The Wyoming Cowboys won’t take the field for their first game until Sept. 3, but the regular season officially begins today with the team’s first pregame practice leading to the opener against Weber State.
UW’s fall camp officially came to a close on Saturday, and head coach Dave Christensen won’t release his first depth chart of the season until Monday.
While the wait continues, the Star-Tribune takes a look at the top three players on both offense and defense who made the biggest gains during fall camp.
BRETT SMITH, Quarterback
The battle for the starting spot was supposed to be heated between Smith, fellow true freshman Adam Pittser and junior college quarterback Colby Kirkegaard.
Instead, Smith stormed out of the gates with an eye-opening first scrimmage. It was never close after that.
Pittser and Kirkegaard developed nicely during the course of three weeks, but Christensen has all but named Smith the starter for the lid-lifter.
DOMINIC RUFRAN, Wide Receiver
Veterans Chris McNeill and Mazi Ogbonna may have had better camps, but in a situation where Christensen hoped a number of true freshman would step up, none did more than Rufran.
The Colorado Springs, Colo., native finished the camp working with the top offensive unit, jumping to the first string after leading the Pokes in receiving in their second scrimmage.
He may also become a formidable weapon when it comes to kickoff returns.
DANIEL FLEISCHMAN, Offensive tackle
The right tackle was once thought to possibly be out for the season, or at least the early portion of it.
Instead, he has returned quickly from an injury that sidelined him heading into spring camp and will likely see playing time immediately.
His quick return gives offensive line coaches Pete Kaligis and Jim Harding options up front, something that hasn’t been a luxury since they arrived in Laramie with Christensen.
KOREY JONES, Hybrid
The Cowboys will likely still list the junior college transfer as a linebacker, but Jones made waves this camp by producing both there and as what the Pokes call a crash end.
Jones had already opened eyes after arriving early for spring camp, but the fact that he’s made himself more diverse makes him an immediate weapon.
Jones will be crucial to what the Cowboys hope is a better pass rush as they make it a guessing game on the defensive front.
EDDIE YARBROUGH, Defensive End
Christensen has said he hasn’t decided whether the true freshman will play or redshirt this season, but believes it will be a luxury either way.
Yarbrough has shown that he has the talent to play for the Pokes if they need him, but he’s stacked behind seniors Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton.
Honorable mention to sophomore end Mark Willis who looks strong coming back from injury.
BLAIR BURNS, Cornerback
There’s little doubt this true freshman sees the field right away.
Burns somewhat quietly moved his way up the depth chart early on during fall camp, but began to make noise late. Christensen said Saturday Burns is currently the No. 3 cornerback, meaning fans will see him in nickel or dime situations.
With Tashaun Gipson entering his senior season, the Pokes may have found next year’s replacement already.