LARAMIE — Wyoming hasn’t yet broken out full pads, but Craig Bohl didn’t want to wait that long.
The Cowboys’ coach characterized his team’s fourth practice of fall camp Tuesday as “pretty physical.” Wyoming has become synonymous with that kind of play since Bohl took over the program back in 2014. Yet this particular team, Bohl said, still has some work to do to get to the level of physicality that’s to his liking.
Wyoming ramped up that effort in helmets and shoulder pads just 24 hours before the Cowboys hold their first full-padded practice Wednesday.
“I talked to our guys about getting in the cold tubs and making sure our recovery is on point because for us to be physical this year, you have to practice that way,” Bohl said.
Specifically, the inside running game was a point of emphasis Tuesday. Sophomore Xazavian Valladay and graduate transfer Trey Smith have large shoes to fill with the departure of 1,000-yard rusher Nico Evans, who led the Mountain West in rushing on a per-game basis in his final season with the Cowboys.
But Bohl is more concerned with what’s going on up front rather than the backs themselves.
“We’ve got to be able to establish the line of scrimmage and knock some people off, and you can only do that in practice,” Bohl said. “We worked on that today.”
Bohl admitted he held his breath at times watching an offensive line that’s already lost guards Zach Watts and Gavin Rush to season-ending injuries mix it up. Bohl said he will have to pick and choose days to max out the line’s physicality, but the Cowboys are going to do what’s necessary to properly prepare for the season.
“You just look and say, ‘OK, we’ve got to step on the gas a little bit,’” Bohl said. “We’ve kind of varied our practices, but that was a point of emphasis. I think we walked off the field and we made progress today.”
True freshman impressing
Bohl singled out tight end Treyton Welch as a true freshman that’s caught his eye through four practices.
Cracking the rotation at tight end as a true freshman may be difficult for Welch given the experience and depth the Cowboys have there in fifth-year senior Josh Harshman, Nate Weinman and Jackson Marcotte. But the 6-foot-3, 207-pound Welch, who had 1,032 receiving yards as a senior at Buffalo (Minnesota) High last season, is versatile enough to move around.
“He’s kind of a hybrid guy,” Bohl said. “He was a wide receiver in high school, but he shows good explosion and good hands.”
Bohl said Wyoming’s receivers have done “some good things” through the first handful of practices.
The group is headlined by three seniors in Austin Conway, Rocket Ismail Jr. and John Okwoli, but consistency was an issue last season. The trio combined for just three touchdown receptions in an offense that matched Air Force for the fewest passing yards in the MW last season.
Another name Bohl mentioned unsolicited was Gunner Gentry, the brother of former Wyoming standout and Chicago Bears receiver Tanner Gentry. The younger Gentry, a former three-star recruit, played in 11 games primarily as a contributor on special teams last season as a true freshman.
“I think (Gentry) can have a big presence,” Bohl said
Defensive tackle Mario Mora didn’t finish practice Tuesday after sustaining a back injury.
It isn’t believed to be serious since Bohl said Mora could have possibly finished practice if allowed, but he was held out once the injury occurred as a precaution. Bohl said Mora will be further assessed Wednesday.
“I think he hyperextended his back,” Bohl said. “We’ll find out a little bit more.”
Mora, a redshirt freshman, entered camp as Javaree Jackson’s backup at nose tackle.