LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Saturday's Wyoming football practice marked the first full-padded practice of spring football and also marked the conclusion of the first week of 2015 spring drills for the Cowboys.
In a practice that lasted a little more than two hours, Wyoming stepped up its practice on Saturday, donning full pads after going through two non-padded practices on Monday and Friday.
Areas that pleased head coach Craig Bohl on Saturday included continued strong play at quarterback and wide receiver.
"Today was our first full-padded day. We did not do any tackling to the ground. There's only so many days the NCAA lets you do that, but we continued to work on our fundamentals," said Bohl. "We had a good long-yardage passing period trying to work our quarterbacks through. From the naked eye, I was pleased with Cam (Coffman). We're trying to sort out some of the other guys, but I think he's making good progress.
"We're really encouraged by some of things we're seeing from the wide receivers. Tanner Gentry I think has really improved. He's certainly running his routes more crisply and has been making some tough catches."
Bohl was asked about what being in full pads for the first time this spring meant in terms of helping coaches better evaluate players.
"It does make your run fits a little more defined, when you get into a run drill," said Bohl. "It also allows you to better evaluate your pass protection, because now the defensive linemen are able to come off the ball full speed and it really forces the offensive linemen to protect well.
"It also helped us also clarify some things at the running back position."
On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line returns a strong core of veterans in two-time First Team All-Mountain West selection Eddie Yarbrough at defensive end, juniors Uso Olive and Chase Appleby at noseguard/defensive tackle and senior Siaosi Hala'api'api at the other defensive end position. But there are also a couple of young talented redshirt freshmen that the Cowboy coaching staff are eager to evaluate this spring in defensive tackle Sidney Malauulu (6'3, 283 pounds) and defensive end Jonathan Kongbo (6'6", 250 pounds).
"Sidney (Malauulu) hasn't been able to do a lot. He hurt himself in the weight room, and so he hasn't returned to full speed," said Bohl. "I saw some good things from Jonathan (Kongbo) today. He power rushed Ryan Cummings one time. Jonathan's weight room numbers are off the chart, and we're waiting for those numbers to translate to the grass. I think he showed some signs of that today."
One of the biggest question areas for the Cowboys heading into spring practice was at linebacker, where Wyoming had three senior starters conclude their eligibility last season.
"We're trying to work through some things at linebacker," commented Bohl. "We've got a lot of guys to replace. Sometimes we look pretty good and then there are other times our fits aren't so great.
"Malkaam (Muhammad, senior linebacker) I would say will probably be out for the rest of spring. They say its a grade three (shoulder injury), and that's usually a six-week injury. We haven't gotten confirmation on that yet. We're thin at that spot (linebacker), and we knew coming in this spring that we were going to be thin.
"We're working D.J. (May) in as much as we can there too, but he can't do any contact work. We've slid Lucas (Wacha) over to the MIKE (middle linebacker) spot, and are working Eric Nzeocha in there too. We are not where we want to be there right now.
"We'd like to see three guys emerge by the end of spring. Right now, we have one solid player there (Lucas Wacha), and we're searching for a couple more. We've got to make steady progress. I think it's unrealistic to say we're going to find three starters and three to back them up."
Saturday's third practice of spring also featured some positive special teams work.
"We worked on some things in the punt game," said Bohl. "I thought Ethan Wood struck the ball well today, and we did some good things in coverage."
In addition to conducting practice on Saturday, the Cowboy coaching staff concluded a two-day clinic for over 60 area high school coaches from the states of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. The UW coaching staff met with high school coaches individually and in groups to share their expertise and answer questions. High school coaches were able to observe both Friday's and Saturday's practices, as well as sit in on position meetings to see how the Wyoming coaches teach various techniques to the Cowboys. Bohl shared with media after practice the importance he sees in conducting such clinics.
"The clinic went very well," said Bohl. "That is an important service for us. We need to continue to do the best we can to reach out to the high school coaches in the state of Wyoming and the region. The other thing that is positive is it gives those coaches a chance to come on campus and learn more about the University of Wyoming. High school coaches have a tremendous amount of influence, and for us to engage those coaches is really important."
The Cowboys will take off the remainder of the Easter Holiday before returning to the practice field on Monday, April 6 to begin the second of four weeks of spring ball. UW will practice Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday each of the next three weeks. The Cowboys first scrimmage of spring is scheduled for Saturday, April 11.
The first 30 minutes of practices are open to the media and public and closed after the first 30 minutes. The only practice of spring that will be completely open to media and the general public will be the Spring Game on Saturday, April 25 at 2 p.m.
Remaining Practice Schedule
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)