April 3, 2012
LARAMIE, Wyo. - Fans will get an opportunity to watch the Wyoming Cowboys in their first extended scrimmage of spring camp on Wednesday, April 4. Wednesday's practice will begin at 3:30 p.m., with the scrimmage portion of practice to begin at approximately 4:10 p.m. The Cowboys are scheduled to run 90 plays during the scrimmage. With temperatures forecast in the high 50s, the scrimmage is planned for War Memorial Stadium. In the case of inclement weather, the scrimmage will be moved to the Indoor Practice Facility and fans will be allowed to watch from the west end zone of the Indoor.
The Cowboys will be put in six different situations during the scrimmage: coming out from the offense's own two-yard line; beginning at the offense's own 25-yard line; a period starting at the offense's 35; a period beginning at the defense's 45-yard line; a red-zone period, beginning at the defense's 25-yard line; and a two-minute offense period. The No. 1 offense is scheduled to compete versus the No. 1 defense throughout the scrimmage with the No. 2 units facing off versus one another.
"We're trying to test our players in a variety of scenarios," said head coach Dave Christensen. "Each of these situations is designed to see how they perform under the pressures of those particular situations. We're looking to find which players are ready to play right now, and next identify those who are close. Going forward, we will evaluate over the remaining eight spring practices which players we feel can help us win games next year."
While Wednesday is the first extended scrimmage of the spring, the Cowboys have had two practices in the first six that involved shorter scrimmage periods. Christensen and his staff utilized those earlier scrimmage sessions to evaluate where players were fundamentally.
"We evaluated our live tackling and blocking, and we exposed them to some special situations to see how the kids performed," Christensen said. "The first six practices have helped us get an early evaluation. These next two scrimmages will be lengthier, with more plays and more opportunity to evaluate kids and how they perform within our offensive, defensive and special forces systems."
When asked some of the players who have impressed early in spring drills Christensen said he has been encouraged by a number of younger players who are getting increased reps this spring.
"Colby Kirkegaard (quarterback) is a player who I feel improved from the first 50-percent scrimmage to the second one," said Christensen. "I think he has done some good things. Our offensive line has made improvement through the first six practices. We have a lot of competition there. I think Daniel Fleischman is getting better each day, and he's finally healthy. Daniel is a smart kid. The same with Travis Bogard, he's a smart football player. They're both developing and getting better each practice. Jake Jones is making good progress, as is Austin Traphagan. Connor Rains, our junior-college transfer, is getting better each day. He's very athletic, but needs to continue to increase his strength as he makes the transition to this level. He's certainly one of our more athletic offensive linemen. This is really valuable time for those young players.
"From the receiving standpoint, we are starting to come along at that position. There are a number of young guys competing for playing time at receiver. At running back, I think Kody Sutton has been practicing better and better each day. He's starting to make some improvement.
"From a defensive standpoint, Coach (Chris) Tormey is trying a lot of different personnel groupings to find out which players can play in which schemes, and where we have our best depth: whether it be five defensive backs, two linebackers and four defensive linemen; three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs or some other combination.
"Mark Nzeocha is one of the young defensive players who are making nice progress," added Christensen. "We moved him from linebacker to safety, and he is doing a nice job there. It is good to get Partick Mertens (defensive tackle) back and seeing him out there again. Linebacker-wise we have some experience with Korey Jones, Devyn Harris and Oliver Schober. I think Zack Berg is starting to stand out a little bit for a young guy who is coming along. Both corners return in Blair (Burns) and Marqueston (Huff). In terms of the young guys backing them up, I've been pleased with Darren White and DeAndre Jones. They've both been doing a nice job.
"I've been pleased with where we're out with our punter, Tim Gleeson, and Daniel Sullivan (place-kicker) has been much more dynamic kicking the ball this spring from a year ago.
"We're working to develop all areas of our football team right now, and determine who are our best competitors and who performs best under pressure."
Following Wednesday's scrimmage and a lighter practice on Thursday to wrap up this week, the Cowboys will have reached the halfway point of spring practice with seven of 15 practices remaining after Easter break this weekend. Christensen's plan for the second half of spring ball will include two more full scrimmages on Wednesday, April 11 and then the Annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 21.
"We will finish up this week by evaluating the scrimmage tape and then having a light practice on Thursday," said the fourth-year head coach of the Cowboys. "Next week will be a pretty physical week. Monday will feature a padded practice, with a scrimmage on Wednesday and a padded practice next Friday. The final week, we'll pad up on Monday and then start tapering back in preparation for the Spring Game that final Saturday."
Christensen said he had not determined yet whether the Spring Game would be a scrimmage format, or whether they would draft teams like they did a year ago and play an abbreviated game.
Christensen gave a couple updates on the status of some veteran Cowboys who have been limited this spring by offseason injuries or surgeries.
"I'm pleased with how they're all coming along," said Christensen. "Brett (Smith) is able to get a lot of throwing in during practice. I feel good about the work he has been able to get done. He's improving his arm strength, and is doing a nice job. Luke Ruff is getting a lot of reps in coverage at safety, and is getting good quality work in but is limited in his contact.
"Patrick Mertens is not back to wear he was conditioning-wise yet, but he's certainly shown that he can get through an entire practice and get a lot of work done. It's just a matter of improving his stamina throughout spring."
2012 University of Wyoming Football Spring Practice Schedule
Wednesday, March 21 - 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #1)
Friday, March 23 - 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #2)
Monday, March 26 - 3:30 p.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #3)
Wednesday, March 28 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #4)
Friday, March 30 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #5)
Monday, April 2 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #6)
Wednesday, April 4 - 3:30 p.m. (Scrimmage #1, Practice #7)
Thursday, April 5 - 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #8)
EASTER BREAK: Friday, April 6 Through Sunday, April 8
Monday, April 9 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #9)
Wednesday, April 11 - 3:30 p.m. (Scrimmage #2, Practice #10)
Friday, April 13 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #11)
Monday, April 16 - 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #12)
Wednesday, April 18 - 3:30 p.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #13)
Friday, April 20 - 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #14)
Saturday, April 21 - 2 p.m. (Scrimmage #3, Practice, #15)