Tuesday, May 4, 2010

WYOMING spring report

Wyoming's spring drills concluded a couple weeks ago, featuring a new sight in the thawing Laramie snow: smiles from Coach Christensen. The contrast with last year's spring couldn't be starker. "It was a real good day... We did a good job throwing the ball down the field... I like the way the defense is playing... I think they're doing a trememdous job of working extremely hard... and playing physical," reported the coach after the first scrimmage. After the second scrimmage, the coach said his team was playing "like a real football team out there."

Austyn Carta-Samuels's (right) completion percentage hit 70 percent in one scrimmage; Dax Crum's hit 60 percent. The young replacements on the offensive line (which lost three seniors) appear to have the potential to outperform the '09 line. Josh Leonard, a true sophemore now taking the first-team snaps at right tackle, has impressed the coaches. Clayton Kirven will start at left tackle. Freshmen Thomas Vonashek, Skyler Hinton, and junior Nick Puetz seem to be high on the depth chart for the line.

That new line will be blocking for Alvester Alexander (left)again, who proved the most durable of the team's runningbacks in the spring. True freshman Nehemie Kankolongo early enrolled, but quickly had a spring-ending injury; Darius Terry also didn't make it to the final scrimmage. Both are expected back in the fall, but neither is expected to oust Alexander from the top spot.

At the all-important receiver position, returners Zach Bolger, (right) David Leonard, and Chris McNiell have raised their game, giving JUCO transfers Mazi Ogbonna and DeJay Lester more competition for starting snaps than they may have counted on. This warms 'Poke watchers hearts, and not just because the returning three accounted for more than half of the Cowboys' receptions and yards. Dave Christensen's pass-happy spread requires sure-handed receivers, and in 2009, the Cowboys appeared to have only one or two of those-- Leonard and Bolger.

Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton have thrived as converted defensive ends; they tallied tackles like candy on halloween in the team scrimmages. Their switched positions (each from linebacker) are part of Wyoming's move from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, which the coaches say uses easier schemes, and will allow the Cowboys to keep their best defensive athletes on the field more. The starting line (probably Biezuns, Stover, Purcell, Knapton, though Stover and Purcell both didn't practice this spring, while rehabbing injuries) must replace one of the MWC's great defensive lines, which was an all-senior, all-multi-year starting group.

With Biezuns and Knapton (left) moved, exactly who'll join Ghalai Muhammed in the linebacking corps this fall is more fluid. Devyn Harris is probably one of the other starters. Wyoming's secondary will be one of the conference's best. If they go largely injury-free, corners (and brothers) Marcell and Tashaun Gipson, and safeties Shamiel Gary likely will join safety Chris Prosinski on the all-MWC list in 2010.

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