Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cowboys get physical with thud work

By Richard Anderson

Three practices into their spring season, the first day in pads, the Wyoming Cowboys were looking for a competitive edge on Saturday in the Indoor Practice Facility.First-year head coach Dave Christensen saw some positives in that area.

“The kids competed well. In fact, I felt the competition level in practice was better than I expected,” Christensen said. “The enthusiasm was good, the physicalness was good. We still have a lot of work to do, but I felt we improved again today. We’ve improved every single day of practice this first week. I’ve been really pleased with our practices thus far.”

For much of the offense vs. defense drills this spring, the Wyoming coaching staff is looking for that edge. The reward: one point to the winner.

At the end of the practice, Christensen gave the edge to the Wyoming defense, 4½ points to 3.
With that in mind, the offense had to do a few up-downs at the end of the drills and the defense gets the brown jerseys for Tuesday’s workout.

“It was good competition out there, they wanted to know what the score was every time we were in a drill,” Christensen said. “That’s the whole idea of this program, to teach these kids how to compete.

“Today, the defense won and they’ll get the brown jerseys for Tuesday, and it will be a challenge for the offense to get them back.”

The first hour of practice included special teams work along with fundamental sessions by position.

It was in the second hour of practice that the Cowboys started thudding -- hitting but not taking ball carriers to the ground -- for the first time this spring. That second hour featured a two-back running drill, pitting the No. 1 and No. 2 offense going up against the No. 1 and No. 2 defense. One-on-one passing drills were next, with receivers and backs going up against defensive backs.

Work on the inside running game in a second thud session followed. The offense and defense then faced off in seven-on-seven passing drills, with the Cowboy backs and receivers challenging the defensive backs and linebackers.

The last part of that second hour was filled with some more special teams and concluded with work on Wyoming’s option running game out of its new spread offense. That led up to the highlight of the day when the final 24 minutes of practice was devoted to full 11-on-11 offense versus defense in thud work.

“With the kids in pads, you can begin to evaluate who your physical players are and which athletes are capable of performing at the level you need them to carrying their full pads,” said Christensen. “It was the first test of the physicalness of our football team, and I believe they were up to the challenge.”

As could be expected, the physical practice had some casualties, including senior nose guard Fred Givens, who appeared to have injured a shoulder. Christensen said that five Cowboys left practice because of injuries, although he didn’t have enough information to report on any injuries after Saturday’s practice. He hopes to have more detailed information by Tuesday.

On Thursday, Christensen said he promised the team that Saturday would be the most physical practice that they had seen this year, and he was right.

“With the five guys who had to leave the practice because of injury, they believe me,” Christensen said.

As a whole, Christensen said that they still have to become a more physical football to compete with the best teams in the Mountain West Conference, and Saturday was a good step in that direction.

“For the first day in pads, I was pleased,” he said. “We made a great deal of progress. There were some physical things that I saw that were really good and there were some areas where we have to be more physical.”

Wyoming’s next practice will be Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.
(For more on Satrurday's practice, see Rich's Daily Blog)

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