Aug. 6, 2009
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The Wyoming Cowboys first practice of 2009 fall drills began with a bang -- literally -- a bang of thunder. Thursday's practice session, which was originally scheduled for the grass field south of War Memorial Fieldhouse, was forced inside when a rain and lightning storm moved through Laramie just prior to the start of the 3:45 p.m. scheduled practice.
"It was a good practice today, said Dave Christensen, University of Wyoming head football coach. "The kids had a great tempo today, and it was nice to finally have a full team of players, with everybody healthy."
Christensen was referring to 2009 spring drills, which saw a number of key players miss a good portion of spring drills due to injury, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
Thursday's practice saw the Cowboys practice in helmets but no pads to conform with NCAA rules requiring an acclimation period prior to teams progressing into full-padded practices. The first practice consisted of a combination of fundamental work, broken down by position, as well as some 7-on-7 passing drills, pitting the offense against the defense, and an 11-on-11 session of pre-scripted plays with the offense and defense facing off in the final period of practice.
During that 11-on-11 session, the Cowboy defense came up with two big plays off turnovers. Senior defensive tackle Mike Neuhaus picked up a fumble and returned it to the endzone, and sophomore cornerback Tashaun Gipson made a spectacular interception.
"It's exciting to see the defense come up with two turnovers in the first practice," said Christensen. "We've emphasized to our defense that we need them to create more turnovers, and today I thought they did a great job of attacking the football. But on the offensive side, it's disappointing because that was a problem for this team last year."
The first week of 2009 fall drills will feature one practice per day. Friday's and Saturday's practices will be at 8:45 a.m. Practices are open to the public. Media Day will be held on Saturday, Aug. 8 from noon to 3:30 p.m.
A "Fan Appreciation Day" will be held Saturday following Media Day from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium. The "Fan Appreciation Day" will give Cowboy fans a chance to come out and meet the players and coaches and get autographs during that hour.
One notable position change that took place in this first week of fall camp was the official move of redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Barry to an inside linebacker spot. Barry was actually a fullback and linebacker up to his sophomore year of high school.
"Adam (Barry) wanted to move to linebacker, and we granted that request," said Christensen. "He wanted to get an opportunity to compete for playing time at that position, and we wanted to give him that opportunity."
A total of 59 returning players from 2008, 24 incoming recruits and 22 walkons reported for the first practice, making up Wyoming's 105-man roster to begin fall camp, which is the maximum number allowed per NCAA rules. An additional five walkons are expected to join the team after school starts on Monday, Aug. 24.
When Christensen was asked about junior-college transfer quarterback Robert Benjamin, who participated in his first practice with the Cowboys on Thursday, he had this to say.
"He (Benjamin) does have some athleticism," said Christensen. "We'll see how he handles everything when we get in pads. I think all of the quarterbacks did some good things today, and they all did some bad things. The competition is going to be great. It's very, very early to make any decisions. I think all four kids at that position are competing well, and we'll know a little bit more about all of them each day."
The head coach was asked about what kind of timetable he might set for selecting a starting quarterback, and he committed to naming a starter by the Thursday prior to Wyoming's first game versus Weber State.
In terms of injured players entering the fall, Christensen said that one scholarship player, freshman Spencer Bruce of Gillette, Wyo., had shoulder surgery this past offseason and will spend his true freshman season rehabilitating the shoulder and practicing on a limited basis.
Only four players, who were on the roster at the end of 2009 spring drills, did not return for fall camp. Senior linebackers Zeb Whipp, from Lander, Wyo., and Jimmy DeAndrea, from Arvada, Colo., both are physically unable to continue playing football. Whipp underwent back surgery in the spring, and DeAndrea tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee in the first scrimmage last spring resulting in offseason surgery. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kaither Holiway, who walked onto the Cowboy program a year ago from Colorado School of Mines, chose not to return to the team. Matt Sebade, who joined the Cowboys in the spring of 2009 as a walkon tight end from Lander, Wyo., also chose not to return to the team.
All 2009 fall practices for the Cowboys are scheduled for the practice field south of War Memorial Fieldhouse and are open to the public. Wyoming's four scheduled scrimmages of the fall will be in War Memorial Stadium. On inclement days, the Cowboys will practice in the Indoor Practice Facility.