March 26, 2014
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
As the Wyoming Cowboys took the field for their first practice of 2014 Spring Football on Wednesday, we sat down with Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl to find out his thoughts as he enters his first spring leading the Cowboy Football program.
Bohl and his Cowboy Team practiced for two and one half hours on Wednesday morning in the first of 15 spring practices.
Question: It has been awhile since you've entered spring football practice as the head coach of a program new to you. What are your feelings heading into your first spring at Wyoming?
Craig Bohl: "There is a real sense of excitement within our coaching staff and specifically me. Anytime you're going into a new program there are challenges. Our strength staff has had an opportunity to go through offseason conditioning with the players, but there was nothing in that offseason program that included football-specific drills. Now (heading into spring ball) we're going to be rolling up our sleeves and doing some more of the schematics of our systems on offense, defense and in the kicking game.
"We have a clean slate coming into spring football. Not only do we begin to get to know our players better now in spring ball, but we get to know what they can do on the football field."
Question: You've had the previous experience of taking over a program as a head coach when you did that 11 years ago at North Dakota State. As a head coach of a new program, what will you be focusing on with the players when you take to the practice field this week?
Craig Bohl: "The biggest thing is gaining their (the players') trust, and that's going to take some time. I think it is important for the players to really understand that our coaches are here for them. That will be the most important thing to do is for our players to say, `Our coaches care about us, and they're teaching us ways to play the game of football better.'
"The next thing is establishing a new culture here, and that is also something we're really excited about as coaches. Anytime you take over a new program you use your past experiences to draw on, but just because you did things a certain way in the past that doesn't mean you necessarily do the same things here. It does help that I personally have been a head coach for 11 years. It's not like walking out there the first day and saying to yourself, `Okay I've never been a head coach before.'"
Question: One of the important facets of spring football is the opportunity to evaluate players. Since this is your first chance to evaluate the current Cowboys how unique will this spring be when compared to a situation where you know many of the veteran players already on your team.
Craig Bohl: "It will be significantly more unique. When you've been with a group of players for a period of years, you always have somewhat of a baseline to begin each spring. We've watched tape on our current Wyoming team, but the things that we're going to ask our players to do this spring are going to be different than what they've been asked to do previously. It's going to be a unique experience for our players, our coaches and for myself. There will be some feeling out between all of us. I'm glad we have 15 practices. Quite frankly, I wish we had 30. But we'll take advantage of all these 15 practices that we do have."
Question: Another important facet of spring is of course installation of offensive, defensive and special teams systems. You will be bringing a West Coast offense and a 4-3 defense to the Wyoming Football program. What are your goals for this spring in terms of getting those new systems installed?
Craig Bohl: "When you start with our priorities for spring the first thing is to evaluate our personnel, and the next thing is to install our systems. There is a baseline of elements of our defense, the Tampa 2, our West-Coast offense and our kicking game that we want to be able to cover this spring. Typically, the third phase of spring is you experiment, and you tweak things in your systems. But I think this first year it's going to be important for our players to have a really good understanding of what our base runs are, what our base passes are, here are our base fronts on defense, here are our base coverages and what are our base rules in the kicking game. By the time we do all of that, I think we'll have a pretty full slate. We're not going to be able to be as exotic this spring."
Question: You brought six assistant coaches with you from North Dakota State. You've also added three experienced college coaches to your staff in Pete Kaligis, Mike Bath and David Brown. Can you talk about the staff you've been able to put together here at Wyoming?
Craig Bohl: "I think it's important to have a blend, including some presence of Cowboy Football, which Coach (Pete) Kaligis provides us having a great rapport with our current players and having been at the University of Wyoming for several years himself. Because of his previous relationships with our young men, it was really important for us to hire him. I think it was also important for us to gain an understanding and some insight about the Mountain West Conference -- not only from Pete's perspective but from David Brown's perspective, who coached the secondary at Fresno State and will now coach our secondary. Then for us to bring in six coaches from NDSU, I think was important for us to have a foundation of the systems that we will be coaching. Finally, to bring in a really experienced coach who has coordinated offenses and played quarterback at Miami of Ohio in Mike Bath. Many of those guys I just mentioned have also had previous head-coaching experience. I like the fact that we have a seasoned group, a diversified group, from different parts of the country. I think it will be fun for us and beneficial for this staff's development to not just talk about the ways we did things at NDSU, or about what worked well here at Wyoming, or at Fresno State or at Miami of Ohio, but to work together to build the new Cowboy Football staff."
Question: There are a number of veteran players returning to the 2014 Cowboy Football squad, in fact 18 of 24 starters return from last season, but of course the big question heading into spring and a question you have spoken about is finding a quarterback. How important is it this spring to evaluate the QBs in this program and for those young men to show you what they are capable of in leading your offense?
Craig Bohl: "It is critical that we find a quarterback. The years that I was a defensive coordinator, if you had to call defenses against a really seasoned, experienced, talented quarterback it was like there were three holes in the dam and you had two plugs and you had to constantly move them around. It's hard to defend a team with an effective quarterback. We're going to really need to evaluate -- probably more so than any other position -- the quarterbacks in our program this spring. Every position in our program has a clean slate heading into spring, but the quarterback position in our program really has a clean slate entering this spring. There are not a lot of game reps under the belts of our current quarterbacks. We have 15 practices this spring to evaluate the young men at that position. Between Coach (Brent) Vigen, who is a very learned, experienced quarterback coach and excellent offensive coordinator, and myself, we will be taking a hard look at that position."
Question: Finally, at the end of this spring, what questions do you hope you are able to answer about this current Cowboy team and what goals do you hope you will have been able to accomplish?
Craig Bohl: "We really want to establish a physical presence throughout our whole football team. That starts at the line of scrimmage with your offensive line and your defensive front. Along with integrating our systems, our style of play is going to demand that the points of attack, specifically at the line of scrimmage, change. After watching tape from last year, we are really going to need to change our mentality. We should have a pretty good pulse after that 15th practice where we are at in that process. I think that is going to be a very important goal for us to accomplish, to say `We're a more physical football team.'
"The next thing that will be important for us is to come out of spring feeling that we are a really competent football team -- where guys can play fast and are confident in their assignments.
"We're going to demand great effort from our players, but sometimes if a guy is unsure about what he is doing it is hard to say that guy isn't giving great effort when he is actually unclear about his assignments. "The challenge for us as coaches is to have a really good understanding of what our players can handle and then be able to teach them their assignments so they can play fast and confidently and execute in the fourth quarter to win games."
The Cowboys will return to the practice field on Friday and Saturday this week. Spring Practice will culminate with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium. The Spring Game will be open to the public.