LARAMIE, Wyo. -
A bright sunny sky and temperatures in the 60s welcomed the Wyoming Cowboys to the first day of spring football practice on Monday in War Memorial Stadium. The Cowboys went through a two-hour, non-padded practice in what is the second spring at Wyoming for head coach Craig Bohl and his staff.
The Cowboy coaching staff blended a mixture of individual, fundamental drills; 7-on-7 passing drills and a series of team periods into Monday's initial practice.
While the 2015 Cowboy squad returns a number of key players at the positions of running back, defensive line and offensive line, there are several areas where Bohl and his coaches will be focused on evaluating some new players to determine their ability to make a contribution for the 2015 Cowboys.
Following Monday's practice, Bohl met with media and shared some of what he saw in the first of 15 spring practices. He started by commenting on the quarterback position, defensive line, running backs and tight ends.
"We had a really good first day," said Bohl. "I saw some positive things today.
"As we go through spring football it is really important for us to identify our quarterback. That is an evaluation that will continue throughout spring, but I saw some good signs today.
"I think we've got some really good depth on the defensive line. Uso (Olive) is really taking steps forward. While we're not in pads yet, he's showing great quickness and explosion.
"The running back position looks pretty solid, and we've made significant improvement at tight end from where we were last year at this time."
When asked what he was looking for in the first practice of spring, Bohl responded, "Today was a day to focus on alignments and assignments and try to see if the players understand what we are trying to accomplish. The foundation we have in place is certainly deeper than what we had in place last year.
"I do think there are things you can look at, at the quarterback position -- how they're moving around, how they're setting their feet, are they making their reads and going through their progressions properly. I thought Cam (Coffman) really did some excellent things today.
"Also you can observe the hustle of the defense and how they are pursuing to the football."
Wyoming's second-year head coach was asked how much more comfortable he is this year than he was last year when he was just getting to know his team.
"I am a lot more comfortable," said Bohl. "As a head football coach it is important to get to know your players, so for me having a grasp of who our guys are and knowing what they can do is invaluable. The type of program we want to build is a long-lasting program -- not a quick fix. The steps we made last year helps me and the coaches on our staff feel much more comfortable as we take the next step in building this program."
Not only did Bohl comment on redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman, but he spoke about the overall changes he sees in the quarterback group from last year to this year.
"We have a lot more depth at that position (quarterback)," said Bohl. "Certainly, there is a physical presence and increased size of our players at the quarterback position. We have guys who are 6'4" and 6'5" with good arm strength.
"The younger guys still have to learn to command the offense, and while Cam hasn't played in this offense before, you can see his maturity from his years playing at Indiana come through."
On the offensive line, three starters return in sophomore left tackle Ryan Cummings, junior left guard Chase Roullier and senior center Rafe Kiely. But after those three starters, Bohl was asked how important it was to develop depth this spring.
"We had hoped to have some more depth, but as guys move in to new roles and things shake out that is part of this process, said Bohl. "The guys who have chosen to leave the program and the guys who we've removed are part of this process too. We are going to be focused on the guys who are out there."
On the defensive side of the ball, Bohl was asked to comment on the one experienced linebacker returning to the Cowboys this spring -- that linebacker being junior Lucas Wacha.
"He's put on some good lean muscle mass this past year," said Bohl. "Lucas has played a lot of football, and he's a player who has proven he can be on the field more. We are inexperienced at the linebacker position, with the exception of Lucas, so we're going to lean on his experience. You'll see him playing our MIKE linebacker right now, which is a player who has to run the deep middle of the field and has a lot of responsibility in our defense. He is really gifted. He is athletic, and he is experienced."
The Cowboy secondary is being guided this spring by new secondary coach and passing-game coordinator Curt Mallory, who comes to Wyoming from the University of Michigan. Mallory will team with second-year cornerbacks' coach John Richardson.
"We have a new secondary coach in Curt Mallory, and I think his experience is showing rather quickly," said Bohl. "This league (Mountain West) is a perimeter league, with a lot of speed and skill, so those back seven guys really need to work in concert with one another.
"It is going to be important that we bring some guys along. Robert Priester (sophomore cornerback) is not going to be able to go through spring football. We moved D.J. May (junior) over from running back. He is going to play some nickel, but he is limited this spring also. We have some other guys who have played, and we'll have to develop some young guys to solidify those secondary spots."
Some of those other players Bohl is talking about in the secondary are: sophomore safety Tim Kamana, who started the last eight games of the 2014 season; senior Tyran Finley at cornerback; sophomore cornerback Ryon'e Winters, who played some as a true freshman in 2014; and redshirt freshmen C.J. Jennings at cornerback and Chavez Pownell Jr. at safety.
The Cowboys will not practice on Wednesday, but will return to practice on Friday, April 3 for an afternoon practice. Bohl was asked if there was a reason for the break between Monday's and Friday's practices.
"What typically occurs for us between the first and the second practice is you have a lot of film to review and a lot of meeting time prior to and following that first practice to make sure the insertion of the first scheme goes well," said Bohl. "Rather than rush the second practice, we spread that out and push it back to Friday. You learn through the years what works best."
The first full-padded practice for the Pokes this spring is scheduled for Saturday, April 4, following a high school coaches' clinic being put on by the Cowboy coaching staff. Saturday's practice will begin at 12:30 or 1 p.m. The first 30 minutes of practices are open to the media and public and closed after the first 30 minutes.
Remaining Practice Schedule
Friday, April 3 4 or 4:30 p.m. (No Pads, Practice #2)
Saturday, April 4 12:30 or 1 p.m. (First Padded Practice/Non-Tackle, Practice #3)
Monday, April 6 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #4)
Wednesday, April 8 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #5)
Friday, April 10 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #6)
Saturday, April 11 11 a.m. (Scrimmage #1, Practice #7)
Monday, April 13 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #8)
Wednesday, April 15 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #9)
Friday, April 17 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #10)
Saturday, April 18 11 a.m. (Scrimmage #2, Practice #11)
Monday, April 20 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #12)
Wednesday, April 22 4 or 4:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #13)
Friday, April 24 4 or 4:30 p.m. (No Pads, Practice #14)
Saturday, April 25 2 p.m. (Spring Game, Practice #15)