed to participate in any practice or team activities. Boyd is going to remain in school at UW and work to rejoin the team for the spring semester.
Fans interested in purchasing tickets to 2016 Wyoming Cowboy Football games 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.
2016 University of Wyoming Football Fall Practice Schedule
(Times of Practices are Tentative)
Saturday, Aug. 20 10:30 a.m. (Closed Scrimmage, Practice #15)
4:45 p.m. (Practice #16)
Monday, Aug. 22 9:00 a.m. (Practice #17)
Tuesday, Aug. 23 9:30 a.m. (Practice #18)
3:50 p.m. (Practice #19)
Wednesday, Aug. 24 10:00 a.m. (Practice #20)
Thursday, Aug. 25 9:20 a.m. (Practice #21)
4:00 p.m. (Practice #22)
Friday, Aug. 26 9:30 a.m. (Practice #23)
Saturday, Aug. 27 10:30 a.m. (Closed Scrimmage, Practice #24)
Monday, Aug. 29 First Weekly Press Conference at Noon in Rochelle Athletics Center WAR Room