LARAMIE — Wyoming’s search for depth it can count on at certain positions this fall is still ongoing.
The Cowboys held their ninth practice of fall camp Monday, which served as the latest chance for players to compete for spots on the depth chart. Starting jobs are still up for grabs at punter (Tim Zaleski or Ryan Galovich) and left guard (Eric Abojei or Patrick Arnold), but it’s the spots lower on the depth chart where the Cowboys still have a lot of sorting out to do.
The defensive line might be the most pressing concern in that regard given the relative lack of experience behind Garrett Crall, Josiah Hall, Ravontae Holt and Javaree Jackson. Sophomore Victor Jones, who can play inside or out, is the only other defensive lineman on the roster that’s played in more than three games.
“(The depth) is going to have to come along pretty good,” said Jackson, who’s entering his first season as the full-time starter at nose tackle. “Me and Ravontae can’t play 80 snaps a game, so we’re going to need those guys to help when we’re tired to get in the game and do their job properly and correctly for us to take a break for a little bit and get back in.”
Jackson and defensive coordinator Jake Dickert both mentioned redshirt freshmen Claude Cole and Cole Godbout as players who are emerging during camp. Godbout is going through his first fall camp after being sidelined last year with an injury while Cole, a walk-on from Palo Alto, California, has “been the biggest one that’s really surprised us,” Dickert said. Redshirt freshman Mario Mora is running with the second team on the interior while junior Justis Borton, sophomore Davon Wells-Ross and fellow freshmen Solomon Byrd, Teagan Liufau, Akili Bonner, DeVonne Harris, Jaylen Pate and Jack Boyer are others who could help along the defensive front.
The depth on the interior of the line is already getting tested. Holt (knee) watched Friday’s practice in streets clothes and wasn’t at Monday’s practice during the open viewing period. Mora took the first-team reps alongside Jackson in Holt’s absence. Another defensive tackle, true freshman Alonzo Hall, isn’t practicing after sustaining a fracture in his foot.
Head coach Craig Bohl did not meet with the media after practice Monday because of a scheduling conflict, and Dickert said he didn’t have an update on Holt’s status. Holt is in line to take over at defensive tackle after starting the final four games last season.
The most pleasant surprise on the defensive side of the ball, Dickert said, has been redshirt freshman linebacker Charles Hicks, who’s the third-string middle linebacker but could move up depending on whether fellow backup Chad Muma plays in the middle or on the outside. Senior Ben Wisford is backing up Cassh Maluia on the outside, so the Cowboys could rotate five linebackers in their Aug. 31 opener against Missouri and beyond.
“We play five straight spread offenses,” Dickert said. “There’s going to be plenty of reps for those linebackers. Logan (Wilson) can’t play 80 snaps, so we’ll have a designated rotation.”
Dickert said true freshman Allen Smith is “next up” behind Keyon Blankenbaker at nickel for now, though fellow freshman Keonte Glinton is also getting a look while cornerback Tyler Hall could slide back inside in certain packages.
On offense, the Cowboys are still trying to decide on a third tackle behind starters Alonzo Velazquez and Rudy Stofer. Redshirt freshman Frank Crum and sophomore Gavin Dunayski, a converted defensive lineman, are in the running for that designation at what may be Wyoming’s thinnest position.
The Cowboys are set at the top of the backfield depth chart with sophomore Xazavian Valladay and Louisville graduate transfer Trey Smith, but they’ll need more than two running backs to get through the season. Wyoming will look for at least one of Dawaiian McNeely, Titus Swen and Alphonzo Andrews Jr. or some combination of the true freshmen to contribute this fall.
Swen and Andrews have the edge over McNeely, who’s been somewhat limited with a minor injury. But offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said all three are still being evaluated as Wyoming approaches the midway point of camp.
“You’re searching for consistency, but moreso you’re searching for guys that can make a guy miss,” Vigen said. “We haven’t tackled really at all, but they’ve done some things in isolated drills. I think over the course of this week it’ll settle itself out.
“Each position group has some experience, but we’ve got some guys that are unproven. We’ve got to test them through the course of this week.”