Laramie, Wyo. (Aug. 5, 2019) — The Wyoming Cowboys put on half pads for the first time this fall on Monday, ramping up the physical nature of practice a little after the first two sessions last Friday and Saturday were helmet only practices. Following Monday’s morning practice, Cowboy head coach Craig Bohl met with the media to share what he saw from the over two-hour session.
“Today was our first day in half pads, and it was a little bit more physical but we’re still not going full speed,” said Bohl. “A couple of my observations — I haven’t watched the tape yet, but I think Sean (Chambers) continues to improve with his accuracy and his throwing motion, so I’m encouraged about that. I really thought our first offensive line (unit) did a nice job in our pass protection, which was good. We installed some more physical run plays, but from that standpoint I thought our defensive line really held their own there.
“No one has been injured, which is encouraging. We’ve got to continue to build depth. We also have a pretty intense battle going on at the punting position, which we’re going to need to clarify.
“Outside of that — another good day of practice.”
Chambers earned the starting spot at quarterback during 2019 Spring Practice. The native of Kerman, Calif., enters the 2019 season as a redshirt freshman. While he led the Pokes to victories over Colorado State and San Jose State in the four games he appeared in 2019, he benefitted from the NCAA’s new redshirt rule last season that allowed players who had never redshirted to play up to four games and still be able to retain their year of eligibility. Chambers accounted for 595 yards of total offense in 2018, rushing for 329 yards and passing for 266 in the games he played, which included one half versus Utah State, entire games at Colorado State and vs. San Jose State before being injured on the first offensive series versus Air Force. He rushed for 100 yards in each of his first three college games: 100 vs. Utah State, 101 at Colorado State and 129 vs. San Jose State.
When talking about the play of his defensive line in Monday’s practice, Bohl was pleased to see two veteran defenders, who missed 2019 Spring Practice, back on the field to start Fall Camp. Those two are the projected starters at defensive end, Josiah Halland Garrett Crall. Hall missed the first three games of last season due to injury, but brings a wealth of experience to the Cowboy defense. He has started 20 of 35 games he has played in at Wyoming entering his senior season. Crall started 11 of 12 games in 2018 and led the Cowboys in sacks with 4.5. He also ranked second among UW defensive linemen in tackles, with 38 his sophomore season. Crall added 6.5 tackles for loss in 2018.
“It has been great to have them (Hall and Crall) out there,” said Bohl. “Those surgeries that were performed (in the offseason) were needed. While it was challenging not having them out there in the spring, it’s been great to have them out there now going full speed.”
Another position where Wyoming returns a veteran player who missed most of last season with an injury is the tight end position. Redshirt senior Josh Harshman returns after suffering a season-ending injury in game three of the 2018 season at Missouri. Harshman will lead a group of tight ends that includes sophomore Nate Weinman and redshirt freshman Jackson Marcotte.
“I think Josh’s (Harshman) playing experience — the number of years and number of reps he has — makes him the leader at that position,” said Bohl. “He’s a fifth-year senior. He’s smart. He’s got good ability, and his knee seems to be fine.
“I think we’ll play a lot of tight ends. There will be many times when we’ll have two tight ends on the field at the same time, and there have been times when we’ve had three of those guys (on the field at the same time).”
In terms of the punting competition that Bohl referenced in his post-practice interview with media, the two Cowboys in that battle are junior Tim Zaleski and senior Ryan Galovich. Zaleski was injured in the fifth game of last season against Boise State, and missed the remainder of the season. Galovich was a backup at place-kicker and punter last season, but got a lot of reps at punter this past spring. The Cowboy who punted the remainder of last season after Zaleski was sidelined was current junior Dontae Crow, but it was determined last spring that Crow would just focus on playing wide receiver this season.
“We chart everything, and we film everything. I think Ryan (Galovich) made some great progress over the summer. I knew he was out here working out over the summer. We’re not able to watch (our players in the summer), but it has really shown. His hang time has improved and his distance has improved.
“(Tim Zaleski) did a little bit better today. On Saturday, he was sore. Sunday, with a day off, it helped him a little bit. I thought he punted the ball well today.”
One position that will feature a new face in the starting lineup this season will be the nickel back/strong-side linebacker position. In 2018, Tyler Hall, now a senior, was moved from cornerback to nickel back. But in the second half of the season, Hall was moved back to his natural position of cornerback and the Cowboy defense featured three safeties in former Cowboys Marcus Epps and Andrew Wingard and current senior Alijah Halliburton. Epps was utilized in that nickel position down the stretch of the 2018 season. The projected starter at nickel back this year is sophomore Keyon Blankenbaker. Blankenbacker made the move from cornerback to the nickel position during 2019 Spring Practice, but he missed some time in the spring due to injury, so he is still making the transition to learning his new position.
“I’d say right now, he’s a little bit behind from where he normally would be, but that is to be expected,” said Bohl. “He’s got good coverage skills and he’s physical. We may take a look at one of the freshmen in there, and we have Blake Harrington there also. We’ll make a decision as we go through camp.”
On the offensive line, Wyoming returns six players with starting experience, including right tackle Alonzo Velazquez, a junior who has started all 15 games he has played in for the Cowboys, and left tackle Rudy Stofer, a sophomore who has seven career starts to his credit. But it will be important in Fall Camp to develop some depth at offensive tackle. One of the young players who is being looked at to provide that depth is redshirt freshman Frank Crum, who grew up in Laramie, Wyo.
The head coach was asked where he felt Crum was in his development to start fall practice. “I would say he’s ahead of what we would have normally thought,” said Bohl. “He’s a smart guy. He’s about 6’8”, and he’s put on some good weight. He had some surgery that put him behind a little bit, but he’s had a good summer and he showed some good things today.”
Bohl was asked if any true freshmen had stood out through the first three practices of spring, to which he responded, “Some of them don’t know if they’re on foot or horseback right now. It’s going to take a little bit. Ask me that in probably two more days. We’re going to continue to add some things, but I think we’ve got some good potential guys to be playing. With the four-game freshman rule, I think you’ll see more guys integrated maybe earlier in the season than what we did in the past.”