April 8, 2011
The Wyoming Cowboy football team will wrap up 2011 spring drills on Saturday, April 9 with the annual Brown and Gold game. Saturday's game will kick off at 2 p.m., and will include four, 12-minute quarters with a running clock up until the final two minutes of each half. The Brown and Gold game is free and open to the public. It is scheduled to be played in War Memorial Stadium. In case of inclement weather, the game will be moved to Wyoming's Indoor Practice Facility.
The Cowboy coaching staff drafted the players into two teams earlier this week. Leading the Brown Team will be returning starters Gabe Knapton (Sr., DE), Mike Purcell (Jr., DT), Chris McNeill (Jr., WR), Clayton Kirven (Sr., OT), Nick Carlson (Jr., C) and Josh Leonard (Jr., OT). The Brown offense will be led by redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Miller. Coaching the Brown Team will be offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, defensive secondary coach Alex Grinch, offensive line coach Jim Harding, defensive line coach Matt Rahl and graduate assistant coaches Nick Fulton and Weston Johnson.
The Gold Team will include returning starters Josh Biezuns (Sr., DE), Tashaun Gipson (Sr., CB), Brian Hendricks (Sr., LB), Devyn Harris (So., LB) Patrick Mertens (So., DT) and John Hutchins (Sr., OT). Playing quarterback for the Gold Team will be true freshman Brett Smith. The Gold coaching staff will be led by defensive coordinator Marty English, offensive line coach Pete Kaligis, running backs' coach Jason Ray, defensive line coach Danilo Robinson and receivers' coach Derek Sage.
"We drafted the players as a coaching staff," said head coach Dave Christensen. "Once a player was drafted, his backup went to the other team and then the other team had the opportunity to draft the next person first. Some positions, like our running backs, will play on both teams due to injuries limiting our depth.
"There is about an equal amount of ones and twos on both teams to try to create a competitive situation for this game, rather than have offense versus defense like we did the first two scrimmages this spring."
As the Cowboys prepare for Saturday's 15th and final practice of the spring, Christensen assessed where his team was at as they enter their final days of spring practice.
"I am pleased with how our team has progressed this spring," said Christensen. "There are a number of players who missed time this spring due to injury, and we will have to wait to see how they fit into our plans. But I feel like we've made progress in terms of identifying who has a chance to help us win next year. Certainly our depth chart will continue to evolve into fall training camp. There's still a lot of competition and opportunity to be had by players to get on the field for us next season."
Having experimented with a number of individuals at different positions along the offensive line and linebacker, to name a few, Christensen said that experimentation wasn't over yet.
"I think there will still be some guys who we will move around to determine where best they can help us," said Christensen. "Defensively, we have a lot of athletes, and we're looking at different sets and different personnel groups that we can use. We'll continue to develop that during fall camp. After practicing this past month, we have a much better idea who athletically can play for us, it's just a matter of deciding how best we can utilize their talents.
"On the offensive line, we have some new players coming this summer who may have a chance to compete and play for us. Competition will be ongoing there for awhile, but I think we have made some strides in that area and have identified some guys who can help us."
"There are some areas that we've developed some good depth this spring," added Christensen. "In the secondary, I believe we're deeper than we've ever been. We're deeper at linebacker and defensive line than we've been in the past in terms of the number of players who can contribute. I think when we get healthy and get to fall camp, we'll be deeper at running back. On the offense line, I believe we will be more physical. We're young at wide receiver, but I think we have a talented group. We want to get them to play at a higher level and become more consistent in practices and in games."
Of course, one of the biggest questions heading into this spring was the competition at quarterback. Christensen expressed how pleased he was with the progress the two leading QB candidates have shown throughout spring drills.
"Both Emory (Miller) and Brett (Smith) have done a nice job," said Christensen. "They've put a great deal of time in learning the offense and trying to become the best quarterbacks they can be in all facets of the position -- from how to make good decisions with the football, to how to read defenses, to learning how to lead the team. I would say that Emory is slightly ahead of Brett heading into the summer, but again Emory has been here an extra year and has a little bit more experience running our system. Both have competed really well all spring, and both do a lot of good things."
Players who will miss the spring game due to injuries will be: offensive linemen Daniel Fleischman and Travis Hillen; defensive linemen Miraldo Michel, Kurt Taufa'asau and Mark Willis; receivers Drew Martinez and T.J. Smith; linebacker J.J. Quinlan; and running back Ghaali Muhammad.
Junior running back Alvester Alexander, who has missed both of the first two spring scrimmages due to injury, may take part in a few plays on Saturday.
Two other Cowboys are suspended for Saturday's scrimmage due to violating team rules. Those two players are running back Nehemie Kankolongo and linebacker Korey Jones.
At halftime of Saturday's scrimmage, awards will be presented for the "Most Improved Players" at each position during the spring and for the a new award, the "Earn Your Spurs Award".