LARAMIE — As Wyoming waits to get fully healthy at the most important position on the field, the Cowboys will hand the offense over to their freshman quarterback.
Levi Williams will start the spring at the same spot on the depth chart that he finished last season — at the top. Part of the reason for that is because Williams showed well in the three games he played in as a true freshman, sparking an offense that went dormant for long stretches late in the season without its primary signal caller. The 6-foot-5, 208-pounder got his first career start in the Arizona Bowl and accounted for 287 yards and four touchdowns in helping lead UW to a thorough beating of Georgia State.
Williams also enters the spring as the Cowboys’ QB1 in part because Sean Chambers still isn’t available. Chambers, who won the starting job at the end of last spring and started the first eight games last season, is just a handful of months removed from season-ending knee surgery and is still recovering.
UW coach Craig Bohl said late last season Chambers wouldn’t be ready for the spring. Bohl said again in February that Chambers will miss most of spring practice, though Bohl didn’t rule out the possibility of the sophomore quarterback returning near the end on a limited basis.
Tyler Vander Waal, who initially filled in for Chambers late last season before being passed on the depth chart by Williams, transferred to Idaho State after the season. The third quarterback on the roster for next season, incoming freshman Gavin Beerup, won’t arrive on campus until the summer.
That leaves Williams to get most of the significant reps as the youngster looks to take the next step in his development as a college quarterback. The sample size was small yet promising last season for Williams, who will be a freshman again next season after maintaining a year of eligibility by staying within the four-game maximum allowed by the NCAA’s redshirt rule.
The play calling in UW’s run-heavy offense didn’t change much from Chambers to Williams, who ran it (40) more than he threw it (39) last season. Williams averaged 4.5 yards a carry and scored the go-ahead touchdown with his legs in the Cowboys’ Border War win over Colorado State.
He threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns with just two interceptions. His 243-yard, three-TD performance through the air in the Arizona Bowl were both season-highs for the Cowboys, who are coming off their fourth consecutive bowl-eligible season.
But Williams completed just 49 percent of his passes, a lack of efficiency both he and Chambers will be working to improve for an offense that’s finished at or near the bottom of the Mountain West in passing yards and completion percentage the last two seasons despite having one of the league’s better rushing attacks. Chambers, who will be a third-year sophomore next season, completed 43 percent of his passes last season and is completing them at a 46-percent clip for his career.
The competition between the two will begin in earnest once Chambers is back to full speed this fall, and there’s a good chance both will play next season. Bohl went as far as to say that’s the plan.
“The fact both of these guys show a really good ability to run at times that are pre-determined and at times are unscripted, that really opens up our playbook,” Bohl said in February. “Now we would not like to have them run as much as we have, but the dual threat of both of those guys I think warrants that both of them are going to get a really hard look.”
The first look will go to Williams this spring.
Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter
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