LARAMIE — Gavin Rush’s season is once again over before it started.
Wyoming’s junior offensive lineman will miss the 2019 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, a team spokesman said. Head coach Craig Bohl confirmed the extent of the injury following Tuesday’s practice.
Rush sustained the injury during practice Thursday with Bohl voicing optimism then that it wasn’t serious, but an MRI revealed at least a tear. Bohl said Rush is scheduled to have surgery next week.
“Once (doctors) get in there, they’re really going to find out,” Bohl said. “I think there’s quite a bit of collateral damage in there.”
It’s the second season-ending injury in as many seasons for Rush, who sustained a torn bicep muscle back in August that required surgery. Rush, the most experienced lineman left on the Cowboys’ roster, was projected to start at left guard last season and was back atop the depth chart there this spring before his latest injury.
Wyoming is already thin at tackle this spring after losing starting left tackle Zach Wallace and reserve Pahl Schwab to graduation after last season while Alonzo Velazquez is being held out this spring as he recovers from last season’s knee injury, but the Cowboys have more depth inside.
Redshirt freshman Zach Watts is the most likely to step in at left guard after starting three games there last season. He’s been working at both guards spots this spring. Eric Abojei started five games at the position a season ago as a freshman while rising sophomore Keegan Cryder began last season there before eventually moving to center.
Center Patrick Arnold got a look at guard toward the end of Tuesday’s practice, offensive line coach Bart Miller said. Logan Harris and Sheridan native Blayne Baker, who redshirted last season, are also repping there.
“It does kind of hurt from a player’s perspective, but we were deep enough on the interior that we should be able to fill some very capable guys in and get them better and better,” Miller said.
Rush started all 14 games as a true freshman in 2016 before getting eight more starts as a sophomore. He’s played in 27 career games.
“He was our leader this year, so that was really tough to see him go down like that after a whole year of rehab and in just his second practice. That one hurt us quite a bit,” Watts said. “We’re just going to keep working, and he’ll keep being there by our side and motivating us.”
Chambers still No. 1
Bohl said Sean Chambers continued to get the first-team reps at quarterback Tuesday, though he added there continues to be good competition between Chambers and Tyler Vander Waal.
“I think the quarterbacks continue to battle,” Bohl said.
Bohl said last week he’d likely name a starter by the end of the Cowboys’ 15 spring practices or shortly thereafter. Chambers, who will be a redshirt freshman next season after playing in just four games, would’ve ended last season as the starter had he not sustained a broken leg.
Leader of the backs
Wyoming is still sorting things out in the backfield, but Xazavian Valladay has stood out through the first week of practice.
“I think right now X has kind of got the edge,” Bohl said.
Valladay and rising sophomore Jevon Bigelow are at the forefront of the competition to replace 1,000-yard rusher Nico Evans, though Bohl noted that Natrona County High product Brett Brenton has also performed well. Valladay was the Cowboys’ second-leading rusher as a redshirt freshman last season with 396 yards.
Guard Logan Harris got rolled up on Tuesday, but Miller said afterward that Rush is the only long-term concern among the injured offensive linemen.
Keyon Blankenbaker, who’s made the move from cornerback to nickel this spring, pulled a hamstring. Bohl said it was one of a few hamstring injuries sustained by players during practice.
Watch Wyoming's quarterbacks, defensive tackles and safeties go through individual drills during Tuesday's practice in the videos below.