March 24, 2011
LARAMIE, Wyo. - The Wyoming Cowboys will conduct the first major scrimmage of 2011 spring drills on Saturday, March 26 at 9 a.m. Based on predicted weather conditions for Saturday, the Cowboys will likely be forced into the Indoor Practice Facility. The scrimmage is open to the public and media and is free.
Saturday's scrimmage is expected to include a little more than 100 plays -- approximately 45 plays each for the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses and defenses, with the remaining plays going to some of the younger players on the Cowboy roster.
Coming off a practice this past Wednesday that was described by third-year head coach Dave Christensen as one of the best practices his team has had since he has been at Wyoming, Christensen and his staff are looking for a number of things in Saturday's scrimmage.
"We are looking for a high level of execution by the No. 1 offense and defense on Saturday," said Christensen. "In addition to looking for our No. 1s on both sides of the ball to execute their assignments at a high level, we're looking for our No. 2s to show the kind of improvement that will put them in a position to compete for a spot on the starting units. We are, of course, always evaluating which players we feel can help us win games as we look ahead to the season. You want to see competition at every position.
"A scrimmage always gives you an opportunity for a better evaluation of your players because they are in a game-like setting. There will be plenty to evaluate from Saturday's scrimmage."
Special situations that will be incorporated into the scrimmage will include: the offense coming out from its own two-yard line; offense beginning at its own 25 and 35-yard lines; the defense trying to defend from its own 45 and 25-yard lines; and a final period of two-minute offense, with the offense trailing by two points with 1:30 remaining in the game and starting at its own 30-yard line.
Over 80 players are participating in spring practice for the Cowboys this year. Throughout the first two weeks of spring ball, some experimenting with position changes has already taken place. On defense, sophomore linebacker Devyn Harris, who was the returning starter at one outside linebacking spot, has been taking some reps at middle linebacker. Freshman Mark Nzeocha from Neusitz, Germany, began the spring as a free safety, but has since been moved to outside linebacker. On offense, a number of offensive linemen have been playing different positions.
"There is good competition at left guard between Travis Bogard and Tyler Strong. Strong of course was moved over from defensive line at the start of spring," said Christensen. "Kyle Magnuson has moved from guard to right tackle, and he's doing a nice job there. He's been a pleasant surprise and has performed well for us.
"We have a lot of experience on the defensive line, but a couple guys who are competing for more playing time there include (Mat) Birkeness, (Kurt) Taufa'asau and Riley Lange.
"At linebacker, two newcomers in Mark Nzeocha and Korey Jones have both done some good things, but we want to see how they perform in a scrimmage. Devyn Harris has been seeing some time at the middle linebacker spot, with Oliver Schober being limited in spring practice. We're looking at a variety of combinations at linebacker.
"In the secondary, we've been really pleased with how our defensive backs have been competing," added Christensen. "James Caraway at cornerback has been playing well of late. Our safety situation is good. We're cross-training the safeties so they can play both the strong or free positions. We also have experimented with some different personnel groupings in our nickel and dime packages in the secondary."
Saturday will mark the seventh of 15 spring practices. As his team approaches the halfway mark of spring drills, Christensen has seen some new individuals play themselves into the mix for playing time, and he has been pleased with his team's practice habits.
"I like the fact that we've identified some additional guys who have the talent to contribute and play for us this season," said Christensen. "Now it's a matter of them becoming more proficient at their position --learning their assignments, reacting to different situations in a game-like atmosphere.
"We were really excited as a staff to see the level of intensity and competitiveness that the players brought to Wednesday's practice. Now we want to see them bring that kind of physical play and high spirits to every practice and maintain it throughout each practice."
If Saturday's scrimmage is moved indoors, the same safety precautions will be taken as in past scrimmages held indoors. Fans will be allowed to watch the scrimmage from the west end zone in the Indoor Practice Facility, but no one will be allowed on the sidelines due to the limited space and a concern for fans' and players' safety.
Wyoming will hold four practices next week on: Monday, March 28; Wednesday, March 30; Friday, April 1 and on Saturday, April 2. The scrimmage on Saturday, April 2 will begin at 9 a.m., and is also open to the public and media. Weather permitting, it will be held in War Memorial Stadium.