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Cowboys prepare for football season


August 8, 2019

One important facet of Craig Bohl-coached football teams is development of a strong, physical running game, and that point was emphasized in Tuesday’s fourth practice of Fall Camp.

Bohl said that his team dedicated a significant amount of time working on the running game during the Cowboys’ morning practice.

“We had a physical practice today, even though we were in half pads,” Bohl said. “We’ll go full pads tomorrow. We worked heavily on the inside running game (today). Last year, we just didn’t run the ball nearly as well as what we needed to at times, however Nico (Evans) had a good year. But the style of running that we want is we want to establish the line of scrimmage and knock people off the ball, and you only do that when you work hard on it in practice.”

Last season, Wyoming senior running back Nico Evans led the Mountain West and ranked No. 4 in the nation in rushing yards, averaging 132.5 yards per game.

As a team, the Cowboys averaged 199.4 yards per game to rank No. 4 in the Mountain West and No. 39 nationally.

While Evans graduated, the Pokes return two players who recorded 100-yard rushing games last season in redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Chambers and sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay. Chambers had three 100-yard rushing games in 2018, and Valladay concluded the season with a 192-yard performance at New Mexico.

When asked about what he observed during the portion of practice dedicated to the running game, Bohl singled out junior Skyler Miller of Torrington, Wyo., who was moved to fullback last spring. “The guy who I think is really doing a nice job is Skyler Miller. Here is a guy who is from Torrington, and if we can have someone come in at fullback and do a really good job blocking that will play a critical role in our running game. Skyler has done a good job.”

An area of the Cowboy offense where a number of veteran players return is at wide receiver. One of those returning veterans is senior John Okwoli, who is entering his fourth year in the Wyoming Football program.

Bohl was asked how important it will be for his veteran receivers to have a big year in 2019.

“Huge,” said Bohl. “What you’re always looking for, and it’s been true in my experience, is when your seniors walk out and their last year is their best year those are typically when you have your best seasons. So a guy like John (Okwoli), who has gone beyond paying his dues, it’s time for him to make plays. He recognizes that, and I think he had a really good summer. He’s very capable, and I know the quarterbacks feel really good about him.

“I’ve seen some good things (from the receivers). It’s been great to have Gunner Gentry (a sophomore) out there. I think he can have a big presence. Some of our other receivers seem to be catching the ball pretty well -- Rocket (Ismail Jr.) and Austin Conway are doing well.”

In addition to the veteran wide receivers returning, Bohl also singled out a freshman tight end, Treyton Welch, who Bohl said has shown signs of contributing in the future, and he praised the play of sophomore quarterback Tyler Vander Waal. “Guys who stood out to me as far as freshmen -- I think Treyton Welch is really doing some good things at the tight end position,” said Bohl. “He’s kind of a hybrid guy. He was a wide receiver in high school, but he shows good explosion and good hands, so we’re excited about him.

“We’re going to continue to work our quarterbacks. I thought Tyler (Vander Waal) did some good things today -- at times extending some plays. Of course, Tyler was pretty good at that last year.

On defense, a couple of Cowboys who could have big years in 2019 also drew the attention of the head coach on Tuesday.

“I still think Logan Wilson is having an excellent fall camp,” said Bohl. “Ravontae Holt is showing some real strong presence inside (on the defensive line), as well.”

Talking about Wednesday’s first practice in full pads, Bohl stated that it was going to be an important next step in the progression of Fall Camp, but at the same time he didn’t want to put an over emphasis on the importance of just one practice. “It is (important), but any more the number of times you conduct practices where you do full tackle to the ground is really pretty limited -- not just our team but a lot of teams (across the country),” Bohl said. “However, we’ll have a physical practice. We had one today. For us to be physical, we have to practice that way.”

The head coach was asked what positions he saw as being most competitive in terms of players still fighting for starting spots.

“I think we have a starting job (available) at punter,” said Bohl. “Our nickel position is still unsettled. Keyon (Blankenbaker) is there, but hasn’t played a lot, so we’ll certainly take a look at that. I think we’re going to take a hard look at the fullback position as we go. There is some competition there, as well. Some other positions are getting solidified. That is what Spring Football is all about.”

Wyoming has been fortunate in not suffering many injuries during 2019 Fall Camp, but Bohl did announce one injury on Tuesday to redshirt freshman nose tackle Mario Mora. “As far as guys who didn’t finish practice, Mario Mora did not,” said Bohl. “I think he hyperextended his back, but we’ll find out a little bit more tomorrow. He maybe could have finished, but they’ll (the sports medicine staff) check and do an assessment.”


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