April 30, 2012
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
On defense, seniors Korey Jones at outside linebacker, Mike Purcell at defensive tackle, Ben Durbin at defensive end and Luke Ruff at free safety all are listed atop their positions. They are joined by both starting cornerbacks from last season -- junior Marqueston Huff and sophomore Blair Burns.
The offensive depth chart features senior returning starters Nick Carlson at center and Chris McNeill at wide receiver. Two juniors, Robert Herron at wide receiver and Tyler Strong at guard, are also returning starters from 2011. Sophomore quarterback Brett Smith and sophomore wide receiver Dominic Rufran round out the offense's returning starters listed No. 1 heading into fall camp.
Sophomore Daniel Sullivan is also listed No. 1 at the place-kicking position after starting as a freshman a year ago.
There were several areas of the team that came out of the spring with improved depth, according to head coach Dave Christensen.
"I think our secondary has developed well throughout spring," said Christensen. "On our defensive line, I think we've also developed some depth there, and we got a good look at several guys this spring. Our offensive line is another area that we've made progress. There was a lot of competition in spring at the offensive line spots, and that will continue on into fall camp.
"At receiver, we are young but those young players got a lot of reps this spring, and that helped them all improve. Getting Colby Kirkegaard a ton of reps was beneficial for him, as well. (Daniel) Sullivan really came along kicking the ball, and (Tim) Gleeson came a long way as a punter. He still has a ways to go, but he has the leg strength that we need to be successful at that position.
"It was also a good spring in that a lot of guys who hadn't played that much in the past got a lot of quality time."
Some of those players who hadn't played a lot in the past, but who impressed this spring were also mentioned by the head coach.
"I think Mark Nzeocha did some really good things this spring," said Christensen. "Darren White and DeAndre Jones really showed us how improved they have become. We have two returning starters there in Burns and Huff, but those two young guys showed us that they can help us next year. Chad Reese at safety has been extremely physical, which was nice to see. Zack Berg really stepped up at linebacker as a redshirt freshman. From an offensive line standpoint, I think Daniel Fleischman has made nice progress, as well as some of those guys at center and guard with Travis Bogard, Jake Jones and Zach Rushing all competing for playing time, along with our returning starters (Tyler) Strong and (Nick) Carlson. At receiver, Eric Nzeocha graduating early from high school and getting in here this spring has really helped him. James Caraway is a senior we moved over from defensive back, and he and Josh Smith both had nice spring camps. I think Robert Herron and Dominic Rufran picked up where they left off last season.
"A lot of guys made good progress, which is what you hope every spring practice. You don't want just a few guys to make progress and the other guys to stay the same. There were a number of guys this spring who certainly got better through spring."
In terms of the progress the offense and defense made as a whole in terms of installation of schemes and performance as units, Christensen had this to add.
"It was a little more difficult offensively without Brett (Smith) out there -- other than seven-on-seven drills," said Christensen. "Brett definitely knows our system well enough, so we shouldn't have too much trouble making the progress we need in the fall. Defensively, it was a new system but our kids picked it up well. We still have to improve come fall, but I think we made nice progress in the spring."
The Cowboys are now focused on finishing up strong academically as the spring semester comes to an end. After getting a break for much of the month of May, the Cowboys will return to campus for summer conditioning in June and July before reporting back for the start of fall practice on Sunday, Aug. 5, with the first practice of fall camp scheduled for Monday, Aug. 6.