Aug. 10, 2009
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
After four practices in a combination of helmets, shorts and shoulder pads, the Wyoming Cowboys put full pads on for the first time Monday morning, and you could see the intensity level pick up as players went through a two hour and 15-minute practice.
The emphasis at the start of full-padded practices was being physical, and several of the drills in Monday's practice reflected that. A combination of one-on-one blocking and tackling drills were present throughout the practice.
"We want to work on increasing the physicalness of our football team," said Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen. "We're doing more competitive drills now, and are trying to challenge the players to be more physical and competitive on both sides of the ball. Everyone of our live drills, both offense and defense, will be scored to create competition. Obviously, when you're in full pads you're hoping to get a very, very physical practice."
In one of the more competitive of those one-on-one drills, the Cowboy running backs and wide receivers faced off against the Cowboy linebackers and defensive backs. In that drill, one offensive and one defensive player each laid on their backs with about five yards separating their two helmets. As the whistle blew, each player scrambled to their feet with the offensive player trying to gain five yards and the defensive player trying to stop his opponent from gaining five yards. It came down to the final one-on-one challenge that was won by the offense to give them the victory in that drill.
But overall it was the defense who won the day. During the final period of practice the No. 1 offensive unit faced the No. 1 defensive unit, No. 2s faced No. 2s and No. 3s faced No. 3s in 11-on-11 competition. With the competition being extremely close, Christensen announced to the team that the competition for the day would be decided by whichever unit won the final period. The ball was placed inside the defense's own 10-yard line for a first and goal situation. After several series, the defense held the offense out of the endzone on the final play of the final series to give the defense the narrow victory in the day's competition.
"The defense won today's practice," said Christensen. "It was up for grabs right down to the end. It could have gone either way, but from my vantage point on my sideline the defense held them out of the endzone. Some on the other sideline were signalling touchdown, but we don't have instant replay out here at practice so the defense got today's victory."
In addition to physical play and competitiveness, the installation of the Cowboys' playbook is of course the focus of fall drills and that installation schedule is coordinated to fit with Wyoming's four scheduled fall scrimmages.
"Our installation schedule is pretty well set," said Christensen. "We'll install at a pace at which our players can handle. Offensively, we felt that we were trying to put a little bit too much in this first weekend, so we backed off a little bit for a day, but we're back on track now.
"We've got a certain amount of our offensive, defensive and special teams' systems that we need to get installed before each of our scrimmages, so we have set that schedule and will stick to it closely."
When asked about the evaluation process he and his coaching staff go through during fall camp in determining who earns a spot on the Pokes's depth chart, Christensen said that the scrimmages would play a big part in the evaluation process.
"We're not going to do anything in terms of position moves until after we get into the scrimmages," said Christensen. "All the kids are working extremely hard. We're evaluating them on a daily basis in drills, but we won't make any decisions until we start scrimmaging -- and we have four scrimmages scheduled. The only thing I will say at this point, is we will probably start moving some of the younger kids into some special teams' roles."
In terms of injuries through the first weekend of fall drills: senior offensive tackle Ryan Otterson suffered a mild concussion in Monday's practice, which caused him to miss the remainder of Monday's drills; sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks strained a hamstring and was held out of contact drills; and sophomore running back James Davis had swelling in a knee, which caused him to miss practice.
Tuesday will mark the first day of two-a-day practices for the Pokes. The Cowboys are also scheduled for two-a-day practices on Thursday, Aug. 13 and Saturday, Aug. 15. Each of those three days, practices are scheduled for 8:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.
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.