Saturday Morning Practice Kicks Off Wyoming Cowboys' 2011 Spring Drills

March 5, 2011


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The Wyoming Cowboys opened 2011 spring drills on Saturday morning with a two-and-one-half-hour practice beginning at 9 a.m. in Wyoming's Indoor Practice Facility. Saturday's practice was the first of two non-contact practices to begin the spring. There are 85 players participating in spring practice for the Cowboys.

"With these first couple of practices you want to develop good practice habits early and teach the kids, particularly the new kids, the expectations we have for each and every practice," said Christensen. "Overall, it was a good first practice. The work ethic was definitely there, and that's the kind of effort we need to get better.

"A lot of the focus in these first couple of non-contact practices is working on assignments and technique. The physical-type work, of course, has to wait until we get pads on. We're involved in installation of offense, defense and special teams right now. These first few days aren't what you look forward to as a football coach, because you want to get the kids in pads and start hitting, so you can evaluate players more fully. But that will come in time. We'll get more installation done on Monday, get some contact drills in on Tuesday and then Thursday we'll get some live reps in."

Saturday's practice consisted of 17 periods, which lasted from two to 20 minutes each. Five of those periods focused on fundamentals, five were group periods and three team periods. The Cowboys finished up with some 11-on-11 work to bring the first practice of spring to a conclusion.

The second to last period of the day featured seven-on-seven passing drills for 20 minutes, with the Cowboy backs and receivers pitted against the linebackers and defensive backs. Some highlights from Saturday's seven-on-seven drill included an interception for a touchdown by senior cornerback Tashaun Gipson on redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr. But Miller had some high points of his own, hitting sophomore tight end Spencer Bruce on a 20-yard pass down the middle and closing out the final play of the seven-on-seven passing drill with a 23-yard pass down the sideline to senior wide receiver Jonathan Aiken. The Cowboy defense had a second interception when junior-college transfer safety Luke Anderson intercepted freshman quarterback Brett Smith. Smith later hit senior wide receiver DeJay Lester on a 25-yard completion down the sideline on a play that saw Lester make a spectacular catch. Smith also connected with junior wide receiver Chris McNeill on a 10-yard pass that McNeill turned into a 35-yard gain.<> "Tashaun (Gipson) made a nice break on the ball," said Christensen. "For our quarterbacks, they have to adjust to the speed of the game, especially when you're facing the experience that some of the individuals in our secondary have. You better be on target, and you better get the ball there quick.

"But I saw some good things from our quarterbacks and receivers too. We've just got to keep working on increasing the positive offensive plays each time we go out there this spring.

"There were some pluses and minuses on both sides of the ball, and that's what you want to see when your team is competing against one another. You don't want to see one side of the ball totally dominant of the other. I thought there was really good competition out there for us not being in pads."

The Cowboy coaching staff released the first depth chart of spring, with seven returning starters on offense, eight on defense and senior punter Austin McCoy leading the way.

Wyoming will hold three practices next week on Monday, March 7; Tuesday, March 8; and Thursday, March 10 at 3:30 p.m. each of those three days. Monday's practice will be the second non-contact practice of the spring. The Pokes will put shoulder pads on for the first time on Tuesday and full pads on Thursday. Next Thursday's practice will be the final one before the Cowboys take a week off during UW's spring break.

"We'll meet as a staff first thing Monday morning to review Saturday's practice," said Christensen. "Then the position coaches will meet with their kids and go over the tape from this practice prior to Monday's practice. We'll follow that up with a practice on Tuesday, have meetings on Wednesday and be ready to put full pads on for Thursday's practice."

The first scrimmage of spring will be Saturday, March 26 at 9 a.m., and will be open to the public.