When Wyoming left Spring practice, redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard sat on top of the quarterback depth chart. So far early returns in the Fall camp show that Kirkegaard still looks to be the man to replace Brett Smith under center this coming season.
Going back to when Craig Bohl was at North Dakota State, one has seen the pattern that experience generally trumps youth early in the season when dealing with a new starting quarterback. Kirkegaard is the only quarterback on roster that has seen any starting action for the Pokes. Even though it may have been just one start, Kirkegaard has been on the Laramie campus much longer than any other quarterback.
That experience has not gone unnoticed by Coach Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. When one is dealing with a ball control offense that looks to avoid as many mistakes as possible, experience and maturity under center matters greatly.
"Colby (Kirkegaard) is of course a mature guy. Even though he’s had to operate in different offenses here, he is a fifth-year guy and his maturity comes into play. The other thing is Colby takes coaching well, and he owns his mistakes. Many times the quarterback position has so many other people that function around them, and human nature sometimes says to point fingers at somebody else. Colby’s attitude is he is ultimately in charge of this group and if something goes wrong that comes back on him, so we’ve appreciated his leadership."
"Colby has also done a good job of learning our offense, and Brent Vigen has done a good job with him teaching him our offense, which is complicated."
When asked if he has been keeping a close eye on the other quarterbacks to challenge Kirkegaard presently or in the future, Coach Bohl had this to say.
"We have," said Bohl. "Sam Stratton -- we’ll still have him at quarterback, but he’ll probably take on some other roles on our football team, as well (has been practicing as a punt returner). We looked at our two young quarterbacks -- Austin Fort and Nick Smith -- and gave them a few more repetitions today. What does help is we double rep, and there is no better learning tool for a quarterback than doing 11-on-11 work, so by having two teams going all the time it helps not only the quarterbacks but all the young players.
"I think both of our freshmen quarterbacks are a little bit further along than what a lot of freshmen are. They’re both very bright, and that was indicated from their high school transcripts. Sometimes that doesn’t automatically transfer to the football field, but in this case both of them are bright football players. They see things well, but nonetheless this is not a simple offense for the quarterback. This is a pro-style offense. They will have to garner a lot of knowledge, but so far they’re doing a nice job with that."
History has also shown under Bohl's watch that in time if the experienced starter doesn't perform, he is not afraid to go to the future and play the young pup. Both Fort and Smith fit the profile of the type of quarterback Wyoming is now looking for. Someone generally standing at least 6'4", has a big arm and presents the ability to run the ball when called upon to. With that said, lack of experience has hindered the young quarterbacks some early and the experienced signal callers such as Kirkegaard and Tommy Thornton have shown better when the staff mixes up their defensive looks.
After practice, Bohl said the defense had a significant blitz period on Friday, and he liked the way Kirkegaard handled the pressure.
"I thought Colby was really good," Bohl said. "Tommy [Thornton] got better. The younger guys…not so much. But Colby is an older guy. Even though the system is different, that maturity has helped. He has not played in a lot of games.
"But as you go through those practices, it’s starting to show up."
There is still plenty of time before the first game of the season against Montana for the younger quarterbacks to move up the depth chart but as of this moment Kirkegaard is showing he likely has a firm grasp on the starting quarterback job.