LARAMIE — Sean Chambers is one of his toughest critics.
So when asked to grade how he’s thrown the ball through the first week of fall camp, Wyoming’s quarterback wasn’t going to give himself rave reviews even if they were warranted. He was only willing to go slightly above average.
“I’m pretty hard on myself, so I’d probably give myself a 6 or 7 (out of 10),” Chambers said. “It’s definitely not where I want to be.”
Yet for those who’ve been watching him closely, it sounds about right.
Friday marked the seventh practice of fall camp, and what Wyoming’s coaches have seen from Chambers over the last week has been a mixed bag. It’s not all that unusual during the early part of camp, particularly for a second-year quarterback who’s preparing for his first season as the full-time starter.
But there’s more work that needs to be done before SEC counterpart Missouri comes to Laramie on Aug. 31 for both teams’ season opener.
“I would say he’s a little bit behind where we want him to be,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “He started out fairly well, but there’s more things coming at him. And this is all the progression of a quarterback. I’m encouraged, but he’s probably not as far along as what we want.”
Maybe not, but one thing is for certain: Chambers is much more in sync with the offense than he was at this time a year ago. Even in the spring, Chambers had to shake some rust off and get comfortable again after having surgery on the broken leg he sustained against Air Force in the next-to-last game of the season.
But Chambers, who was much more of a threat with his legs than his arm last season, was far more precise in the passing game in the latter stages of the spring — he completed 9 of 16 passes and had the only touchdown pass in the Cowboys’ spring game — and has picked up where he left off, offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said. Chambers has been particularly crisp on short and intermediate routes.
“There’s things that go into it — knowing where you need to throw and obviously being able to throw it and put it where the receiver can catch it,” Vigen said. “I’ve been pleased. Still work to do obviously, but I’m pleased.”
Chambers hasn’t just been throwing against air either. Wyoming’s quarterbacks aren’t being tackled in camp, but they’re getting plenty of pressurized looks from the Cowboys’ defense during PUP (pass under pressure) periods, where the offensive line and running backs work to give Chambers time to throw against the pass rush and blitzes.
Vigen said it’s a “pretty in-depth blitz package that we’re seeing,” but from making the calls before the ball is snapped to delivering it afterward, Vigen said he’s liked the way Chambers has handled those situations so far. Chambers is also at a point now where’s comfortable changing a protection up front on the fly if he needs to.
“Sometimes it’s tough when you’ve got a guy in your face, but it’s going to be like that on Saturdays,” Chambers said. “You’ve got to make those throws. The other team doesn’t care that you’ve got a guy in your face. If you’re clean and you’ve got a throwing lane, you’ve got to make that throw.”
But there’s still plenty of room for improvement. While Chambers said he’s comfortable making any throw required of him in the Cowboys’ pro-style offense, both he and Bohl agree his deep ball could use more touch and accuracy. Vigen said Chambers has also had “maybe a couple” of interceptions during team periods, so decision-making is still a point of emphasis.
But it’s easy to forget Chambers is still a freshman. Despite the experience he got last season, the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder still played less than 11 full quarters (and attempted just 25 passes) before going down with the injury in his fourth game — the maximum number he could play and still be allowed to keep his redshirt under the NCAA’s four-game redshirt rule.
That opener against Missouri is still three weeks away, so there’s time for Chambers to round into form.
“Just staying more consistent,” Chambers said. “If you make a good pass here, you can’t let up and throw the ball away here. You’ve got to be more consistent. Setting protections and taking care of the offense. Just being a better commander out there.”