LARAMIE — Fans and media will get a chance to see one of Wyoming’s spring practices in its entirety when the Cowboys hold their first full-scale scrimmage Saturday at Natrona County High School’s Cheney Alumni Field in Casper.
The 1 p.m. scrimmage will go roughly 77 plays, Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. Kickoffs won’t be a part of the scrimmage, but the Cowboys will incorporate punts, punt returns, extra points and field goals.
The first-team offense will go against the first-team defense and so forth, but don’t expect to see that all the time. The Cowboys will mix and match throughout the day as Bohl and his staff get their first chance this spring to evaluate players in a game-like situation with competition ongoing at a number of positions.
“Evaluation-wise, it’s not going to be a scrimmage where we’re trying to do a bunch of plays that are really schematically challenging,” Bohl said. “It’s going to be some old-time football.”
Here what — and who — to keep a close eye on Saturday:
Sean Chambers, who would’ve ended last season as the starter if not for the broken leg he sustained against Air Force, has spent most of the spring taking the first-team snaps at quarterback, but Tyler Vander Waal has stayed close.
Bohl said earlier this week there isn’t a distinct leader in the competition, giving both quarterbacks a chance to still make their case. Wyoming has had a handful of live passing segments in its first eight practices, but Saturday will give Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen a chance to see how the quarterbacks react and perform under some degree of game-like pressure.
“First of all, competency to be able to operate our offense and decision-making,” said Bohl, who added the quarterbacks won’t be live. “Certainly we won’t run them, but their decision-making and their accuracy throwing the football.”
Perhaps no position is under a bigger microscope this spring than safety.
Bohl said recently he would reserve judgment until after the first scrimmage to assess exactly how much progress the youngsters at both safety spots have made. With Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps finishing as two of the top-10 tacklers in school history before running out of eligibility after last season, Bohl specifically wants to see how the group performs when it has chances to make plays in the open field.
Rising senior Alijah Halliburton is in line to take over for Wingard at strong safety after starting six games last season, though Esias Gandy and Miles Williams are also repping there. Junior-to-be Braden Smith and redshirt freshmen Cam Murray and Rome Weber are competing at free safety.
Garrett Crall and Josiah Hall, projected starters at defensive end, should be back healthy for fall camp, but Wyoming has to start building some depth along a line that lost five players off the two-deep from last season
Davon Wells-Ross, Solomon Byrd, Leevi Lafaele, Teagan Liufau and De’Vaughn Brown, who’s been limited with a concussion, are getting all the reps with Crall and Hall out this spring and have impressed with their speed and explosion off the edge. Being able to hold up in the run game is the question.
Ravontae Holt is back after finishing last season as a starter on the interior while Javaree Jackson is taking over at nose tackle. But the Cowboys need some others behind them to emerge.
Tyree Mayfield and Austin Fort are gone, but Wyoming still has plenty of options at tight end.
“We’ve got good competition going on there,” Bohl said.
Fifth-year senior Josh Harshman will be limited if he plays at all as he continues to work his way back from knee surgery, leaving most of the reps in the scrimmage for Nate Weinman, Jackson Marcotte and Jahmari Moore given they’re healthy.
Marcotte went down with a knee injury during Thursday’s practice, though Bohl wasn’t sure of the severity. Weinman (6-foot-7, 267 pounds) and Marcotte (6-7, 250) are towering targets in the passing game that move well for their size while Moore (6-2, 236) could play tight end or fullback.
Bohl will also use the scrimmage to get an extended look at linebackers not named Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia, who won’t play much if at all Saturday. Wyoming doesn’t play a game for almost five months, but much like the defensive line, the Cowboys need to start solidifying some depth there.
Sophomore-to-be Chad Muma, who will likely get reps in the middle and on the outside, is solidifying himself as Wyoming’s third linebacker with a strong spring, but the coaching staff needs to see more from Brennan Kutterer, Ray Rabou, Charles Hicks and the rest of the young linebackers.