LARAMIE — The uncertainty surrounding Wyoming’s punting situation has lent itself to a full-on competition during fall camp.
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said a “pretty intense battle” is brewing between Tim Zaleski and Ryan Galovich for the starting job. Zaleski handled punting duties last season until a torn ACL in the Cowboys’ Mountain West opener against Boise State cut his season short.
Sheridan native Dontae Crow took over as the primary punter at that point but has since moved back to primary position at wide receiver. Galovich was called on from time to time and averaged just 37.9 yards on his 13 punts, but Bohl said the senior has been much improved three practices into camp.
“Ryan made some great progress over the summer,” Bohl said. “I knew he was out here working out. We’re not able to watch them, but it’s really shown. His hang time has improved and his distance is improved.”
Bohl has said the team is still counting on Zaleski to contribute this season, but getting his knee back to full strength has been a methodical process for the junior.
Bohl said at Mountain West Media Days in July that Zaleski suffered a minor setback while kicking at a camp over the summer. Bohl said Zaleski also dealt with some soreness over the weekend, but an off day Sunday helped before the Cowboys returned to practice Monday.
“Thought he kicked the ball and punted the ball well today,” Bohl said.
Zaleski showed only slightly better distance than Galovich when healthy last season, averaging 38.8 yards per punt. Both will be evaluated closely moving forward.
“We’ll continue to (monitor),” Bohl said. “We chart everything. We film everything.”
Keyon Blankenbaker is at a new position after making the move from cornerback to nickel in the spring, but the transition has been slower than expected given Blankenbaker missed most of spring drills with a hamstring injury.
“I’d say right now he’s a little bit behind from where he’d normally be, but that’s expected,” Bohl said.
Blankenbaker, a sophomore, is fully healthy now. Coaches like his coverage skills and his physicality on the inside, but getting Blankenbaker caught up in the defense is a priority given there’s not much behind him at the position. Walk-on Blake Harrington is also repping there for the time being, but Bohl said some of the true freshmen will likely be counted on to provide depth.
“We’ll make a decision as we go through camp,” Bohl said.
Speaking of true freshmen, Bohl said all 23 are still trying to get acclimated to the speed of the college game and the more nuanced systems they’re learning.
“Some of them don’t know if they’re on foot or horseback right now,” Bohl said. “It’s going to take a little bit (of time).”
With depth concerns at a handful of positions (running back, linebacker and nickel, to name a few), some are guaranteed to see the field this fall. And with the new rule implemented by the NCAA last year that allows freshmen to play up to four games without burning their redshirt, Bohl said that could mean more youngsters getting snaps than usual.
“With the four-game freshmen rule, you’ll see more guys integrated maybe earlier in the season that what we did in the past,” he said.