March 12, 2002
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Third-year head coach Vic Koenning will welcome 16 returning starters and 43 returning lettermen when the Wyoming Cowboy Football team opens spring drills on Wednesday, March 13. The first practice of the spring is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and will run approximately two hours. The practice will be held on the North Forty practice fields (north of the UW tennis facility).
The Cowboys have 10 of 11 offensive starters back from a unit that ranked 15th in the nation in passing offense a year ago. Defensively, six of 11 starters return, and the Pokes' special teams are in good hands with All-America place-kicker Jarvis Wallum and punter Luke Donovan both returning.
NCAA Division IA schools are allowed 15 practices during the spring. Of those 15 practices, eight can be full contact, four can involve limited contact but no tackling and three must be without any pads. The 15 full-contact practices can include as many as three scrimmages.
This year, the Cowboys will take one of their scrimmages on the road. On Saturday, April 13 the Pokes will hold a scrimmage in Casper, Wyo. The exact time of that scrimmage has not yet been determined. The annual Brown and Gold Spring Game will be played on Saturday, April 20. The gametime for the spring game will also be announced at a later date.
The spring practice schedule will begin with five practices from March 13-20, then the Pokes will take a week off during University of Wyoming spring break. Practices resume on Wednesday, April 3, with 10 practices schedule after spring break. Weekday practices are scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. Weekend practice times will vary and will be determined each week of spring ball.
The focus of 2002 spring drills will be improving fundamentals and consistency, according to Koenning, who is entering his third year as Cowboy head coach and his sixth year as a part of the Wyoming Football program.
"During the spring, we want to focus on helping each individual player reach their maximum potential," said Koenning. "If we can get each of our players to play at their highest level, and improve the consistency of their individual performances, we believe that will carry through to making us a better team. The spring is a time when you can focus more attention on individual players' development because you don't get caught up in preparing for your next opponent each week, like you do once you get into the regular season.
"In reviewing last year's films, we made too many fundamental errors. Part of that was due to youth, part was due to moving people to unfamiliar positions during the season when we lost players to injury. But I saw signs of our players improving through the year. We had a lot of young men who made dramatic improvement last season. Because we have some veterans sitting out this spring with injuries, there will be a number of young players who are going to get an opportunity to show us what they can do. I'm looking forward to seeing which of these players step forward and show they can contribute to our football team."
Among the veterans who will not be involved in any spring contact drills are: defensive lineman Jon Aimone (neck and shoulder), wide receiver Ryan McGuffey (shoulder), wide receiver Brock Ralph (shoulder) and linebacker Herman White (shoulder). Players who will likely be involved in some, limited contact are: running back Kit Bradshaw (back), center Trenton Franz (back) and defensive lineman Anthony Jones.
Key players who are returning from injury to participate in spring practice are: defensive lineman Brandon Casavan, who is coming back from off-season ankle surgery, and offensive lineman Rob Kellerman, who missed time last year due to chronic knee problems.
Koenning expects around 76 players to participate in spring practice this year.
Due to the experience coming back on the offense, Koenning said they will likely have an opportunity to progress more quickly through the spring than they have in past seasons.
"Offensively, we have so many guys coming back who already understand our offensive system," said Koenning. "With that being the case, this spring we can spend more time refining our playbook and adding new wrinkles, rather than spending so much time on teaching players the basic plays. Also with the added familiarity our players have with this system, they now see little things they can do to be more effective within the system.
"On the defensive side of the ball, we don't have quite the experience we have on offense, but we are starting to develop some real depth. We have a number of good players at each position, not just one or two guys. That depth will make for some good competition at a number of positions.
"The overall depth on this team should increase the competitive nature throughout the team. Last year, we had excellent depth at wide receiver. Because there were so many talented players competing for playing time, it made each of those young men perform every day. I think the results of that competitiveness showed in the productivity of the wide receiver position on last year's team."
While no huge changes are planned in either the offensive or defensive schemes, Koenning did say that another focus during spring drills will be to refine the defensive and offensive systems to best utilize the strengths of individual players.
Speaking of some of those individual talents the Cowboys have coming back are: First Team All-Conference performers Ryan McGuffey, a junior wide receiver, and Adam Goldberg, a senior offensive tackle. Junior quarterback Casey Bramlet is back after earning Second Team All-Conference as a sophomore. Senior place-kicker Jarvis Wallum was selected by Football News as its Second Team All-America kicker in 2001, and he was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award which honors the nation's top kicker. Malcom Floyd, a junior wide receiver, and sophomore defensive back Guy Tuell both return after earning Honorable Mention All-Conference accolades from the Mountain West Conference last season.
As a team, the Cowboys ranked No. 15 in the nation in passing offense in 2001, averaging 282.4 yards passing per game. The Cowboy defense was also very effective in forcing opponent fumbles last year, ranking 35th in the country.
Several returning Cowboys were also among the nation's leaders in individual categories. Wallum tied for No. 3 in the country in field goals made, averaging 1.82 per game. He also averaged 7.00 points per game to rank 55th in the nation. Bramlet ranked No. 14 in the country in total offense (277.1 yards per game). Two of his leading targets were also nationally ranked. McGuffey ranked No. 8 in the NCAA in receptions (7.22 catches per game) and No. 31 in receiving yards (83.4 yards per game). Floyd ranked No. 56 in receptions (4.82 catches per game) and No. 52 in receiving yards (71.8 per game). Punter Luke Donovan averaged 40.7 yards per punt, in his first season as the Cowboy punter, to rank 52nd.
The first two Cowboy practices on March 13 and 15 are non-contact practices. The first practice involving full contact will be on Monday, March 18.