For offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Brent Vigen, he is entering not only a new program for the first time in his coaching career but he is also having to deal with a group of quarterbacks that are lacking in overall experience. That would be a daunting task for about any coach to undertake but early it looks like coach Vigen is up for the challenge.
The new Wyoming staff entered Laramie with a less than stable quarterback outlook. It is already well documented but the Cowboys lost a legend in Brett Smith, who left early for the NFL draft. Then the program took another blow soon after when Smith's expected replacement, Jason Thompson, also left the program when he transferred to the University of Utah to pair back up with ex-Cowboys head coach Dave Christensen.
That left three returning quarterbacks on roster, something the new staff had to fix very quickly. The three returning quarterbacks were redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard, sophomore Tom Thornton and redshirt freshman T.J. Patterson. The staff also moved back senior Sam Stratton to quarterback after he had been working with the wide receivers last season. With those four quarterbacks in place, the new staff went out and landed themselves three new quarterbacks to add to the mix. Sophomore junior-college transfer Aaron Young was added at mid-year and is already on campus participating in Spring ball. The other two quarterbacks who will be here this summer will be incoming freshman in Gillette, Wyoming product Austin Fort and Merritt Island, Florida product Nick Smith. We have already seen Fort on campus watching practices while on Spring break.
The coaching staff has been using a double quarterback rep system for the first four practices at two separate locations. Some quarterbacks are out on Jonas Field, while others are in the indoor practice facility. Two quarterbacks are taking reps at the same time on any given play allowing the coaches a chance to get a better evaluation through more snaps.
Early reports are that no quarterback has really separated from the others. We will probably not get a better idea about who sits upon the upper half of the depth chart until after this Saturday's first scrimmage. The quarterbacks as a whole have digested roughly around two-thirds of the play book so far through instillation per coach Vigen. By the end of the weekend, they should have 90% of the playbook learned. The quarterbacks are working to transfer their knowledge of the playbook onto the field. Most of these quarterbacks have never played from under-center or have taken extended drops due to playing in a spread offense.
Early returns are that the quarterbacks as a whole have flashed moments of brilliance but at the same time have been turning over the ball way to much for the coaching staffs likings. One of the staples of a coach Craig Bohl offense is to have his quarterbacks value the football first and foremost. The quarterback that shows best in being able to take care of the football will likely see the field more than the others come this next season.
We will know more soon but the assumption is that the main three candidates for the starting quarterback position at this time are Kirkegaard, Young and Thornton.
Kirkegaard brings the experience in being a redshirt senior and having started at least one game as a Cowboy. Young is in his first year with the program but has a year worth of college starting experience under his belt. Thornton lacks the experience the other two have but does have the ability to push the other two more experienced quarterbacks for the starting job.
Coach Vigen has stated that he doesn't have to make this a complete metamorphosis as far as what the offense is going to be. His belief is the personnel can fit well enough to be semblance of what he thinks the offense will be in Laramie in time. As for the quarterbacks themselves, the early assumption is that this quarterback race will go into the Fall but we will know more soon enough if that is true or not. There is still plenty of time for the quarterbacks to master not only the playbook but their fundamentals before a new starter is announced.