LARAMIE — Wyoming may have released a depth chart earlier this week, but there’s one starting spot the Cowboys’ coaching staff is still evaluating before writing a name in pen.
Sophomores Patrick Arnold and Eric Abojei are still in competition for the nod at left guard with the number of days before Wyoming’s Aug. 31 opener against Missouri now in single digits. It won’t linger much longer, but right now, it’s too close to call.
“Each guy is challenging one another,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “They both do things that I think are their strengths and they both have their liabilities, so what we’ve got to do is measure on those strengths and try to limit the liabilities. We’ll make a final determination probably come Monday.”
Arnold, who’s worked almost exclusively at guard since the spring after making four starts at center last season, earned his spot at the top of the updated depth chart released Monday after his performance in Saturday’s scrimmage, offensive line coach Bart Miller said. But the 6-foot-5, 354-pound Abojei has given Miller something to think about with the way he’s performed since.
“Eric’s woken up and really been dominant this week in practice,” Miller said.
So what will ultimately decide the winner?
“I think consistency just with execution of the offense and their technique,” Miller said. “They both have their strengths. And both struggle. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to is just basic execution. Who can I trust in a game in those high-pressure situations?”
But Wyoming is going to need both in order to keep everybody fresh, particularly during the warmer games early in the season. And if injuries leave the Cowboys needing another center in a pinch, both could find themselves on the field together.
“Both of those guys are going to play in the game,” Bohl said. “But there is something if you say, ‘OK, you’re a starter.’ That notes who’s been performing.”
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Running back Trey Smith was held out of Thursday’s full-padded practice as he continues to go through concussion protocol.
“Now he’s getting real close, but that’s completely in the doctors’ hands,” Bohl said. “I know he wants to be out there.”
Offensive lineman Blayne Baker (concussion) has passed protocol and returned to practice on a full-time basis Wednesday. Bohl said the team didn’t sustain any other injuries Thursday.
Ready to step in?
Bohl said earlier this week true freshman Titus Swen was in the mix to be the first running back off the bench against Missouri. With Smith’s status for the opener still in limbo, Bohl said he talked to Swen about the possibility of being Xazavian Valladay’s backup.
“I told him, ‘When you’re out there, those guys, they’re going to come after that rock,’” Bohl said. “You think you’re ready for someone to come and rip that ball away until you’re playing against 22-year-old men. But Titus I think has a great deal of strength of maturity, and so he can make plays. We feel good about where he’s at.”
Bohl said captains for this year’s team will be announced this weekend. Wyoming had six captains last season.
“I told our guys nice guys are a dime a dozen, but a leader is priceless,” Bohl said. “And the teams we’ve had since we have been good here most of the time have not been separated by physical talent. It’s been leadership within our football team, team unity or injuries. Selecting those captains is going to be important.”
All but one of last year’s captains, senior linebacker Logan Wilson, have exhausted their eligibility. Wilson, a Casper native, is vying to join Marcus Epps as the Cowboys’ only three-time captains in the modern era.