Wyoming Cowboys Practice in Full Pads For the First Time This Fall

Aug. 9, 2010


Monday saw the Wyoming Cowboy Football team practice for the first time in full pads this fall. It was the fifth practice of the season for the Pokes. While the players were instructed to "thud up", meaning not take anyone to the ground, you could tell they had been looking forward to getting the pads on as there was some hitting going on in the two-hour practice in War Memorial Stadium.

One of the biggest hits of the day came during the 11-on-11 practice period with the No. 1 offense facing the No. 1 defense in a red-zone drill. The hit was delivered by #2 on defense, senior cornerback Marcell Gipson, and the recipient was #2 on offense, junior wide receiver Mazi Ogbonna. Gipson delivered one of his signature hits after an Ogbonna catch forcing Ogbonna to fumble the ball. To Ogbonna's credit, he made the catch and recovered the fumble.

As with every Wyoming practice during head coach Dave Christensen's tenure, a score was kept on virtually every drill during the day, and Monday saw the defense edge out the offense by only 2.5 points.

"I liked the physicalness that I saw in practice today," said Christensen. "It isn't where we want it to be, but it was the first day in full pads. We've continued to make strides every practice since spring. I liked the intensity of practice today, and I like the work ethic of this team.

"The final score showed how competitive our practices have become. During 7-on-7, the winner for that period came down to the last play, and the final score came down to the final period of the day in 11-on-11. The kids got after each other pretty good."

When asked about the trio of running backs rotating between the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses, including freshman Nehemie Kankolongo, sophomore Alvester Alexander and junior James Davis, Christensen responded by saying, "We haven't decided on a starter. We may play (the running back position) by committee, or we may have a guy who does most of the work. We're just trying to get a look at everyone at this point. If you want an opportunity to shine, you have to work your way up to where your running behind the No. 1 and 2 line. I think all three of those guys have done a nice job, and we're trying to get a good evaluation on all of them, just like we do at every position."

In terms of the competition for spots on the depth chart, Christensen said that he and his coaching staff would know more once the Cowboys begin scrimmaging.

"It's a little early to be making decisions yet," said Christensen. "We have to wait until we get in our scrimmages and can simulate game-type situations. We need to see how kids react play after play. There is a lot of evaluation and a lot of teaching going on right now. We'll be able to better evaluate individual performances once we get into our four planned scrimmages."

Monday's practice featured two outstanding catches in the back of the end zone. The first was made by senior wide receiver Zach Bolger during 7-on-7 passing drills. Bolger went high in the air over a defensive back to catch a 25-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Austyn Carta-Samuels. Later during the 11-on-11 red zone period, two new Cowboys hooked up as the No. 3 offense faced the No. 3 defense. Junior college wide receiver Jonathan Aiken, from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa, went up in a very similar spot in the back of the north end zone to pull down a seven-yard TD pass thrown by freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr. from Mesquite, Texas.

"Jonathan (Aiken) was a kid we recruited originally," said Christensen. "He ended up being a kid who had some other scholarship offers, but decided to come here as a walk-on. He definitely has a lot of ability."

Christensen announced that the Cowboys signed one player late to a scholarship. Freshman wide receiver Robert Herron, from Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Pokes will hold their first day of two-a-day practices on Tuesday, when they will practice at 8:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. They will alternate between one practice a day and two practices a day for the remainder of this week. Wednesday and Friday will feature one practice each day at 8:45 a.m. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the Pokes will practice twice at 8:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Those are the only three days during fall camp in which UW will practice twice in the same day.

This Friday's practice will feature the first of four scrimmages during fall camp.

Cowboy practices are open to the public.