We're just a little over five months till the 2012 college football season starts. Luckily the next several weeks will be much more entertaining thanks to spring football. Today the Wyoming Cowboys will have their first of fifteen practices over the next month. This will include three scrimmages including the Brown and Gold game that takes place on April 21st.
Here is the full spring practice schedule:
Wednesday, March 21 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #1)
Friday, March 23 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #2)
Monday, March 26 3:30 p.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #3)
Wednesday, March 28 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #4)
Friday, March 30 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #5)
Monday, April 2 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #6)
Wednesday, April 4 3:30 p.m. (Scrimmage #1, Practice #7)
Thursday, April 5 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #8)
EASTER BREAK: Friday, April 6 Through Sunday, April 8
Monday, April 9 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #9)
Wednesday, April 11 3:30 p.m. (Scrimmage #2, Practice #10)
Friday, April 13 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #11)
Monday, April 16 3:30 p.m. (Pads, Practice #12)
Wednesday, April 18 3:30 p.m. (Shoulder Pads, Practice #13)
Friday, April 20 3:30 p.m. (Non-contact, Practice #14)
Saturday, April 21 2:00 p.m. (Scrimmage #3, Practice, #15)
Scrimmages are free and open to the public.
After the jump we will take a look at some of the story lines and position battles to keep an eye on this spring.
In 2011 Brett Smith used the spring workouts to get a heads up in the battle for the QB spot. The rest was history as he went on to a monster year and Mountain West freshmen of the year. This year will be a little easier on him as he recovers from post season surgery on the thumb on his right throwing hand.. He will not participate in any of the scrimmages this spring but will participate in non contact drills.
Ghaali Muhammad has never played the same position two years in a row. After moving to running back last year he is now headed back to defense. At least it is back to the linebacker spot he played as a sophomore. He had 75 tackles in 2010 which was fourth best on the team. With the struggles the defense had last year it is obvious the Pokes are doing everything possible to fix those issues. Muhammad's willingness to switch positions every year shows what a team first guy he is.
James Caraway is moving from CB to WR to help the Pokes add another offensive weapon. Listed at 5-11 185 Caraway is one of the fastest players on the team. His number is also changing from #1 to #81 with the position swap.
Colby Kirkegaard will get plenty of quality reps while Smith is recovering. He played in four games last year and his improvement will be very important to help give the Pokes a stronger backup. There is not a third scholarship QB in school right now. Walk on Josh Smith will likely get reps behind Kirkegaard. This current shortage of quarterbacks worries me as it may mean less quality reps for the rest of the offense.
Kody Sutton is in a position to grab the lead running back spot with a strong spring. Alvester Alexander is heading to NFL and Muhammad is back at linebacker which meant that Sutton shot up the depth chart quickly. Brandon Miller will be his main competition for carries right now. Nehemie Kankalongo had strong spring workouts in 2011 but missed the fall season with a knee injury. If he is healthy then he may be ready to make some noise this year.
There are plenty of opportunities for younger receivers to step this year. Wyoming lost several seniors to graduation and a couple young wide outs who transferred. Robert Herron will battle with Trey Norman and Dominic Rufran this spring for being a top option. Eric Nzeocha enrolled early and his been impressive in the gym. Now we will see how the German does on the field. It will be interesting to see where Caraway fits into the equation.
Will T.J. Smith become a weapon like 2010 or is Spencer Bruce the leader at tight end? That will be an interesting position battle to watch.
The Cowboys lost three starters on the offensive line to graduation. Their improved play was a big impact in the Pokes scoring so many points last year. Now those gaps need to be filled. Connors Rains enrolled early from American River CC and the staff is very high on the 6-7 305lb linemen. Others who will be contending for starting spots are SO Daniel Fleischman, SO Travis Bogard, RFr Jake Jones and Rafe Kiely.
With Chris Tormey running the ship at defensive coordinator it will be fascinating to see how he switches things up. He prefers a 4-3 but is certainly open to switching up the scheme at times. This will be his first real look at the Pokes in action, we'll see if more players get moved around as the spring progresses.
The Cowboys return plenty of depth at defensive tackle. They will even get back a former starter in Patrick Merterns who missed 2011 with an illness that caused him to lose lots of weight. He is now back to 280lbs and will a great boost to the interior. The big battles are going to be at defensive with Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns gone. Mark Willis and Sonny Puletasi were the top backups last year and made some nice plays. Eddie Yarbrough was impressive last fall but was able to redshirt thanks to the Cowboys depth. He is considered a potential All-American, now will be his chance to show what he can do. Miraldo Michel dealt with a number of injuries last year and never got going. Hopefully he can make the most of his senior season.
With Ghaali back at linebacker and Oliver Schober the defense now looks stronger then it did a couple months ago. Schober missed all of 2011 with a shoulder injury. Todd Knight, Devyn Harris and Korey Jones will complete with Mark Nzeocha for that third starting spot. I just hope that at sometime this year all three German linebackers (Schober, Nzeocha and Alex Borgs) are playing on the field at the same time.
Only one starter is gone from the secondary but there is still plenty of competition happening. Blair Burns, Marqueston Huff, Luke Ruff and Luke Anderson are all returning starters. Darren White and DeAndre Jones will be competing for that #3 CB spot. Kenny Browder saw time at CB and FS last year. He should be competing with Chad Reese for playing time at free safety. Jones and Reese made some nice plays on special teams as freshmen.
Tim Gleeson is basically being handed the starting job at punter. He's never played American football before after growing up in Melbourne, Australia playing Aussie Rules football. He has a powerful leg and looks good on videotape. Now he just needs to translate that into real performances on the field. Daniel Sullivan was inconsistent last year at kicker. Will he keep the starting job or will Stuart Williams challenge him once again?