LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The Wyoming offense displayed an ability to throw the ball deep in Saturday’s third practice of spring and first practice in full pads. Senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry caught a 66-yard touchdown pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen, and the two later connected on another TD pass of over 50 yards. The Cowboys practiced in Wyoming’s Indoor Practice Facility, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
Gentry, who was leading the Mountain West in receiving yards in 2015 prior to suffering a shoulder injury, looked very sharp in Saturday’s practice.
“There certainly were some bright spots today,” said Bohl. “I thought we threw deep well. We’ve always known Josh (Allen) has good arm strength, but today he and Tanner (Gentry) connected with a couple deep balls for touchdowns. Josh put the ball on the money on those two plays.
“We still need to work on our completion percentage in the short passing game, but the deep passing game looked fairly sharp today.
“It was great to see Tanner come out there and make those plays coming off his injury last year. He’s got a big body. He runs really well and has the ability to go up and catch the football. That is encouraging because it is going to enable us to stretch the field vertically.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Bohl was pleased with the pressure the defense was able to get on the Cowboy quarterbacks in Saturday’s practice.
“I thought our defensive line had some good pressure today,” added Bohl. “That can be a double-edged sword because you have to evaluate the offensive line at the same time, but I did think we got some good edge pressure which is going to be really helpful for the progression of our defense.
“A couple other positive things from today’s first padded practice, one I think Brian (Hill) continues to excel and go out and challenge himself to be better and better all the time, so I was encouraged about that. And I think we’re seeing some good play out of Zach Wallace at the left-tackle spot.”
Bohl was asked to expand on his impressions of the move he and his coaching staff made on the offensive line to start spring practice. That move shifted junior offensive tackle Ryan Cummings from left tackle to right tackle and sophomore offensive tackle Wallace from right tackle to left tackle.
“We think that move is going well,” said Bohl. “The combination of Zach (Wallace) and Chase Roullier on the left side really helps us in some of our five-step drops, and having Ryan (Cummings) and Kaden (Jackson) on the right side seems to be working well. Kaden did get nicked up today. He did not finish practice, but I think he will be okay. The trainers gave me an indication that he was fine, but he had some lack of strength in a knee so we took a cautious approach.
“To get back to your question, sometimes you make adjustments and they don’t work but I think this one is a good move.”
Bohl was also encouraged by the work ethic of his team overall and indicated he likes the progress they’ve made in the first week of spring drills.
“There was a good tempo to today’s practice,” said Bohl. “We repped a lot of plays. I think the ‘want to’ is there by the players, and we are certainly further along from previous years in terms of our understanding of what we are doing. We like the progress that we’re making. We look like a more confident football team, however we are still young.”
A couple of seniors to be who finished up the 2015 season playing some of their best football are tight end Jacob Hollister and strongside linebacker/nickel back D.J. May. Bohl was asked to comment on what he sees from those two key players.
“It is another year of experience for both of them, and even though they are seniors we have to remember that this is the first spring D.J. (May) has had a chance to play nickel,” said Bohl. “Jacob (Hollister) has gotten stronger and more comfortable in our system. He is a very capable pass receiver. He needs to continue to develop his blocking skills, but he definitely finished up last season on a productive note.”
May was asked how he thinks he has progressed with one year of experience playing linebacker after playing running back for the Cowboys his first two seasons.
“Last year at this time, I was still hurt and was rehabbing, so I didn’t really start playing linebacker until fall camp,” said May. “I was trying to figure things out week-by-week last year. Now I can try to perfect the things I learned last year. I’m trying to play faster, make all my reads way quicker and minimize my errors.”
May’s first goal for this year is to remain healthy, something that he has struggled with during his career.
“My first goal is just to stay healthy,” said the senior from Federal Way, Wash. “I’ve been trying to keep my weight up. I’m between 210 and 215. Last year, I was playing at like 200 pounds. I’m trying to take care of my body more.
“My main overall goal though is I want our team to go to a bowl game. I’ve never been to a bowl game.”
May will also likely be involved in returning kicks for the Cowboys again in 2016. A year ago, he was one of the leading kickoff return men in the Mountain West and the nation, averaging 26.2 yards per kick return to rank No. 4 in the MW and No. 24 in the NCAA.
“I definitely want to be back returning kicks. I know they (the coaches) are going to try some other guys on our team there, but I want to make sure and get my shot,” laughed May. “Coach (Bohl) and I might have to talk about it a lot. He might tell me no, but I’ll try to change his mind.”
Hollister has put on significant weight from last season. He is weighing in close to 240 pounds this spring, after playing around 230 as a junior. He was asked how he feels with the extra size.
“Everything feels easier,” said the native of Bend, Ore. Coach (Russell) Dennison has done a great job with us, and I feel like I’m moving better than I ever have. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m feeling great. It makes blocking much better.”
Hollister had a very productive season in 2015. He was third on the team in catches (26), receiving yards (355) and TD receptions (3), and finished the year with the best game of his career in Wyoming’s victory over UNLV. Hollister caught five passes for a career best 119 yards and scored one TD in the win over the Rebels in the season finale.
“As the season went on, I feel like I got more comfortable with our quarterbacks,” said Hollister. “It was kind of tough with our quarterbacks getting hurt, but Nick (Smith) and I started getting more comfortable and then when Cam (Coffman) got back I felt the same. We also started using the tight ends a lot more in the offense toward the end of the year.
“Winning is my main goal this coming season. Before I got here I wasn’t use to losing. I know that all of our coaches and players weren’t use to losing either. All I want to do is work towards a Mountain West Championship. That is really my main focus. Obviously, I want to do the best I can in my role as the tight end and do whatever I can for the team. But my main goal is to just win ballgames.”
One of the final questions that media asked Bohl following Saturday’s practice was whether he saw any separation between the two quarterbacks in the first week of spring practice.
“I think it’s too early,” said Bohl. “There is going to be a body of work that we’ll be looking at. We’re mixing our two quarterbacks (Josh Allen and Nick Smith) going from the first group to the second group. We’re charting everything they do. One guy will have a better day than the other on a certain day, but we’ll continue to evaluate our quarterbacks. Competition brings out the best in people, and both guys are competing well.”
Bohl gave media a preview of what was planned for week two of spring practice when the Cowboys return to the practice field next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“We will start incorporating more competitive drills into practice,” said Bohl. “We’re following protocol set by the NCAA where you can only do so much tackling to the ground. We didn’t do that on the first day of pads today, but we’ll start incorporating full-tackling drills. It is important to not only see which players can execute their assignments and be in the right spot but which guys can actually tackle and make plays.”
In addtion to Kaden Jackson not completing practice Saturday due to injury, Bohl also said that tight end Austin Fort suffered a pulled muscle. Bohl added that Fort had been showing positive signs of his transition to tight end from quarterback.
2016 University of Wyoming Football Spring Practice Schedule
Tuesday, March 22 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #1)
Thursday, March 24 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #2)
Saturday, March 26 - TBA (Practice #3)
Tuesday, March 29 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #4)
Thursday, March 31 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #5)
Saturday, April 2 - TBA (Practice #6)
Tuesday, April 5 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #7)
Thursday, April 7 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #8)
Saturday, April 9 - TBA (Practice #9)
Tuesday, April 12 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #10)
Thursday, April 14 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #11)
Saturday, April 16 - TBA (Practice #12)
Tuesday, April 19 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #13)
Thursday, April 21 - 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Practice #14)
Saturday, April 23 - 2 p.m. (Spring Game, Practice #15)