The Wyoming Cowboys will take to the practice field for the first time this fall on Monday, Aug. 8 as they open fall camp with a 9 a.m. practice, followed by Media Day in the afternoon. Media may attend the first 30 minutes of practices. Media will be hosted at a luncheon in the Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites from 1-2 p.m., with interviews of Cowboy players and coaches taking place on Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium from 2-3 p.m. The regular season will kick off for the Cowboys on Saturday, Sept. 3 when UW will host Northern Illinois in a game kicking off at 8:30 p.m. from War Memorial Stadium.
Wyoming will enter the 2016 season with a group of dynamic players returning who should be among the best at their positions in the Mountain West Conference and nationally. Included in that group are four individuals who have been named to national award watch lists entering this season. Junior running back Brian Hill has been named to both the Maxwell Award Watch List, which honors the top player in college football, and the Doak Walker Watch List, which honors the premier running back in the nation. Hill was one of 11 semifinalists for the 2015 Doak Walker Award. Senior offensive guard Chase Roullier has been selected to the Outland Trophy Watch List, which honors the nation’s top interior lineman. Sophomore free safety Andrew Wingard is on this year’s Jim Thorpe Award Watch List, honoring college football’s top defensive back, and senior punter Ethan Wood is on the Ray Guy Award Watch List for the second consecutive season. Hill, Roullier and Wingard have also all received First Team Preseason All-MW honors from MW media entering the 2016 season.
Third-year Cowboy head coach Craig Bohl will welcome back a larger number of experienced players and starters in 2016. A total of 45 lettermen and 18 starters will return for the Cowboys this coming season compared to 37 returning lettermen and 10 returning starters in 2015, however, many of those returners are still relatively young players. The Cowboys ranked seventh in the nation for the most freshmen played in 2015, with 26, including 16 true freshmen and 10 redshirt freshmen. That led to a number of young Cowboys gaining valuable experience, but also meant many were learning under fire.
Among other top returners for the Pokes in 2016 will be senior middle linebacker Lucas Wacha, who ranked fifth in the league and 44th in the nation in tackles as a junior. Senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry was having a great season in 2015, leading the Mountain West in receiving prior to suffering a season-ending injury in Week 7. Gentry was named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List as a junior, which honors college football’s outstanding receiver each season. Senior outside linebacker and kick returner D.J. May returns after having an outstanding season in his first year playing linebacker in 2015. May ranked No. 7 in the league in passes defended and No. 28 in tackles. The former running back was also one of the top kickoff returners in the nation, ranking 24th in the NCAA.
As the Cowboys enter the third season under the direction of Bohl, they look to take another step forward in the building process. Bohl likes the work ethic that this year’s Wyoming Cowboys have. He also is high on the number of outstanding returners coming back this season, but he realizes that many of the returners are still young and they will need to continue to develop as the 2016 season unfolds.
“Certainly, we are more comfortable entering this year than we have been in the past,” said Bohl. “We’ve got a lot of continuity on our coaching staff and a lot of familiar faces returning on our team. Our guys have gained another year of experience in our system, but we are still young at certain positions. We’re not a seasoned, veteran football team like Northern Illinois, who returns a number of fifth-year seniors on both sides of the football, but we’re certainly further along than we were last year. We have fewer questions about our football team than we had last year, so that is encouraging.
“This year is another step in the building process, and there is a good feeling around our football team in terms of the direction we feel we’re headed.”
Combined with the large number of young players who played significant roles in the 2015 season, there were also some veterans who were learning new positions entering last season. May was transitioning from running back to linebacker/nickel when fall camp began a year ago.
“D.J. May was a guy we had decided we were going to play at the linebacker/nickel position, but a year ago at this time he hadn’t taken any reps at that position due to him missing spring practice with an injury,” said Bohl. “D.J. was an unknown quantity last year. Now he’s had a full year of playing that position, and he’s not the only one.
“It will be another fall camp for Josh (Allen) to develop. While he didn’t get much of an opportunity to play quarterback last year, getting injured in the second game of the season, this will give him another fall camp under his belt before we kick off the season. That combined with the experience Nick (Smith) gained last year puts us in a position where we are further along than we were a year ago. I think our quarterback position has promise, and quite frankly we believe Josh (Allen) has great promise, but he’s unproven.”
Asked what he saw as some of the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s Cowboy team, Bohl replied, “If you were to single out positions as strengths, you would probably say receiver, running back and over on defense the secondary would be a strength. In terms of some weaknesses, we’re concerned about the defensive line and our inexperience there. Our linebackers are thin in terms of depth, and then looking at the kicking game we have a young kicker in freshman Cooper Rothe, who we are excited about but is unproven at this point.
“Particularly with the skill players we have returning offensively, there is reason to be optimistic. I think we’ve got a pretty good trio with seniors Tanner Gentry, Jake Maulhardt and Jacob Hollister at wide receiver and tight end. Those guys have all shown the ability to make plays in our league, and we’re excited about that. That coupled with our tailback position gives us some talented weapons on offense. With Shaun (Wick) back in the fold after he missed much of last season suffering from a concussion, it will be a big positive to team him up with Brian Hill once again. We also have our top two fullbacks returning in Drew Van Maanen and Jordan Ellis to help pave the way for our talented tailbacks.
“The people who are going to be handling the football, excluding the quarterback, are very experienced and have shown the ability to be very productive in our league. We’re also further along in the development of our offensive line than where we have been in the past.”
The first 30 minutes of practices will be open to media. Student-athletes and coaches will be available for interviews with the media after fall practices. The Cowboys will utilize War Memorial Stadium, the Indoor Practice Facility and the North 40 Practice Fields for fall drills.
Fans interested in purchasing tickets to 2016 Wyoming Cowboy Football games may: go online at www.GoWyo.com/tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org, 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. Please confirm start times with Wyoming Media Relations if you plan to attend a practice.)
Monday, Aug. 8 9:00 a.m. (Non-contact, Helmets, Practice #1)
1:00-2:00 p.m. (Media Day Luncheon in Wildcatter Stadium Club & Suites)
2:00-3:00 p.m. (Media Day Interviews on Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium)
Tuesday, Aug. 9 8:30 a.m. (Non-contact, Helmets Practice #2)
Wednesday, Aug. 10 8:30 a.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #3)
Thursday, Aug. 11 8:30 a.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #4)
Friday, Aug. 12 8:30 a.m. (First Practice in Full Pads, Practice #5)
Saturday, Aug. 13 9:10 a.m. (Practice #6)
3:50 p.m. (Practice #7)
Monday, Aug. 15 8:30 a.m. (Practice #8)
Tuesday, Aug. 16 8:30 a.m. (Practice #9)
3:00 p.m. (Practice #10)
Wednesday, Aug. 17 9:20 a.m. (Practice #11)
Thursday, Aug. 18 8:30 a.m. (Practice #12)
3:20 p.m. (Practice #13)
Friday, Aug. 19 9:20 a.m. (Practice #14)
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