LARAMIE — For fans and media, the April 21 Brown and Gold game will provide the best opportunity to get a sense of the current shape of the Wyoming football team. But Saturday, behind closed doors, the Cowboys will get most of the way toward determining the team’s post-spring depth chart.
The Cowboys will hold their second scrimmage in as many weeks, and head coach Craig Bohl said it will be a significant day for evaluation.
“The (spring) game is a game-like situation,” Wyoming’s head coach said. “It’s more for, as opposed to evaluation, just give them a feel of what it’s like to be out there at War Memorial with the officials and fans in the stands. So we’ll look at the spring game some, but Saturday will be a big, big day for those guys.”
That’s especially true for quarterbacks Nick Smith and Tyler Vander Waal. The Cowboys plan to name a starter after spring camp, and neither player has run away with the title, as the Pokes look to fill the role held by Josh Allen since 2016.
“I think it’s been back and forth a little bit all the way through,” offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brent Vigen said. “So tomorrow will be big, and the body of work is big. I still think there’s value in the spring game, because you’re out there functioning, but we’ve got to take advantage of these next four opportunities for sure.”
The scrimmage is closed to media and the general public, and stats will not be released. Bohl said he hopes to get around 90 plays in, as opposed to the 70 from last weekend’s closed scrimmage.
“I think that will really be our last closed looks at some of the schemes we’re doing, and finalize a good portion of the depth chart,” Bohl said. “And get some playing experience by some of these players who’ve not played a lot who are going to have an opportunity.”
Bohl said after Wyoming’s first scrimmage that the offense took a big step forward. That momentum carried into Tuesday’s practice, but Thursday, Bohl said the defense had “the upper hand.” Wyoming has two remaining practices between Saturday’s scrimmage and the spring game, which brings camp to a close.
“We’re going to look at quarterback (Saturday), number one,” Bohl said. “We’re solidifying our offensive line. A little difficult to evaluate running backs, simply because a lot of the guys who have played, like Trey (Woods), are not going to be in position to play.
“And over on defense, I think we’re really going to take a hard look and say, … ‘Who’s going to be our backup safeties? What’s going to happen at corner?’ Antonio Hull can play well, but Keyon Blankenbaker and C.J. (Coldon), which guy’s going to rise to the top there? So we’ll probably do some more kicking, because we didn’t do (that) on Saturday.”
While there are plenty of players who will not participate in the scrimmage because of injuries, some veteran players will be held out for the sake of giving inexperienced players more chances.
“Simply because if we’re trying to find some backup safeties, it’s kind of counterproductive to rep a guy like Andrew Wingard, who’s played a lot of football here,” Bohl said. “Why allocate reps to somebody that we already know is a good player? Let’s give those repetitions to these guys. So that’s some of those guys.
“We’ll see, but typically the guys that have played a lot of football would be Logan (Wilson), Andrew, Youhanna (Ghaifan). Those would be the guys right away that you’ve got to (ask), ‘Well, is it really prudent to have them take reps away from younger players?’”
Running back Xazavian Valladay (hand) will not participate in the scrimmage, Bohl said Thursday, after the Cowboys practiced in half pads. Receiver Austin Conway was unable to finish that practice with what Bohl believed was a hip injury. It was not known whether he would scrimmage.