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Wyoming Football Opens Spring Practice

Coach Craig Bohl and his Wyoming staff are back for their second season and open Spring practice today in Laramie. We will take a look into the roster entering the Spring.

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Wyoming enters year two of the Craig Bohl era on March 30th with 14 practices and then the Spring game finale on April 25th.

The Cowboys are coming off of a 4-7 season and enter 2016 looking to improve upon last years roster and results.

The roster did lose 14 starters (6 offense, 7 defense, 1 special teams) and 28 letterman from not only graduation but also from off-season departures but return 10 starters (5 offense, 4 defense, 1 special teams) and 33 letterman overall.

Wyoming is still sorely lacking depth at some positions but there are also other positions that are starting to stack up much better in the quality of depth department.  Here are my thoughts entering Spring practice...

Offensively the Cowboys should be improved if the offensive line can stay healthy, for sure the starters.  I know that is easier said than done considering last season was less than ordeal in that department.

The offensive line is sorely lacking quality depth due to attrition but luckily have enough returning players that have seen plenty of action or have been in the program for at least a season or two.  I see three starting spots (LT, LG and C) pretty much secured already but still need two more starters (RG and RT).  As many as seven players will get a good look this Spring but six of them are either red-shirt freshman or sophomores.

Sophomore Ryan Cummings (6'5", 295-pounds) returns as the starter at left tackle and it is nice to know the Cowboys have the blindside position solidified.  As for the right tackle position, the spot is open with sophomore Taylor Knestis (6'5", 290-pounds) as the perceived early favorite to man that spot.  Knestis backed up Cummings this past season at left tackle.  Sophomore Kurtis Stirneman (6'5", 270-pounds) is also a possibility.  It will be very interesting to see who else will be in the mix not only this Spring but this coming Fall as depth is a worry here.

At the guard positions Chase Roullier (6'4", 295-pounds) returns as the starter at left guard but one has to think at right guard the position battle will be between the likes of red-shirt freshman Richard Bettencourt (6'3", 285-pounds), red-shirt freshman Cole Turner (6'4", 285-pounds), sophomore Charlie Renfree (6'4", 270-pounds) or even Troy Boyland (6'2", 300-pounds) who has flipped over from defensive tackle. It will be interesting to see how he young offensive guards develop and how much bigger they will be come Fall?

At center the Cowboys return starter Rafe Kiely (6'3", 305-pounds) but depth behind him is sorely lacking.  Seeing who mans the center spot this Spring is of interest as Kiely is expected to be quite limited due to off-season surgery.  Come Fall it wouldn't surprise me to see incoming freshman Kaden Jackson (6'2", 265-pounds) push for the back-up spot pending the development of another center this Spring.

Behind the offensive line we will see a new starting quarterback this Spring.  Unless one of the young quarterbacks emerge, Indiana transfer in red-shirt senior Cameron Coffman (6'2", 200-pounds) will be the starter this coming season.  Coffman was arguably Wyoming's best quarterback on roster last season but had to sit out due to transfer rules.  Coffman did a fine job running the Cowboys scout team offense from reports.  I feel much more comfortable about the quarterback situation entering this Spring than last as Coffman and three other red-shirts have had a year to learn coach Brent Vigen's offensive system.  Those three other were red-shirt sophomore Aaron Young (6'2", 200-pounds), red-shirt freshman Nick Smith (6'4", 215-pounds) and red-shirt freshman Austin Fort (6'4", 220-pounds).  The coaching staff has also brought in sophomore Josh Allen (6'5", 210-pounds) at mid-year and he definitely could challenge for the starting spot.  Allen does still have a red-shirt year at his disposal.

The running back situation entering the Spring is very good and the most interesting thing will be seeing who steps into that #3 spot in the running back rotation?  Wyoming has a very good 1-2 punch with sophomore Brian Hill (6'1", 205-pounds) and senior Shaun Wick (5'10", 215-pounds).  Hill and Wick are two of the finer running backs returning in the Mountain West Conference.  The fullback position should be in better hands with one more year of experience under the fullbacks belts.  Sophomore Drew Van Maanen (6'1", 225-pounds) returns as the starter.

The wide receiver group has the potential to be a very good unit themselves.  There is a good blend of experience and youth that will be available.  How quickly the incoming freshman get up to speed will say a lot if this group will be very good or serviceable this coming Fall.

Junior Tanner Gentry (6'2", 200-pounds), junior Jake Maulhardt (6'6", 215-pounds) and sophomore Tanner Simpson (6'2", 190-pounds) will give the wide receiver group good experience entering the Spring.  The Cowboys will bring in a lot of new freshman wide-outs (some are walk-ons) this coming Fall but only Joseph Parker (5'11", 175-pounds) came in mid-year.

With the tight ends we should see much more improvement much like the fullback position.  Not only will we see more experience but also the tight ends on roster being more physically developed.  Junior Jacob Hollister (6'4", 230-pounds) should be expected to be the #1 tight end but there are other young pups who red-shirted last season to push him in Grant Lewis (6'5", 225-pounds) and Tyree Mayfield (6'3", 225-pounds).  Finding a good blocking tight end to replace JD Krill would be nice addition.

Now for the defense, I see the Cowboys being very good upfront but it is behind those defensive ends/tackles is where things get interesting.  The defense as a whole will be looked at very closely this Spring with a lot of questions to be answered.  Some of those may not be answered until the Fall.  If those behind the front four can step up, Wyoming has the chance to have a very solid defense.  I think the defensive team speed will be much improved across the board.

There are four good defensive end options in senior Eddie Yarbrough (6'3", 250-pounds), senior Siaosi Hala'api'api (6'2", 255-pounds), junior Tavita Faiuu (6'3", 245-pounds) and red-shirt freshman Jonathan Kongbo (6'6", 250-pounds).  Yarbrough is a two-time All-MWC selection and could challenge for conference defensive player of the year.

As for the defensive line, junior nose tackle Uso Olive (6'1", 310-pounds) will start and I expect sophomore Dalton Fields (6'3", 275-pounds), junior Chase Appleby (6'0", 260-pounds), red-shirt freshman Sidney Malauulu (6'3", 285-pounds) and junior Du'Ryan Ebbesen (6'2", 290-pounds) to fight it out for the other defensive tackle spot and depth in general.  Those five along with possibly junior Jacob English (6'5", 300-pounds) should give good depth at defensive tackle.  English is a wildcard, as one could see him being a defensive tackle the Cowboys don't really have frame wise.  Not to mention he is at a new position, as he was on the offensive line his first two seasons.

Now for the positions behind that quality defensive front still has a lot of question marks, namely the linebackers.

I'll start off with the secondary and when talking about the corner backs one would take the assumption senior Tyran Finley (5'9", 180-pounds) and sophomore Robert Priester (5'9", 170-pounds) to start but they will be pushed by a lot of other young players, namely red-shirt freshmen C.J. Jennings (5'10", 180-pounds) and Ryon'e Winters (6'0", 180-pounds).  Both Jennings and Winters will get their chance to unseat Priester as Robert is expected to be out all Spring recovering from surgery.

As for the safety positions, one could expect sophomore Tim Kamana (5'11", 195-pounds) to man one spot and the other could be likely be red-shirt freshman Chavez Pownell (5'11", 195-pounds) or senior Chad Reese (5'11", 180-pounds).  Junior Xavier Lewis (6'0", 195-pounds) and junior D.J. May (5'11", 205-pounds) are the wildcards but we won't know anything about Lewis until he returns to action from his stroke.  May has moved over to safety to compete and add depth after having a pretty successful run as an running back.

As for the linebackers, there is only really one player with any real experience in junior Lucas Wacha (6'1", 220-pounds).  Senior Malkaam Muhammad (6'0", 230-pounds) should contend for one of the starting spots and he does have playing experience (namely with special teams).  Two new linebacker additions could be in the starting mix as well in ex-tight end junior Eric Nzeocha (6'3", 210-pounds) and ex-safety junior William Tutein (6'2", 210-pounds).  Nzeocha is trying to follow in the footsteps of his brother Mark who succeed at the position this past season.  A dark horse with the linebackers is senior Devin McKenna (6'2", 225-pounds) who left the team last Spring before rejoining the program this off-season.

This years linebackers will definitely be much smaller than last years group but speed should not be a problem.  This Spring and off-season should be vital for this group in getting bigger and stronger, let alone learn their positions.

When it comes to special teams, the long snapper should be junior Brendan Turelli (6'2", 225-pounds) and junior Ethan Woods (6'3", 175-pounds) should possibly be both the punter and kicker.  Both return specialist spots will see new faces this Spring. 

We definitely should know more after the Cowboys finish up their 14 Spring practices.  I'll try to keep people updated on the Spring progress as the practices are completed. Most practices, unless stated otherwise, will start between 4:00 and 4:30 PM. Practice is open to the public and media for the first 30 minutes only, including the first two scrimmages. The Spring game is open to the public and media.