LARAMIE — With the season opener two weeks and two days away, the Wyoming football team reached a significant benchmark Thursday: getting its two leading returning rushers out of red jerseys.
Junior Kellen Overstreet and sophomore Trey Woods were cleared for contact for the first time. Both have been recovering from shoulder injuries.
“It was good, just running around and knowing I wasn’t limited very much,” Overstreet said. “There were still a few plays, since I haven’t taken any contact, I kind of held back just a little bit. But it was still great just to run around out there.”
Overstreet was recovering from a labrum tear and said his and Woods’ injuries were similar. What wasn’t similar, though, was their timelines for return. Initially, they both expected to be ready by fall camp. Then, Woods’ injury was ruled season-ending. Then, his return date was moved up to mid-season. Finally, Bohl said last month Woods and Overstreet would be cleared to return in the third week of camp.
Thursday, they returned.
“There were a little bit of nerves,” Overstreet said, “but I think it was good just going out there and making contact and realizing my shoulder can take it.”
Woods began last fall camp, his first, as a linebacker but was moved over to running back during the season and wound up starting Wyoming’s final nine games. He rushed 142 times for 493 yards (3.5 average) and two touchdowns. Overstreet, who redshirted in 2016 to recover from an ACL injury and a more serious shoulder injury, rushed for 481 yards on 109 carries last year (4.4 avg.) with three touchdowns. He rushed for 224 yards in Wyoming’s last two games.
In Wyoming’s post-spring depth chart, Overstreet, senior Nico Evans and Woods were named co-starters, in that order. This fall, true freshman Jevon Bigelow and redshirt freshman Xazavian Valladay stepped forward as the next tier of potential contributors.
“I think X is doing great,” Overstreet said. “I think he’s a really explosive guy and fast guy. And I think Jevon is kind of that bigger-bodied guy, who, he’s still pretty shifty. So, yeah, I think those guys are definitely capable of making plays any time they’re on the field.
“... It’s always a competition. I think that’s something you’ve just got to enjoy. Just going out there and trying to outwork the next guy, but also just cheering those guys on every time that they have a good play or make a touchdown or anything like that.”
Despite Woods and Overstreet’s injuries, first-year Wyoming running backs coach Gordie Haug was happy with their lower-body development this offseason.
“I think, yeah, my footwork is a lot better than when I ended last season,” Overstreet said.
He and Woods, who wasn’t available to do an interview with the Star-Tribune, were still able to get in some snaps in the first 11 practice of camp — even with the red jerseys on.
“The good thing is they’ve been able to do some non-contact work,” Bohl said. “They’ve been in red jerseys, but they have some runs. They haven’t done the stuff with pass protections, but we’re going to integrate them in. They’re experienced players but they’re cleared to go.”
Now, they’ll need to put that experience to use.
“I think they both understand the urgency of the situation,” offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said, “where we’re almost two weeks out from the game time. They sat out there and watched three other guys perform fairly well last Saturday in the scrimmage. It’s a good thing to have depth. It’s a good thing to have competition. And it’s a good thing to have them joining full speed today.”