Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Genho, Biezuns give Cowboys depth at H-back

Richard Anderson photo
Greg Genho, left and Josh Biezuns look to contribute at H-back this season.
Cracking some skulls

By Richard Anderson

Are they fullbacks or tight ends?

Wyoming junior Greg Genho didn’t really have an answer Saturday after practice, when asked what exactly his position was.

“What do they have me listed as,” he said with a smile.

How about H-back/fullback.

According to Wikipeda, an H-back is “a hybrid of a fullback and a tight end.”

So, for players like Genho and redshirt freshman Josh Biezuns, they’re H-backs.

Genho isn’t really concerned with what he is called. He just knows what he has to do.

“We’re blockers, pretty much,” Genho said.

Essentially, they are smaller versions of the offensive line, but they are eligible to catch a pass, although at times they are rarely called upon to do so.

“It’s more fullback now that we’ve changed position coaches,” Biezuns said. “We’re still fullbacks and we still go on the line and block as a tight end and run some routes. A little of everything, pretty much.”

Evidently, the fullback listing is a bit redundant.Genho, now 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, was an all-state running back in high school at Brush (Colo.) High School. Biezuns, at 6-2 and 246, was a linebacker and fullback late in his final year at Prior Lake High School in Prior Lake, Minn.

Last season the position was labeled tight end/H-back. Graduating senior Wade Betschart was considered one of the top blockers on the team, but he also was an offensive threat, with 32 catches for 296 yards and two scores.

With more of an added emphasis on the actual tight end position in the Wyoming offense, Genho and Biezuns will be counted on for their blocking ability.

“We’ll get a few chances to go out on routes, maybe touch the ball one or two times a game. But mostly, we’re here to block,” Biezuns said.

And both are here to hit, which is fine with them.

“We hit a lot. We get dizzy a lot,” Genho said. “We’re like the mean guys. We have to use our heads a lot … head first. It’s pretty rough. My neck starts hurting pretty bad. But that’s why I love it. That’s why they got me, I guess.”

Biezuns said that when they are in their 9 on 7 drill, they’re in on just about every play, hitting linebackers and defensive ends.

“You have to have your helmet tight and be ready to hit,” Biezuns said. “We haven’t had our whole playbook installed yet, but the last few days we have been putting in the powers and that is mostly hitting the linebackers. You have a headache by the end of practice.”

Both H-backs are pleased with the progress of the offense and their overall play this spring.

“It’s going really good,” Genho said. “We’re playing great. With our offensive line, we should be really good. Our line is back and we have good backs.’

Biezuns said that the Cowboys are excited, which can be a little rare for this time of year.

“With spring ball, it is kind of tough to get fired up at the end of the semester, but everybody is really happy with the way things are going,” he said. “We have a few things to clean up, but it is going pretty well.”

For the Wyoming H-back … or H-back/fullback, preparing for this fall is all about blocking and hitting a little harder when called upon.

“We just have to keep cracking sculls, man, just keep getting better,” Genho said. “We have to drive people off the ball. We’re learning a new offense, so we have to get all of that down. When we get better in that aspect, we’ll be ready to roll in the fall.”

Prosinski playing his part

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming sophomore Chris Prosinski, front, watches from the sideline during a spring practice.
Suited for success

By Richard Anderson

Chris Prosinski came to the University of Wyoming as arguably one of the most decorated and successful high school student-athletes from Wyoming in recent years.

Prosinski won two state titles in football and another in basketball and was of one of five students (out of 2,500 eligible) to receive the National High School Scholar-Athlete award from the National Football Foundation.

After a good redshirt campaign, Prosinski earned playing time in the season opener and more time out on the field in the weeks to come. The Cowboys began 4-1. Everything seemed to be in place for the Buffalo native and the Cowboys.

But despite his added playing time at free safety, Prosinski didn’t enjoy what happened next -- the Cowboys lost six of their final seven games.

“The start was great,” Prosinski said Monday after practice “It kind of just fell apart down the stretch.”

Like many of his teammates, Prosinski has come into spring ball in better shape -- physically and mentally.

“Coach (Brian) Herzog had us working hard in the off-season, just to get in better shape and hopefully that will carry us down the stretch,” Prosinski said.

Wyoming defensive coordinator Mike Breske said that although Prosinski was thrown into the fire last season as a rookie, he handled the challenge well.

“I’ll never forget that first game of the year against Virginia, which was coming off his redshirt year,” Breske said. “What a day to get on the field, with some 30,000 people in the stands.”

Prosinski knew that he would have to make a big jump from Wyoming high school football to Division I athletics. It didn’t take him long to understand the difference.

“It’s just competing … how much more intense and faster the game was, especially coming from a Wyoming high school,” he said. “It was definitely a good learning experience. I had some ups and downs, but I learned a lot from it.”

Breske said Prosinski came in with the physical tools; he just had to adjust to his role as a backup.

“When you are not a true starter, you have to be ready,” Breske said. “That’s the difference from his Buffalo days. He knew that he was playing quarterback and he knew he was playing defense. He’s like, ‘I’m out there. Now, when is my shot coming?’ You have to be mentally ready. That is the difference.

“Physically, he is ready. Now, you have to keep your head in the game mentally, and you don’t know when that is going to be. That is a different feeling for a kid who was probably a four-year starter in Buffalo.”

Prosinski’s role likely won’t change this season, as he will still play behind safeties Quincy Rogers and Michael Ray. Breske, however, said his role will change when he is out on the field.

“What I am seeing out of Chris this spring is his maturity. He is more comfortable with what I am asking him to do with our defense, understanding his role in the defense,” Breske said. “His athleticism is awesome. His speed is better, his strength is better. He can cover from sideline to sideline. (Monday) he had two interceptions. He’s a guy I am counting on to make plays, not just to be out there. He’s a playmaker.”

Prosinski said he is OK with his role coming off the bench.

“As long as we’re getting wins, that’s what I am here for,” Prosinski said. “I’m not worried about starting. I just have to be ready when my number is called. I came in competing to play, whether it was starting or in a backup role. (Last season) whenever I was called, I was ready to play.”

Prosinski said things are going well in spring drills as the Wyoming defense looks to improve on last year’s national ranking.

“We’re working against a new offense this spring, which is a little different. We’re just touching up on our technique,” Prosinski said.

Breske said that although Prosinski may not be a starter at this point of his career, he is a “huge” part of the Wyoming defense.

“He’s a sophomore, so he will have three years into the system,” Breske said. “Coming into two-a-days, my expectations for Chris will go higher, just because he should understand the defense and he has playing time in. Now, let’s go make some plays.”

Like many Wyoming natives who become Cowboys, Prosinski said it is a dream come true for him to play in his home state.

“You come to these games when you are a little kid and you never really realize it, but the day came and I took the opportunity,” Prosinski said. “Growing up a Wyoming kid, it was something that I always pursued in my future.”

A business administration major, Prosinski said he is not sure what lies in his future, but he’ll have some options.

“I know you can do a lot out of it,” he said of his major. “We’ll just see what happens after school.”

Breske said that Prosinski has all of the tools on and off the field.

“If my daughter showed up with him at the house, I’d be happy,” Breske said with a smile. “He is a very quiet individual around me. I know he can be a little outspoken around the fellas. His teammates have the utmost respect for him and he’s a team player.”

Stewart on task

Richard Anderson photo
Redshirt freshman receiver Brandon Stewart looks to make some big contributions for the Cowboys this fall.
Stewart soaking in the knowledge
by Richard Anderson

It took a while for Wyoming redshirt freshman wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Stewart to leave the field Wednesday after practice in the IPF.

He wasn’t hurting; he wasn’t being chewed out; he wasn’t running extra. Stewart was soaking in all he could from senior receiver Chris Johnson and graduate assistant and former Cowboy great Jovon Bouknight. As all three were finally calling it a day, both Bouknight and Johnson were demonstrating Stewart moves on the walk.

The way Stewart sees it, if Jovon Bouknight talks, he listens.

“They have been helping me a lot, coaching me up on the things that I have been doing wrong,” Stewart said. “I can do the stuff pretty good, but I still make fundamental mistakes that they want to build my technique on. They give me coaching points all of the time and tell me what I can do to improve my game. If I’m going to get on the field, I have to listen to them. I can’t keep doing my own thing.”

Stewart’s thing will get him on the field in his rookie season with the Cowboys, whether it is at the inside receiver position or as a kick returner. Stewart will go into fall camp No. 1 on the depth chart as a punt returner, replacing the ever popular Hoost Marsh.
Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said he is “way fired up” about Stewart.

“You just wait, we got one here. This guy is money,” Glenn said. “He’s our number one punt returner and he’ll do some kickoff returning. He’s a slot receiver, a playmaker. He’s got good hands and good speed and he’s strong … he’s a good, strong runner when he gets the ball.”

At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Stewart probably won’t win a foot race with Wyoming speedsters Donate Morgan, Johnson or running back Devin Moore. But he’s no slouch in the speed department. What makes him a tough cover could be his overall quickness, his ability to make defenders miss.

“In high school, you are basically faster than anybody on the field,” Stewart said. “When you come to college, a lot of people have my speed or are faster than me. I have to rely on other things, like my quicks. I have to be able to make a move on them and read their leverage. There are so many different components that you just can’t run by everybody. You have to work on your footwork and your technique.”

Quickness, Stewart said, is side-to-side movement. Surprisingly, he said that wasn’t always his strength.

“I am getting better. C.J. (Johnson) has been helping me out with that, on my quickness, like shaking people,” he said. “Speed is just like straight sprint speed; that’s how I refer to it.”

Despite his redshirt year, Stewart was listed No. 2 at the inside receiver position behind sophomore David Leonard heading into spring dills.

“We have two big inside receivers who I am pretty sure that they will get in a lot. If it comes to a play where we need speed, a motion play, a fly or option play, that will be more when I am in,” Stewart said.

Stewart’s versatility might get him on the field more than he anticipates.

“He’s in the top three of our receiving corps right now, maybe in the top two. He’s right there,” Glenn said. “He’s just a freshman. He’s quick, but when people try to jam him, mug him up, he’s real strong. He’s sneaky fast. He can catch with the guy hanging on him a little bit because they do that to each other in practice.”

That redshirt season was beneficial for Stewart, like redshirts are meant to be. He said he was able to watch and learn and then get better.

Stewart said he was a little nervous last year and not sure what he was supposed to do at times. When he finally got on the scout team, he was able to turn things around.

“I could work on my footwork and my techniques while I was on the scout team, with no pressure,“ he said. “Now this year, I can actually apply it to what I am doing.”

Stewart is using his speed, quickness and good hands to his advantage as a kick returner. Glenn said he has been the best punt returner in camp.

“He’s really sure handed, he never misses a punt. That’s serious stuff right there too; he never lets (the football) hit the ground,” Glenn said.

Like most young student athletes, Stewart is picking up momentum in the classroom as well. A city boy from Evansville, Ind., Stewart is enjoying Wyoming’s outdoor wonders. He’s now leaning towards majoring in zoology.

His goal: To work in a zoo.

“I know some people might think that sounds dumb, but I think it will be fun,” he said. “You want a job that you love. I love animals.”

Stewart said he is going to bring his dog, a Husky, out to Laramie this summer. Now that he has learned to enjoy the outdoors, he wants his dog to do the same.

“I’m from a big city and it’s like five feet between each house, so you don’t have a lot of room for animals. But here, you can go out in a field and things like that,” Stewart said.

In his short stay at Wyoming, Stewart said he has hiked in the Snowies, rode horseback, snowboarded, and he even thinks he discovered mountain lion tracks.

“I’ve been able to do everything I can’t do in Evansville,” he said.

What he is most proud of is seeing a bald eagle.

“That’s amazing to me. I was shocked. All we have are pigeons and crows,” Stewart said, causing a nearby Glenn to break out laughing.

In his short stay at Wyoming, Stewart has shown all of the moves, on and off the field.

“The guy is on task,” Glenn said.