LARAMIE — In the sense of controlling the line of scrimmage, the Wyoming offensive line would like to see more movement this season. The Cowboys have had mixed results through three games, dominating at New Mexico State but struggling offensively in losses against Washington State and Missouri.
But the movement of personnel from side to side has already begun — and that’s not likely to change.
Two offensive linemen made their first starts of the year in Wyoming’s 40-13 loss at Missouri. Right tackle Alonzo Velazquez, who was a surprise starter as a true freshman last season, returned after missing two games to a meniscus tear and cartilage damage.
“It felt great to be back with my teammates,” he said. “I mean, it’s always a bummer being out.”
Eric Abojei made his first career start at left guard, with fellow redshirt freshman Keegan Cryder moving from left to right guard, taking the spot of senior Kaden Jackson. The Cowboys rotated every two series in the game, with Cryder flipping between right and left guard and Jackson stepping in.
That’s something the Cowboys would like to continue.
“We’ve got seven guys that have started now,” offensive line coach Scott Fuchs said. “Even more, with Logan (Harris). So we have quite a few guys that have that experience, so (we) continue to build on that as we move forward. Depth is critical.”
Harris, a Torrington graduate, started as a true freshman last year but moved to left guard in spring camp and is now a backup. The other seven players Fuchs alluded to are: senior left tackle Zach Wallace, a four-year starter; Abojei, a co-starter out of spring ball who missed most of fall camp with a concussion; Cryder, the starting center after spring who moved to left guard after Abojei and co-starter Gavin Rush (bicep) were injured; redshirt freshman Patrick Arnold, who took over at center once Cryder moved; Jackson; Velazquez; and redshirt freshman Rudy Stofer, who started in Velazquez’s absence.
While injuries have forced the group to do some shuffling the last couple years, Abojei said they enjoy getting to do it at will.
“It feels good, because it gives all of us playing time,” he said. “And it gives us all different insights on the game and everything, so we can go back to the drawing board and make sure we can execute on certain things. And it just keeps us fresh.”
Abojei got a chance to play most of the second half of Wyoming’s season opener. The task became more challenging, though, when Abojei started at Missouri, a Southeastern Conference defense with probable future NFL-er Terry Beckner Jr. at tackle. Abojei had expected to play at the Power Five level, having originally verbally committing to Minnesota.
“It just made me want to compete, because I knew that I was getting recruited (at that level) and that could’ve been me,” he said. “But it still shows that I was working against those guys and I was able to put up with those guys.”
Getting Abojei in means moving Cryder.
“Having a guy have the ability to flip sides, that’s pretty important now with Gavin being out for the season,” Fuchs said of Cryder. “Gavin was a guy that played both sides quite a bit.”
Arnold, who at one point was in contention to start as a true freshman, has held onto the starting center spot since moving there.
“I think Pat, getting him as many reps as possible (is important),” Fuchs said. “We had an opportunity, I guess, at New Mexico State, to probably get Logan in there, and I talked to Logan about that, but we also wanted to get Pat those reps, since he hadn’t played in any game for over a year. But he’s done a really good job at this point.
“We’ll kind of see. A lot of that is based on how both guys practice throughout the week. If we’re having guys do a really good job throughout the week, I’ll roll at center.”
The Cowboys could roll at right tackle, too, even with Velazquez back. The sophomore played nearly all of the Missouri game before leaving late in the game with soreness, but Fuchs would like to be able to play Stofer, too.
“I trust him,” Velazquez said. “He did well. That’s why I could sit out, too, because we have Rudy, so he can do what he needs to do and perform the way we need him to perform. It’s great having him.
“... All of us are getting back to healthy and now getting that chemistry back. I think we always have to improve, so starting now we just improve and keep improving the whole season.”