Cowboys Practice in Full Pads for the First Time This Spring on Saturday
March 29, 2014
LARAMIE, Wyo. - Saturday morning saw the Wyoming Cowboy football team practice in full pads for the first time this spring. The Pokes conducted practice in both War Memorial Stadium and the Indoor Practice Facility, with it lasting a little over two hours. The tempo of practice took another step forward with the addition of full pads. Head coach Craig Bohl was pleased with the play of Cowboy defensive ends Sonny Puletasi and Eddie Yarbrough, as well as the continued development of the Cowboy running game.
"It was a good Saturday practice," said Bohl. "Obviously, we're making progress. As a coach you would always like to see more, but particularly today I thought we had some really good pressure by our defensive ends. Both Sonny (Puletasi) and Eddie (Yarbrough) did a nice job there.
"Some of the elements of our running game -- the power game specifically -- have improved.
"Along with that, today was the first day in pads, and so some of those elements are going to show up a little bit more.
"We did not scrimmage today, and there was no tackling. But there were some good things I saw from the guys in pads, and we did have some better contact."
Bohl was asked how encouraging it was to see the play of Yarbrough and Puletasi this early in spring practice and this early in the defense's transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive system.
"It was real encouraging," said Bohl. "We've got some veteran guys over there. How they're going to get themselves acclimated to the 4-3 is really important. Both of those guys (Puletasi and Yarbrough) are seasoned players, and their leadership on the field has been good."
Bohl was also asked about the defensive tackle spots and how he sees the development of that position early in spring camp.
"We're seeing a little bit more (from that position)," said Bohl. "But I think we're still a little bit young right now. When I say young, we do have some experience coming back there, but they too are learning a new system. Like all of our positions, we continue to evaluate every player. Today, I saw our ends pop out a little bit more than anything else."
Yarbrough returns for his junior season after earning First Team All-Mountain West Conference honors as a sophomore in 2013. Senior Puletasi returns having started 21 of 36 career games. A year ago, Puletasi played the "Buck" position in Wyoming's 3-4 defensive scheme. The "Buck" position was a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end. Puletasi, along with junior Siaosi Hala'api'api, are both transitioning from that hybrid linebacker position to defensive end in the Cowboys' new 4-3 defensive system. Also learning the defensive end position is senior Riley Lange, who missed the 2013 season due to injury after playing H-back/Tight end as a sophomore in 2012.
At defensive tackle, the experienced players returning include senior Patrick Mertens, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA this year, and sophomore Uso Olive. Mertens is moving back to his natural defensive tackle spot after playing nose tackle a year ago. He has 30 career starts under his belt. Olive, who also played nose tackle previously, played in all 12 games for the Cowboys in his redshirt freshman season of 2013. Joining them at the tackles spots are a group of younger, inexperienced players. Among them are: Troy Boyland, who redshirted a year ago after transferring from College of San Mateo junior college; sophomore Chase Appleby; and two redshirt freshmen scholarship players in James Diamanti and Dalton Fields.
When asked to give an early evaluation of the quarterback position, Bohl had this to say on Saturday, "There hasn't been any separation yet. We've got a lot of work to be done there. We are putting in a lot of offense. I think the guys are paying attention to detail, but it's not easy."
Among the scholarship players competing at the quarterback position are: seniors Colby Kirkegaard and Sam Stratton; and sophomores Tom Thornton and Aaron Young. Young transferred to Wyoming in January after playing his freshman season at ASA Community College in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The first-year Cowboy head coach was also asked about the health of the team as Wyoming concluded the first of four weeks of spring drills.
"Yesterday we had some pulled hamstrings, and we are concerned about that. We had about four of them," said Bohl. "Now they'll be back before the end of spring, but that is an injury that can hold a guy out of practice for awhile. We did a little bit better today. We had nobody go down, so I was happy about that."
The Pokes will return to the practice field on Monday, March 31 for an 8:15 a.m. practice in full pads. They will also practice Wednesday, Friday and Saturday next week.
The first 30 minutes of practices are open to the media and public and closed after the first 30 minutes. The Spring Game on Saturday, April 19 at 2 p.m. will be open to the media and public.
2014 University of Wyoming Football Spring Practice Schedule