March 30, 2001
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Wyoming begins football springtraining Saturday in what head coach Vic Koenning is deeming a very"fundamental" session.
Saturday will be the first of 15 spring practice opportunities. TheCowboys will practice without pads for the first two days of springtraining. Their initial padded practice is scheduled for early next week.At least 12 team members will be held out of spring ball due to injury.Because of those injuries scrimmage time will be limited, according toKoenning. Heading into the spring session, just three scrimmages arescheduled, including the final "spring game" scrimmage on April 21. Thatscrimmage will not be the final practice, however. Koenning has threepractices planned following that scrimmage during the last week of April.
"We will spend a tremendous amount of time on fundamentals,"Koenning said Friday prior to the opening of spring training. "I'm talkingabout everything, from stance, to start, to alignment. . .head to toe."Many of our problems last season stemmed from the fact we were notfundamentally sound. Of course, part of that was because we had so manyfirst-year players (27) who we were throwing in the fire. But we are goingto learn how to walk all over again. We are going to re-emphasize everysingle detail.
"There is no question this is an extremely important practicesession for us," Koenning continued. "We had a very good off-seasonprogram. Everyone worked very hard, and a lot of good leadership emerged.It was very positive, and we are carrying that into spring training. We'restill a young team, but we are a year older and more mature, and much morecapable of facing the challenges ahead.
"Our leadership is extremely important. We have only six three-yearlettermen on this team. Most programs have between 15 to 18, or even more.Those six, however, are outstanding leaders. But we are going to have toreceive leadership from some of the underclassmen as well, and some of thoseguys are responding."
Koenning said there will be subtle changes in what the Cowboys runoffensively and defensively. Some of those changes come due to the newcoaches within the staff. "We are not going to do a whole lot differently,"Koenning said. "We must learn to improve what we do in regards to ourschemes, our techniques, our fundamentals. In other words we must do whatwe do, better."
Of the 44 lettermen returning from last year's squad, 21 are onoffense and 23 on defense. Those totals include eight starters returningoffensively and six defensively.
The obvious focus offensively will be at the quarterback positionwhere veteran Jay Stoner has departed. Sophomore Casey Bramlet will receivethe majority of that attention since senior veteran Matt Swanson will missspring drills while recovering from shoulder problems. Tight end, centerand guard also will be major areas of focus for the coaching staffoffensively.
"We certainly did not perform to our capabilities in those areaslast season," Koenning said. "We have individuals with skill, and who canplay, they just must step up and play better than they did a year ago. Wewill do some experimenting--which is what spring training is all about--andmove some guys around. We might look at several different people at tightend, for example."
The focus defensively will be in the front. Outstanding veteranslike Patrick Chukwurah, Jeff Boyle and Pat Hirsch are gone from thatdefensive line. Re-tooling is required there. At linebacker and in thesecondary there are proven veterans. Both areas were given a lift by thereturn from injury of two outstanding players, all-conference safety AlRich who is moving back to the secondary, and proven veteran Leo Caires atlinebacker. Both sat out most of last year with injury. The Cowboys couldstart four seniors in the secondary. In addition to Rich, Lamar Jamesreturns at one safety while Eric Lee and DeShawn Abram, both starters lastyear, return at corner.
Koenning plans to place a great deal of emphasis on special teamsthis spring, especially in the punting game. Both last year's punter andplace-kicker (Tom Waring and Aaron Elling) are gone. Heading into springdrills, Matt Swanson is penciled in as the punter and Jarvis Wallum as theplace-kicker.
"We have work to do in our special teams areas," Koenning said. "Wewill place special emphasis on the punting game. I think Jarvis Wallum willbe an outstanding place kicker. But we have a great deal of room forimprovement in all phases of our special teams."