LARAMIE — For the first time in a long time, Cassh Maluia is unencumbered.
Wyoming’s linebacker went through the Cowboys’ first practice of fall camp Friday without a brace on his left elbow. Maluia wore one most of last season after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament while colliding with fellow linebacker Logan Wilson as he tried to make a tackle in the Cowboys’ fourth game against Wofford.
“As soon as he made contact with the guy, my arm, it hyperextended basically,” Maluia said.
Maluia had surgery in January and was held out of contact drills this spring. The senior admitted he wants to see how his elbow reacts once Wyoming holds its first full-contact practice, but the senior shed his no-contact jersey Friday and said he doesn’t plan to wear it at all leading up to the Cowboys’ Aug. 31 opener against Missouri at War Memorial Stadium.
“I’m ready to go,” Maluia said.
Maluia is the other half of arguably the most seasoned linebacker tandem in the Mountain West, though his tackles dipped to 47 last season after he finished fourth on the team with 74 stops in 2017. The 6-foot, 248-pounder still had six tackles for loss, four passes defended and an interception in 11 games, but he felt he didn’t have the same burst and mobility from his outside linebacker spot with the bulky brace that he’s since shed.
Maluia and Wilson are entering their third consecutive season starting alongside each other. The duo has combined for 453 career tackles and 36 tackles for loss.
“I just felt like having a brace on my arm reminded me that I was limited. I wouldn’t want to wear the brace any more,” Maluia said. “I guess it slowed me down. I just trusted the process and trusted the trainers that they’ll get me right.”
Wyoming got through its first practice Friday without any major injuries popping up, Bohl said.
Cornerback Tyler Hall has some “strained muscles,” Bohl said, while reserve defensive end Leevi Lafaele is dealing with an undisclosed injury, but both are minor. Hall practiced Friday while Bohl said Lafaele will be back for the season opener.
Defensive ends Garrett Crall and Josiah Hall returned after missing all of spring with injuries, but Bohl added he may monitor how many reps his veteran players get throughout camp as the Cowboys try to get to that game as close to full strength as possible.
“We need to get them the most reps, but we need to be healthy for the (Missouri) Tigers,” Bohl said.
No academic casualties
Bohl said all of Wyoming’s incoming freshmen have qualified academically — a significant development considering the help the Cowboys may need from some of their newcomers at certain positions.
Linebacker Shae Suiaunoa was the highest-ranked signee in Wyoming’s 2019 recruiting class, according to 247Sports, and could provide depth immediately at a position that’s still looking for it behind Wilson, Maluia and sophomore Chad Muma. Both Bohl and defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said newcomers will get a hard look at nickel, where sophomore Keyon Blankenbaker is the only player listed on the depth chart.
Three-star signees Dawaiian McNeely, Titus Swen and Alphonzo Andrews Jr. have joined the mix at running back, and at least one of them will likely be part of the backfield rotation with sophomore Xazavian Valladay and Louisville transfer Trey Smith.