It's pretty easy to say that the last three months have been very eventful for the Wyoming football team. After a rough season finished on a high note with the 44-0 Border War victory, things went downhill. 2011 began with news that three key players weren't going to be in Laramie for Spring Semester. S Shamiel Gary ended up transferring to Oklahoma State which is closer to home, K Ian Watts didn't make the grades and TE David Tooley left the program.
Losing your two year starting strong safety and kicker are big holes to fill. There had been some whispers that Gary may be heading elsewhere but no one expected a kicker to fail out. The biggest bombshell came a week later when it turned out that QB Austyn Carta-Samuels would be leaving Wyoming and heading to a Junior College. This left a huge gap at the position and no player on the roster with any game experience.
Cowboy fans have come to terms with the losses and the recruiting class that Coach Christensen and his staff put together is easily the best in the last decade. Some of the newest Cowboys are already on campus and will be fighting for a starting spot from day one.
Spring practice officially starts on Saturday, March 5th and the team will practice 15 total times. The Spring season will conclude with a game in War Memorial Stadium on April 9th. There will actually be three scrimmages during Spring practice: March 26th, April 2nd and April 9th. After the break we'll breakdown position changes, key position battles and who you'll want to keep your eyes on.
Workouts actually started on Monday when players competed in the 2nd annual Cowboy Combine. Players complete in several events such as: 40 yard dash, I-Drill, L-Drill and standing broad and vertical jump. It's very similar to the NFL combine that started over the weekend. None of the results are announced to the public but Robert Gagliardi had a good taste of how some players did.
Here is a quick recap: S Luke Anderson is very faaaaaaast, and BJ Sumter was moved from DT to Guard. In injury news it looks like several players will miss spring practice and one player is done for his career. OL Justin DiRe has an undisclosed medical condition that means his playing days are done. DiRe didn't play as freshman but he appeared to be most developed linemen of the 2010 recruiting class.
Daniel Fleishman will miss spring drills with an injury but could be ready to go in the Fall. It also looks like Mark Willis will not play this spring after undergoing surgery in the Fall for an ankle injury. Oliver Schober had a shouldler surgery and will be limited along with newcome DE Miraldo Michel.
Several players changed positions over the last couple months and they will practicing at their new spots this week. Here is a breakdown of the players changed positions:
||Old Position||New Position|
SPRING FOOTBALL - WHAT POSITIONS TO WATCH
The most watched battle will have to be at the quarterback spot. Everyone wants to know will take over at QB for the Pokes. Emory Miller is the veteran of the group by the mere fact that he used his redshirt year in 2010 and was third string on the depth chart. Miller is never going to be the tallest QB in the world but he is very quick and mobile. His competition this spring will be freshman Brett Smith from Salem, OR who graduated early in order get a shot at the starting job. Smith has plenty of experience as a prep and was named the 2010 Gatorade Oregon Player of the Year.
In the Fall highly touted Adam Pittser will be on campus but right now this is a two man race. Both Smith and Miller are duel threat QBs in the same mold as the departed Carta-Samuels. While the lack of experience is worrying both players will get plenty of reps in practice. There is no way to pick a leader right now, time to just to sit back and watch this one for a couple weeks.
Alvester Alexander came on very strong at the end of the 2010 season. He looks to keep his spot as the starter in 2011 but should have some more competition behind him now. Ghaali Muhammad switches from linebacker to running back where he played in high school. He also worked as a kicker returner in 2010 and knows how to take care of the ball. Nehemie Kankolongo had a great spring workout in 2010 but never got on track in the Fall. Can he regain his stride and try and push Alexander and Muhammad for carries? It will be very interesting to see how Ghaali adjusts to his switch and what Kankalongo can do to rebound.
The Pokes lose their top two wide outs from 2011 in David Leonard and Zach Bolger. A trio of former JC receivers will now try and step up and fill those spots. Mazi Ogbonna, DeJay Lester and Jonathon Aiken all made their Cowboys debut as Juniors and now have just one season left to make an impact. Ogbonna had the best season of the three last year with 18 catches for 185 yards. Chris McNeill is the top returning WR and is runs the best routes on the team. TJ Smith came on strong at the end and put up 8 catches for 175 yards despite only playing in three games all year. Robert Herron has been officially moved to WR after spending 2010 as the Pokes second leading rusher.
The loss of DiRe and Fleishman hurts the depth on the offensive line pretty badly. Still RS freshman Skyler Hinton and Travis Bogard will have more opportunities now. Moving Sumter to offensive helps the depth issue and is probably better for his skill set. Wyoming did sign one JC o-linemen named Zach Rushing but he won't on campus until Fall.
Besides the QB spot the area that is most hotly contested will be in the secondary of the Pokes. Both safety positions are open with the graduation of Chris Prosinski and transfer of Shamiel Gary. Marcell Gipson also graduates which leaves a starting CB spot available. Two Luke's look to have eyes set on one of the safety spots and will be competing hard for it. Luke Anderson is the speedy newcomer from Blinn College while Luke Ruff saw some playing time late last season when Gary was out.
Another interesting player to keep your eye out for will be Mark Nzeocha who hails from Germany and stands 6-2 215. Seems like the guy is a fantastic athlete and is very explosive. He may stay in the secondary or will make the move to LB. Tashaun Gipson has one CB spot sewn up unless he gets moved to safety. Other DB players to check out are Marqueston Huff and Darren White. Huff was the first player of the bench at cornerback in 2010 and made several nice plays.
One reason that Ghaali Muhammad was moved from LB to RB could have been to find a sport for Korey Jones to try and start. The Fort Collins native spent the last two year at Garden City CC. Keith Lewis now done with school so Devyn Harris will try and claim the job he split with Lewis last year. Oliver Schober is a great Middle Linebacker but is still recovering from his shoulder surgery. Alex Borgs is another German you will want to check and see if he develops just like Nzeocha. Will Todd Knight step up this after being highly regarded when he signed two years ago?
The only really new player on the d line is Miraldo Michel but he may be limited during his workouts. The defensive line unit came together towards the end of the 2010 and return all four starters. It was an undersized unit last year so we'll have a chance to see how much weight they've put on. Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton are both converted LB's and had the biggest adjustment. Now at least they have a year under their belt. Both players will be seniors in the Fall so we'll what they have set for goals. Kurt Taufa'asua will get more reps after redshirting last year.