Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Christensen releases depth chart

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen talks to the Cowboys after the Brown and Gold spring game.

Cowboy football depth chart

Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen and his staff released an updated depth chart on Wednesday. The depth chart includes 16 returning starters from last season who earned the No. 1 spots at their position again this spring. Of those 16, seven return on offense, seven on defense and two on special teams.

“We had 15 practices this spring to evaluate our players,” said Christensen. “Several players were limited with injuries, and so we weren’t able to fully evaluate all of our guys, but this is the depth chart entering the fall. All of our players know that when fall camp begins, the evaluation process will continue. They will once again have an opportunity to compete for a starting position.”

The returning offensive starters from last season who are listed No. 1 on the final spring depth chart include seniors Jesson Salyards (tight end), Greg Bolling (wide receiver) and Ryan Otterson (offensive tackle); juniors Sam Sterner (offensive guard) and David Leonard (wide receiver) and sophomores Clayton Kirven (offensive tackle) and Brandon Stewart (wide receiver).

The other players listed No. 1 at their offensive positions entering the fall are seniors Karsten Sween (quarterback) and Russ Arnold (center), who both having starting experience from previous seasons; junior Darius Terry (running back) and freshman Nick Carlson (offensive guard).

On defense, the seven returning starters from 2008 who are listed No. 1 at their positions entering the fall include seniors John Fletcher (defensive tackle), Mitch Unrein (defensive end) and Weston Johnson (outside linebacker); juniors Chris Prosinski (free safety) and Marcell Gipson (cornerback); and sophomores Tashaun Gipson (cornerback) and Gabe Knapton (inside linebacker).

One returning starter from last season who missed most of 2009 spring drills and is listed No. 2 at noseguard is senior Fred Givens. He will battle sophomore Alex Stover for that starting spot. Stover is listed No. 1 at noseguard entering the fall. The other defensive players No. 1 at their positions coming out of the spring are: senior Matt Barella (outside linebacker); junior Jamichael Hall (strong safety); and sophomore Brian Hendricks (inside linebacker).

Senior place-kicker Jake Scott and sophomore punter Austin McCoy also earned the No. 1 spots at their positions coming out of spring. Both started for the Cowboys last season.

The Wyoming Cowboys will report for fall practice on Wednesday, Aug. 5. The first practice of fall camp will be Aug. 6. Media day will be held on Saturday, Aug. 8 in the afternoon.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sween leads QB race going into fall drills

Spring game statistics

Spring game photo slideshow

By Bobby Abplanalp
Special to Wyoming

For much of spring drills, Karsten Sween appeared to have a little firmer grasp of Dave Christensen no-huddle, spread offense. Apparently, Sween will go into fall drills atop the depth chart at quarterback.

Sween threw for 154 yards on 16 of 34 passing to lead the Brown team to a 20-3 victory on Saturday in the Brown and Gold spring game at War Memorial Stadium. The senior also threw one touchdown pass and one interception.

“We’ll set the depth chart on Monday, but I would say it is a pretty fair assessment to say that he will be the No. 1 guy when we start camp,” Christensen said. “But we’re getting two other quarterbacks in and we have three here. We have to let them all compete.”

Redshirt freshman Adam Barry was 7 of 24 passing for the Gold team on Saturday for 64 yards and one interception. Junior Dax Crum did not play, as he was suspended for the spring game for violating team rules.

Coming to Laramie for the fall to compete at quarterback will also be junior college transfer Robert Benjamin and freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels.

The spring game was four quarters, but with 12-minute increments instead of the traditional 15. The game-clock ran continuously up until the last two minutes of each half. This allowed regular NCAA timing rules to be used to let both offenses work two-minute drills.

The final drive for the Brown team concluded with 13-yard touchdown pass by Sween to junior wide receiver David Leonard, finishing up a 65-yard drive.

‘‘I thought Karsten (Sween) did a nice job in that last two-minute drill," said Christensen. "That's why we put the regular timing rules in the last two minutes to get practice in that situation. I thought he moved the football team well. It wasn't a situation where his team was down by two points or six points and he had the pressure of coming back to win the game, but he did a nice job and led us to a touchdown. He managed the clock well on that drive and didn't take any negative plays. It was probably the best executed two-minute offensive drill we've had all spring.”

However, Sween felt there was still room to improve.

“We missed some passes today, it was really windy and cold, but we got to get over that mindset for our spread offense,” he said. “Even if it’s windy and even if it’s cold, we got to still be able to perform and run the offense.”

Leonard also feels the spread offense, when executed, can be very hard for opposing defenses to stop.

“It’s a great advantage We train in the off-season, we run conditions, and for people to come up to 7,220 feet, it’s going to be really hard for people to try and defend this offense,” Leonard said. “It’s really up-tempo and we need to keep it that way. If we keep it that way this is going to be a real tough offense to stop.”

Alumni game?
The UW coaching staff invited all former Cowboys (who they had contact information for) to return for a pre-game function prior to the spring game. Over 50 former players returned for that function and some put the pads on one more time to participate in the spring game.

In addition to the current Wyoming roster, the home fans got to see some familiar faces in Sean Claffey (2004-07), Ward Dobbs (2005-08), Jake Edmunds (2005-08), John Prater (2004-07) and Guy Tuell (2001-04), Adam Diehl (2003-06), Mike Groover (2003-06) and Jake Mayes (2003-06). All of which played on the defensive side of the ball.

“They knew most of the calls, but they went over the calls and they actually executed it very well,” defensive coordinator Marty English said. “There were a couple of times we didn’t get lined up right, but those guys came back and played and made some big plays. I’m very grateful for them to come back and help out. They had fun and that is something we might interject through the rest of the springs that we are here.”

Current Cowboy defensive end Mitch Unrein said he enjoyed playing with some former teammates, as well as other alumni who competed.

“I was talking to somebody earlier and it just seemed like it took the pressure off of us," Unrein said. "Those guys brought a fun attitude back into the locker room and we talked about good times. Everything was fun, to go out and watch them play. They are a little older than they once were. I looked up to a lot of them, watching them play, so to come in and play with was fun. Hopefully, it starts a tradition here.”

Dobbs, fresh off an outstanding linebacking career with the Cowboys, said they just came in and played a game.

“They’re on their own page and they’re coming together as a union," Dobbs said. "It will be interesting to see how much more they can progress throughout the summer.”

Wind, drops hamper Cowboy offense

Spring game statistics

Spring game photo slideshow

By Richard Anderson

Saturday might not have been a great day to showcase Dave Christensen’s no-huddle, spread offense for those who hadn’t seen it before.

After practicing for much of the spring season indoors, the Cowboys were outside for the Brown and Gold spring game on a cool and windy afternoon in War Memorial Stadium.

And after making big strides all spring, the UW offense had its ups and downs -- or ups and drops on Saturday. The Brown prevailed 20-3 in a game that was marred by several dropped balls from the receiving corps.

“We’ve made a point to them that you have to play catch. You throw the ball and you have to catch the ball," Christensen said. “They weren’t all the greatest throws in the world, but I don’t think the wind affected us that much. The ability to catch the ball was just horrible today. That wasn’t the wind. Some of it was courage, which I challenged them afterwards.”

The Cowboys have also been short-handed on defense this season and many of the blowout scrimmages this season would have been much closer with a full UW defense. On Saturday, eight former Cowboys suited up on defense to help out.

With that said, the injured players are all expected to be ready to go by fall drills, and with the addition of two more quarterbacks -- junior college transfer Robert Benjamin and freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels -- along with some talented recruits at receiver and running back, there could be some more firepower to work with.

What bothered Christensen the most after the spring game, though, was his receiving corps, which was minus two regulars from last season -- Greg Bolling and Donate Morgan. Quarterbacks Karsten Sween and Adam Barry combined for 23 catches, but there were 35 incomplete passes on the day.

“I was disappointed in our ability to catch the football,” Christensen said. “If you want to play wide receiver in this offense, you have to catch the football, you better have courage.

“I saw some things turned down, I saw some drops. That has got to get corrected or somebody is going to have to find another position to play.”

It's all about focus, Sween said.

“It windy and not the best throwing conditions, but I think it was just a wakeup call for the receivers,” Sween said. “They have to focus more. It might not be the best thrown ball, but they have to think, ‘I have to focus more and catch it.’ For us quarterbacks, we have to get it in our head to not worry about the wind and focus on your mechanics more.”

Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Stewart led the Brown with five catches for 49 yards, while junior David Leonard had four catches for 39 yards and the lone score. Sophomore walk-on Kaither Holiway led the Gold with five catches for 50 yards.

“We can’t give excuses, that is on us,” Leonard said about the drops. “We didn’t focus and we didn’t concentrate enough. When it is a windy day like that, you have to have 100 percent concentration in catching it. You have to catch first and run second. That is something we have to work on in the off-season with the jugs and the quarterbacks.”

There were some highlights offensively, with Stewart scoring on a 22-yard end around and Leonard catching a late 13-yard touchdown pass from Sween. Junior running back Darius Terry also gained 49 yards on 11 rushes and scored one touchdown. Sophomore James Davis ran for 60 yards on 11 rushes for the Gold, highlighted by a 29-yard run.

“I thought Karsten did a nice job in that last two-minute drill,” Christensen said. “That is why we played the clock like we did, to get to that situation. I didn’t put him in a situation where I said that we’re down by two or six, I wanted to see what we could do when we got down there. He did a nice job, throwing a touchdown pass. He managed the clock well. It was probably the best executed two minute offense that we have done all spring.”

Sween, who took all of the snaps for the Brown, was 16-of-34 for the day for 154 yards. He was also 1-of-2 in one series with the Gold.

Barry was 7-of-24 for the Gold for 64 yards and one interception. Junior Dax Crum was suspended for the scrimmage and did not play.

The depleted Wyoming defense also had some highlights, as senior free safety T.J. Atwater had an interception for the Brown and a 27-yard return. For the Gold, sophomore cornerback Tashaun Gipson picked off Sween and returned it 13 yards.

The two interceptions were the only two turnovers of the day.

“Defensively, we’ve got to take the ball away better, and the defense got two turnovers today,” said Christensen. “Offensively, we of course want to reduce the turnovers. I think we’ve done a good job of that this spring.”

Leading the No. 1 defense for the Gold team was senior outside linebacker Weston Johnson, who had nine tackles. Senior defensive end Mitch Unrein had five tackles, including one sack for three yards. Sophomore inside linebacker Brian Hendricks and sophomore defensive lineman Alex Stover were also each credited with five tackles.

Four Cowboys on the Brown defense tied for the lead in tackles with five apiece -- sophomore noseguard Marcus Felker, redshirt freshman free safety Patrick Hartford and two alums who played in the game -- former Cowboy linebackers Sean Claffey and Guy Tuell.

Saturday's Brown and Gold game concluded Christensen’s first spring with the Cowboys.

“I wish we had more time. I wish we had the ability to have more players out there,” Christensen said. “We had a lot of guys who were injured and we didn’t get a good evaluation. Some of them we know are established players, but everybody needs to work. Hopefully, when fall comes we will have a lot more bodies. We’ll practice a little different when we get to fall.”

Spring Game Slideshow

Create Your Own

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lineups set for Brown and Gold game

University of Wyoming football fans will get the opportunity to see their Cowboys play for the final time during 2009 spring drills when the Brown and Gold game kicks off Saturday at 2 p.m.

For the first time in many years, the Cowboys will conclude spring practice with an actual game rather than a scrimmage. The game is free and open to the public.

The No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense will team up on the Brown team to face the Gold team that will combine the No. 1 defense and No. 2 offense. Saturday’s game will feature four, 12-minute quarters. The clock will run continually except for the final two minutes of each half, in which normal NCAA timing rules will be utilized. The only part of the game that will not be live and full-contact will be the kicking portion of the game. During a 10-minute halftime, the Cowboy coaching staff will announce and recognize seven players as the “Most Improved” at their positions during spring ball.

The Brown offense will be led by senior quarterback Karsten Sween, junior running back Darius Terry, senior tight end Jesson Salyards and the No. 1 Cowboy offensive line. The Gold defense will feature senior defensive end Mitch Unrein, senior linebacker Weston Johnson and three returning starters in the Cowboy secondary -- junior free safety Chris Prosinski and brothers Marcell and Tashaun Gipson at cornerback.

On Thursday, the four team captains for the upcoming 2009 season were announced. The four individuals were selected as team captains in voting by their teammates. The 2009 captains are senior defensive tackle John Fletcher, senior outside linebacker Weston Johnson, senior offensive center Russ Arnold and junior running back Darius Terry.

Saturday’s game will also be the 15th and final practice of spring drills. Head coach Dave Christensen is looking forward to seeing his Cowboys play one last time this spring and get one more chance to evaluate his players.

“I feel good about what we’ve been able to get done this spring,” said Christensen. “We have about 75 to 80 percent of our offensive and defensive systems installed, so I feel very good about the progress we’ve made in that regard.

“The only factors that limited us from getting everything accomplished that I would have liked were injuries and the weather we had this spring. There were a number of players who I wanted to see what they were capable of doing who were injured this spring, so we weren’t able to fully evaluate and get a feel for where all of our players are at. Our kicking game was limited somewhat by not practicing outside much, particularly the punting game. But overall, I think it was a very productive spring for us. We were able to evaluate a lot of players, and determine some strengths and weaknesses.”

Christensen said that the team's experience is its strength at this point and its weakness is its depth.

“We have experience back in the secondary, on the defensive line and at linebacker," he said. "Those kids have played a lot of games at this level and they have played well. We have to continue to try and develop more depth at several positions, and we also have to improve our physical strength. Offensively, we’re still evaluating players to get the right combination of the players on the field.”

Two Cowboys -- junior quarterback Dax Crum and sophomore center Travis Hillen -- will be suspended for Saturday’s spring game due to violations of team rules.

A number of former Cowboys are returning Saturday for a pregame function and some are going to put the pads on one more time to participate in Saturday’s spring game. The Cowboy coaching staff invited all former Cowboys, who they had contact information for, to return for a pregame function in the Paul and Marge Roach Memorial Lobby at noon Saturday.

A group of eight former Poke defensive players are expected to suit up for the Brown team Saturday. Those eight include linebackers Sean Claffey (a letterman from 2004-07), Ward Dobbs (2005-08), Jake Edmunds (2005-08), John Prater (2004-07) and Guy Tuell (2001-04); as well as defensive linemen Adam Diehl (2003-06), Mike Groover (2003-06) and Jake Mayes (2003-06).

Due to construction beginning on the Wildcatter Stadium Club and Suites on the east side of the stadium, seating for the game will be available only on the west side of War Memorial Stadium. There will be a concession area open for Saturday’s Spring Game. That concession area will be the Cowboy Cabin on the southwest corner of the stadium.

If the scrimmage is forced indoors, fans at Saturday’s game will be allowed to watch the game from the west endzone of the Indoor Practice facility. For safety reasons, fans will not be allowed on the sidelines. Only media members with press credentials who are covering the scrimmage will be allowed on the sidelines of the Indoor Practice Facility.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Offense comes on strong again

By Richard Anderson

For the third straight scrimmage, it was all offense.

Well, at least on the scoreboard.

The Cowboys had another solid offensive performance, thumping a depleted defense 59-24 Saturday in the third major scrimmage of the spring in the Indoor Practice Facility.

The defense did have its moments, though. The offense actually struggled for the first few series, but put too much pressure on the defense as a whole, especially in the second half of the 104-play scrimmage.

Defensively, free safety Chris Prosinski had a huge game hitting, with several big thuds. He also had 11 tackles. Tashaun Gipson had a nice pass interception in the back of the end zone. As has been the case, though, the defense, short on numbers wore down at times. A few former 'Pokes, including linebacker Ward Dobbs and Jake Edmunds, suited up to help out.

“I actually thought the defense came out and did extremely well and were very, very physical," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "There were some big hits out there today.”

One bright spot injury-wise for the defense saw noseguard Fred Givens back in action for a few snaps. Givens has been hampered by a couple of shoulder injuries this spring.

The offense, which had out-scored the defense in its special scoring system, 89-50, overcame its slow start to finish with a flourish.

“We came out a little slow, but when we got our heads in there, we started clicking,” Wyoming sophomore receiver Brandon Stewart said. “We had a couple of mental errors and formation problems, but after that, we started clicking at the tempo that we want to.”

Stewart had a big day, catching five passes for 71 yards, including s 22-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Karsten Sween. He also ran one score in from 4 yards out.

After not scoring through the first nine possessions, the Cowboys began to wear down the defense. Wyoming finished with a spring-season high 343 yards passing, along with 128 yards on the ground.

"Our tempo wasn't where it was supposed to be," said Wyoming senior running back Darius Terry, who finished with 49 yards rushing and two touchdowns. "Coach set us aside and said that we had to get it going. Once you get that tempo going, if you are feeling it in your lungs, the defense has to be over there dying. When you got them on their heels, that's when you have to go for the knockout punch."

Sween finished the day by hitting 14 of 19 passes for 140 yards, while junior Dax Crum was 18-of-26 for 174 yards and one interception. Freshman Adam Barry was 3-of-3 for 29 yards.

With freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels, who was on the sideline watching the scrimmage, and junior college transfer Robert Benjamin also in the mix, Sween appears to be the top quarterback coming out of spring drills.

“He (Sween) is doing a nice job,” Christensen said. “Obviously, it is a lot for our quarterbacks to pick up as we install a new offense in a short amount of time. We put a lot on them, but he is managing the offense very well. We’ve told our quarterbacks, we don’t need them to go out and win every game for us. We need them to go out and manage the game and not lose the game for us. Make good decisions throwing the football. Get the tempo of the game going at the pace we want. Protect the ball and don’t turn the ball over. Don’t get sacked or take negative plays. If our quarterbacks can do those things, then it’s going to give us a chance in almost every game.”

Along with Stewart, wide receivers Justin Morgan and David Leonard had big scrimmages, as both caught four passes, with Morgan’s receptions going for 55 yards and Leonard’s for 46 yards.

Special team notes
Senior Jake Scott and junior place-kicker Nick Landess alternated kicking throughout the scrimmage. Prior to the scrimmage beginning, the two each made five of six field-goal attempts during a special teams session. Scott made one field goal attempt from 30 yards, two from 40 yards and two from 45 yards out. His only miss in pregame was from 30 yards. Landess hit two from 30 yards, one from 40 and two from 45, missing only one of 40 yards. During the scrimmage, Scott was a perfect four of four in field-goal attempts, converting from 25 yards, 39 yards, 23 yards and 30 yards. Landess was two of four during the scrimmage, hitting from 23 and 30 yards out, but missing from 25 and 39.

“We put a lot of live kicks in today, and Jake did a nice job,” said Christensen. “Landess is kicking well too, despite having a groin injury he’s been dealing with. I feel like we’ve been making progress in the kicking game. Our protection has been pretty good, but we need to work on getting more pressure from a defensive standpoint on kicks.”

The Cowboys will practice Tuesday and Thursday, before closing spring drills Saturday with the annual Spring Game at 2 p.m.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday's Scrimmage Statistics

Player Comp.-Att Yards TD Interceptions Long

# 9 Dax Crum, qb 18-26 (.692) 174 0 1 18
# 16 Karsten Sween, qb 14-19 (.737) 140 1 0 22
# 13 Adam Barry, qb 3- 3 (1.000) 29 0 0 17
Totals 35-48 (.729) 343 1 1 22

Player Receptions Yards TD Long
# 22 Brandon Stewart, wr 5 71 1 22
# 82 Justin Morgan, wr 4 55 0 17
# 33 David Leonard, wr 4 46 0 15
# 89 Zach Bolger, wr 5 41 0 16
# 4 Kaither Holiway, wr 4 40 0 18
# 3 Travis Burkhalter, wr 3 23 0 11
# 26 Darius Terry, rb 2 18 0 10
# 88 Orlando Arnold, te 3 15 0 5
# 25 James Davis, rb 1 12 0 12
# 86 Joe Evers, te 2 12 0 7
# 87 Matt Sebade, te 1 10 0 10
# 1 James Caraway, rb 1 0 0 0
Totals 35 343 1 22
Yards Yards Net
Player Attempts Gained Lost Yards TD Long Fumbles
# 26 Darius Terry, rb 15 54 -5 49 2 10 1
# 16 Karsten Sween, qb 7 39 0 39 1 13 0
# 1 James Caraway, rb 6 19 -2 17 0 8 0
# 25 James Davis, rb 3 14 0 14 0 7 0
# 22 Brandon Stewart, wr 3 10 0 10 1 4 0
# 9 Dax Crum, qb 5 8 -7 1 0 5 1
# 13 Adam Barry, qb 2 1 -3 -2 0 1 0
Totals 41 145 -17 128 4 13 2
Player Gained TD
# 4 Tashaun Gipson, cb 2 0 (Interception return)
Defensive Highlights
Player UT AT TT Sacks TFL Broken Up FF FR Int
# 2 Marcell Gipson, cb 1 1 2
# 3 Patrick Hartford, fs 3 4 7
# 4 Tashaun Gipson, cb 1 1 2 1 - 2 yds
# 6 Alex Toney, lb 6 3 9
# 9 T.J. Atwater, cb 0 5 5
# 12 Tramaine Brown, cb 3 3 6
# 15 Ben Durbin, lb 2 2 4 1 - 5
# 17 Keith Lewis, ss 2 1 3
# 18 David James, cb 4 2 6 1
# 19 Jamichael Hall, ss 2 4 6
# 24 Chris Prosinski, fs 5 6 11 1
# 36 Weston Johnson, lb 3 6 9 1.5 - 2 1
# 45 Bryson Studnicka, lb 0 2 2 .5 - 1 1
# 47 Mike Neuhaus, de 2 1 3
# 90 Fred Givens, ng 1 0 1 1 - 3
# 93 Marcus Felker, ng 1 2 3
# 97 Alex Stover, dt 0 2 2 .5 - 1
# 99 Alex Hays, de 0 1 1 .5 - 1
Totals 36 46 82 5-13 4 1 1- 2 yds

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cowboys working hard, even in injury

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming director of strength and conditioning coach Trent Greener works with noseguard Fred Givens on Thursday.

By Richard Anderson

Wyoming director of strength and conditioning coach Trent Greener asked senior noseguard Fred Givens if he was his or if he wanted to stay with the rest of his defensive line teammates Thursday in the Indoor Practice facility.

Greener knew the answer, as Givens, who is nursing a shoulder injury and wearing the red pull-over jersey, jogged over to the south end of the IPF and began doing lunges under Greener’s tutelage.

Givens is among the walking wounded for the Cowboys this spring who began working with Greener on Thursday in an attempt to stay sharp and in shape, rather than to just run or watch from the sidelines.

“I can’t do upper body, like some guys, I just do lower body,” Givens said after practice. “He’s (Greener) mixing it up … whoever can do upper body, does upper body stuff. We did that pretty much all practice and broke a good sweat. I feel like I just practiced a little bit.”

That’s the whole idea, Greener said, as the UW coaches wanted the injured players to not get complacent in these final spring practices.

“We’re just trying to keep them involved,” said Greener. “When you are not practicing, you’re not going game speed. Anything that we can do to continue to develop them physically and keep their conditioning level up and their work capacity up, we have to be creative with what we do. When they are not practicing, they are falling behind. Regardless of all of the things that we can do, they have to be involved in practice. We’re just trying to give them the opportunity and get them as close to practice conditions that they can.”

Thursday was basically the first time that Greener has worked with some of the injured players in practice. He said they’ll likely continue to do that again for the rest of spring drills because of the time remaining.

“It is also part of the reconditioning plan, working with sports medicine, to get them back in,” he said. “We can’t just turn them loose or they will go back out and maybe there is a chance of dinging something again. We have to get them back in shape before we can feather them back in practice. That’s part of the plan.”

Greener said that head coach Dave Christensen wanted the injured players who could participate, to get in the swing of things, rather than just run the sidelines.

“Where we are with practice now, Coach felt like we could break off and do some extra things with them and work a little more on the physical conditioning,” Greener said. “They’ve been watching the different segments of practice and different periods. Coach thought (Thursday) would be a good day to get them involved in a little more physical work.”

For Givens, it’s his shoulder that he is rehabilitating. For others, it could be an ankle or a knee. What Greener works on with the player depends on the injury.

“We just work around their limitations,” he said. “We have to be creative and try to get as much work as we can in these practice sessions. There are times when they have to break out and they have to go watch a period and see the mental aspect of the game.”

The goal is to get the player back to full-speed contact. Greener said they have to be physically as close to game speed as possible.

“Unless you are playing the game, you’re not going to be,” he said. “We’re trying to do anything they can to get their level up.”

On Thursday, 11 Cowboys were wearing red jerseys, although not all 11 were working with Greener. The UW coaches would prefer to have as few as possible wearing the red. Greener said it is just a matter of time when many of the injuries lessen because the players are in better shape.

“Coach talks about limiting the number of red jerseys. You’re going to have that for time to time because it is football; there is nothing else like it,” Greener said. “We want to get a few guys a possible, but I think we’re on the brink of getting a lot of them back. They’re getting ready to get back into the fold.”

For Givens, who sprained his AC joint early in practice, as well as a slightly tearing is labrum, is getting stronger each day. Thursday was a good start for him to get back on the field for contact.

“It feels pretty good,” Givens said of his shoulder. “I don’t have much strength in it, but it is coming back up. I’m just trying to get back onto the field. I think the sprain is going away and now I just working on getting my strength back.”

Greener, a former Cowboy football player himself, returned to the program to work under Christensen. He likes what they are doing and the direction they are heading.
“When you at some of the guys who have been injured, we don’t have some guys at some positions, so they have been going extremely hard,” he said. “They’re working fast and they had a great practice today. That means they are understanding it mentally and they are getting through mental mistakes because they are getting in better full-speed condition. They’ve worked hard all winter since we started our winning edge program.”

With that said, there should be fewer red jerseys to work with by fall drills, which is just fine with Greener.

Carta-Samuels, McNeill qet a sneak peek

Richard Anderson photo
Future Cowboys, from left, Chris McNeill and Austyn Carta-Samuels, take in Thursday's practice in the Indoor Practice Facility.

By Richard Anderson

Spring break isn’t just for fun on the beach or goofing off. Future Cowboys quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and receiver Chris McNeill are taking time away from home this week by spending a little time on the sideline.

The Wyoming sideline.

Both Carta-Samuels and McNeill, two prize recruits in Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen’s first class, are in Laramie for a few days watching the Cowboys spring practices. Both arrived on Wednesday night and observed Thursday’s workout in the Indoor Practice Facility and will do the same on Friday, before watching Saturday’s scrimmage.

Making an early appearance gives Carta-Samuels a chance to “get as much logged in my head mentally that I can.”

So far, he likes what he sees.

“I think it looks really good. I think they have a lot of defensive speed, the defensive looks really strong,” Carta-Samuels said. “The offense is obviously going to be a little slower because they are just putting everything in. The quarterbacks are doing a great job, they seem to be working very hard. They all seem to be working very hard, which apparently is a difference from last year.”

With so much to learn, being here in person is advantageous.

“It’s obviously very different seeing it in person, than just on paper,” McNeill said. “I’m just glad I’m getting the opportunity to watch these guys. Obviously with the new offense, I want to get up here as soon as I can and learn as much as I can. In high school we ran a similar offense, a spread offense. It’s probably the reason why I made the decision to come here, because it is marginal transition.”

Carta-Samuels was brought in by Christensen to run his spread offense, whether it was for this season or for the future. As far as Carta-Samuels is concerned, why wait for the future.

“My goal is to start as a true freshman,” he said.

The San Jose, Calif., freshman said he knows there is good competition here at quarterback; he knows that junior college transfer Robert Benjamin is coming to UW to compete and that he, too, is talented.

He knows that winning the job won’t be easy and he has a lot of work to do.

“I would be cheating myself if I didn’t expect myself to get that,” Carta-Samuels said. “I feel that especially with the new staff here, and new everything, it gives me an opportunity to be level with the quarterbacks here. I think physically I can run with the quarterbacks. They are good players, but as a quarterback, you have to believe in yourself, and I believe in myself.”

McNeill, from Simi Valley, Calif., will come to UW for summer school a week after high school graduation, before going home for two or three weeks and then beginning summer ball.

He would also like to step in right away if possible.

“The coaches told me that I have the opportunity to play, as long as I learn my stuff. It doesn’t mater what year you are, if you can contribute to the team, them you have a chance to play,” McNeill said. “I’m definitely going to study hard, get bigger and all that stuff, so I can get on the field as soon as I can.”

Carta-Samuels will arrive in Laramie for good on June 14, when he said the real work begins.

“I’ll get to work out with my team and be with my coach a lot, spend a lot of time learning things mentally,” he said. “Physically, I am working hard. Mentally, it is going to be a big jump because when you start to understand what is going on, it will start to slow down a lot earlier than when people think. I’m excited about that type of stuff.”

While the two Californians didn’t know each other before being recruited by Wyoming, Christensen got them connected recently and they are becoming close.

“Coach actually gave me his number, so we’ve been talking for a while,” McNeill said. “Austyn is a great guy and a good quarterback. He is excited to get going as well.”

Both players were soaking in the action on the field, while sneaking peaks of the fast-arriving snowstorm.

Just what do they think about the Cowboy spread offense?

“Obviously, I have some studying to do, but this offense has a really good chance of being one of the best offenses, not only in the Mountain West Conference, but in the nation,” McNeill said.

Carta-Samuels said the potential for this offense is impressive.

“I think we have an awesome recruiting class, my freshman class,” Carta-Samuels said. “Guys are working hard, he (Christensen) has changed the tempo. With his offensive scheme, especially in this conference because no one runs this spread, the sky is the limit.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cowboys show a little more fire

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming players mix it up late in Thursday's practice.
By Richard Anderson

Boys will be boys.

Near the end of Thursday’s practice in the Indoor Practice Facility, and after Wyoming junior quarterback Dax Crum scrambled untouched for an 8-yard touchdown run, tempers flared between the Cowboys offensive and defensive line.

Coaches and players got in the middle (and for one unfortunate coach) on the bottom of the dog pile. A little wrestling and one major takedown was about all that came from it, although it once again fired up the troops.

It wasn’t exactly disappointing for Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen in the Cowboys ninth practice of the spring.

“They’re competitive,” Christensen said. “Hopefully, you have a whole team of competitive guys and that is going to happen once in a while. We’ll take care of that. Those things don’t carry over to the locker room. There’s a little bit of heat on the field and that is fine. That’s competitiveness.”

Actually, that kind of fire was music to Christensen’s ears, after a less than impressive performance on Tuesday.

“I thought it was a good practice, uptempo, upbeat,” Christensen said. “I thought the kids worked hard and gave a great effort. They were physical at times. It was good work today.”

Christensen was especially pleased coming off the rough Tuesday practice.

“I’m not here to make excuses, but I know one thing; we had a few days off and we came back and were not very good,” Christensen said. “We were better today and I was pleased with the way the kids came out, and I told them that. They came out with their minds right, they came out hard and executed their practice.”

The Cowboys practiced in shells on Thursday with no scrimmaging, although they were physical at times in situational offense versus defense drills.

“We went out and got more work done,” Christensen said. “It was physical in certain areas. We did a nice job of keeping guys healthy and we’ll go at it Saturday morning.”

The Wyoming coaching staff cut the last scrimmage (April 4) short because of injuries. That also led to no scrimmage on Thursday.

“We want to have a good scrimmage on Saturday morning,” Christensen said. “We can’t do that if we get more guys banged up.”

The Cowboys will scrimmage for about 85 plays on Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. in the IPF.
“Numbers-wise we can’t (go more plays),” Christensen said. “We have to go with lowest that we can handle in a scrimmage. That’s what we have to base it on. We’re hoping to get in an 85-play scrimmage.”

Just what is Christensen looking for on Saturday?

“We’re looking to see which players are ready to compete at the highest level in the Mountain West Conference,” Christensen said. “After we evaluate the film, we’ll have each coach go through each of his players and tell me which ones are, which ones are close and which ones have a ways to go and what we have to do to get them there.”

Coaches galore
Also observing Thursday’s practice were several region and state high school football coaches who will be here for Friday’s coaching clinic.

The clinic will begin at 8 a.m. with registration of high school coaches. During the registration period from 8 to 9 a.m., coaches will be offered the opportunity to watch video of Cowboy practices. At 9 a.m. and running until noon, the Cowboy coaches will be available in question and answer sessions.

Following a break for lunch, high school coaching staffs will be invited to sit in on position meetings with UW coaches and players starting at 2:45 p.m. as they prepare for the afternoon’s practice that will begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday’s practice will focus on teaching techniques and will run for a little over an hour.

“We’re expecting at least 100 coaches in here Friday,” said Christensen. “It is a free clinic open to all high school coaches. They will have an opportunity to clinic with each member of our staff throughout the day. We will structure Friday’s practice so that the high school coaches can be out on the field with our staff and players learning the drills that we use to instruct our team. “It is also a great opportunity for us to get to know high school coaches in the area and build relationships with them. There are a lot of coaching clinics out there this time of year. We felt we wanted to make ours free of charge and open up our program to any area coaches who wanted to come and learn about how we do things.”

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Positive news offensively is good news

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior wide receiver David Leonard grabs a pass on Saturday.

By Richard Anderson

Any positive news is good news for the Wyoming offense … at least compared to the last couple of seasons.

Even if it comes at the expense of a beat up Cowboy defense … in spring drills.

With that in mind, the Cowboys are excited abut how the last couple of scrimmages have gone. In its special scoring system, the offense outscored the defense 38-27 on Thursday and 51-23 on Saturday.

We moved the ball, but again, I will have to look at the film,” Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen said after Saturday’s 85-play scrimmage in the Indoor Practice Facility. “You have to understand that we have a number of guys defensively down. It’s not a true indication of where we are at, but I am certainly happy with the progress that we are making and implementing the offense and getting the whole system of the plays called and getting them executed. We’re making progress in that way.”

Progress is the key word here. Turnovers were a bugaboo the last two years and on Thursday, there was one lost fumble and one tipped-pass interception. On Saturday, there was just one fumble and it was on the last play of the scrimmage.

“That’s the biggest thing with the whole team, to hold onto the ball,” Wyoming redshirt freshman James Caraway said. “We got a lot of turnovers and we don’t want that. We want to be a completely different team than last year. Everybody, we’re all trying to hold onto the football. That is big aspect of it.”

Caraway, along with senior Darius Terry and sophomore James Davis, are looking to take over for the departed Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon, two of the top rushers in UW history.

On Saturday, Caraway scored twice on runs of 1 and 13 yards and finished with 44 yards on 13 carries. As a team, the Cowboys ran for 132 yards on 36 rushes.

“I think the running backs are doing a nice job of running hard,” Christensen said. “As we got going, Caraway started hitting the hole a little better instead of dancing. I feel good about that position right now. Again, we’re down some receivers also and we had some guys step up and make plays.”

Through the air, three Cowboy quarterbacks combined to complete 29 of 42 passes for 257 yards and one touchdown. Senior Karsten Sween was 17-of-26 for 154 yards one and one touchdown and junior Dax Crum was 11-of-12 for 98 yards.

“Everyday all of our quarterbacks become better,” Christensen said. “It’s a lot for a quarterback. We don’t necessarily always need a guy to go out and win the game. He just needs to manage the game and not lose it. When we’re not turning the ball over and we’re not taking sacks, we’re doing good things.”

In these scrimmages, the Cowboy QBs are dressed just like the other players and are not wearing their “don’t hit me blue uniforms.”

Christensen said it is difficult to evaluate the quarterbacks and see how they are going to react if they don’t put them in live situations.

“If they are never going to get hit, then everybody is brave then,” he said. “We feel at this point and time that we have to see what they can do when the heat is on, and they are responding well.”

One of the big keys for improvement this season in Christensen’s no huddle, spread offense, is also the ability of the Wyoming wide receivers. This is also an area where depth is a little thin, without senior Donate Morgan and sophomore Mike Sando.

Junior wide out David Leonard had six catches for 64 yards and an 18-yard touchdown reception from Sween, while junior Travis Burkhalter added five catches for 57 yards.

“We’re down in numbers right now, so we have to stay in it mentally,” Leonard said. “I think we’re coming out, especially in the scrimmages, for the first time and getting a real taste of the speed of it.”

Again, a healthy Wyoming defense probably makes these offense versus defenses a wash. Early in the spring, the defense had won the matchups.

Confidence on offense, however, they get it, will never be taken lightly in the future.

Hendricks filling in as needed

Sophomore linebacker Brian Hendricks

By Richard Anderson

Brian Hendricks began working his way into the lineup as a redshirt freshman last season. As a sophomore, he is expected to be one of the top linebackers for the Wyoming Cowboys this season.

With the Wyoming defense a little banged up, especially with the likes of Gabe Knapton and Jimmy DeAndrea likely out for the spring season with knee injuries, Hendricks will be on the field a lot.

Probably more than a lot.

On Saturday in the second scrimmage of the spring, Hendricks likely felt that he was not only a starter, but on the second team – all at the same time.

“We had a few guys nicked up, so we had to jump in with the twos and get some extra reps,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks understandably looked tired after the 85-play scrimmage in the Indoor Practice facility. A smile on his face, however, indicated that he didn’t really seem to mind.

His 16 tackles on the day led the Wyoming defense – partially due to his talent, but also due to the fact that he played a little more than in a normal scrimmage.

“Coach (Marty) English, before the scrimmage, told us to not feel bad about things and just hustle to the ball and that’s what we did,” Hendricks said.

Hustle is the name of the game for all Cowboys and the new Wyoming offense under head coach Dave Christensen certainly has the defense on its toes.

“With this new offense, it’s no huddle with a quick pace,” Hendricks said. “And when you’re at 7,220, you’re going to be breathing hard. You just have to look after yourself and get going.”

Utah has a similar offense, but for the most part, it is an offense that the cowboys won’t see a lot of – other than in practice.

“Seeing it every day, it is totally different from last year’s offense,” he said. “It’s quicker, it’s a no huddle. It’s a little different, but we’ll get used to it.”

Despite injuries and illnesses that have several Cowboy defenders on the sidelines, Hendricks is excited about the defense under English, who moved from linebackers coach under Joe Glenn to defensive coordinator under Christensen.

“I think we just hustled, we just flew around to the ball,” Hendricks said. “Again, everyone is hurt and we decided to just rotate two deep and kept going, kept finishing the plays.”

Saturday's Scrimmage Statistics

Player Comp.-Att Yards TD Interceptions Long
# 16 Karsten Sween, qb 17-26 (.654) 154 1 0 18
# 9 Dax Crum, qb 11-12 (.917) 98 0 0 28
# 13 Adam Barry, qb 1- 4 (.250) 5 0 0 5
Totals 29-42 257 1 0 28
Player Receptions Yards TD Long Fumbles

# 33 David Leonard, wr 6 64 1 18 0
# 3 Travis Burkhalter, wr 5 57 0 28 0
# 89 Zach Bolger, wr 3 42 0 15 0
# 4 Kaither Holiway, wr 3 22 0 16 0
# 22 Brandon Stewart, wr 2 16 0 10 0
# 85 Jesson Salyards, te 2 16 0 9 0
# 25 James Davis, rb 1 13 0 13 0
# 82 Justin Morgan, wr 4 9 0 5 1
# 26 Darius Terry, rb 1 7 0 7 0
# 42 Greg Genho, te 1 6 0 6 0
# 86 Joe Evers, te 1 5 0 5 0
Totals 29 257 1 28 1
Yards Yards Net
Player Attempts Gained Lost Yards TD Long Fumbles

# 1 James Caraway, rb 11 45 -1 44 2 13 0
# 26 Darius Terry, rb 7 39 0 39 0 13 0
# 16 Karsten Sween, qb 6 26 -8 18 0 12 0
# 22 Brandon Stewart, wr 3 17 0 17 0 15 0
# 25 James Davis, rb 3 10 0 10 1 6 0
# 9 Dax Crum, qb 3 13 -7 6 0 8 0
# 13 Adam Barry, qb 3 5 -7 -2 0 4 0
Totals 36 155 -23 132 3 15 0
Defensive Highlights, Page Five
Player UT AT TT Sacks TFL Broken Up FF FR Int

# 2 Marcell Gipson, cb 2 1 3
# 4 Tashaun Gipson, cb 3 1 4
# 6 Alex Toney, lb 2 7 9
# 8 Brian Hendricks, lb 4 12 16
# 9 T.J. Atwater, cb 3 1 4 1.0-1
# 12 Tramaine Brown, cb 2 1 3
# 15 Ben Durbin, lb 2 4 6 1
# 18 David James, cb 0 0 0 1
# 19 Jamichael Hall, ss 0 2 2 1
# 24 Chris Prosinski, fs 4 2 6
# 36 Weston Johnson, lb 0 5 5
# 44 Josh Biezuns, lb 1 1 2 1.0-1
# 45 Bryson Studnicka, lb 1 2 3
# 47 Mike Neuhaus, de 2 1 3 0.5-3.5 0.5 -3.5
# 55 Corey Orth, de 2 2 4 1.0-8 1.0-8 1
# 93 Marcus Felker, ng 1 2 3
# 98 Mitch Unrein, de 2 3 5 1.5 -10.5 1.5 -10.5
# 97 Alex Stover, dt 0 3 3
# 99 Alex Hays, de 1 3 4
Totals 32 53 85 3.0 -22 5.0 -24 3 1

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cowboys look to pick up the momentum with Saturday's scrimmage

UW photo service
Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen observes before Thursday's scrimmage.

By Richard Anderson

Let’s just call Thursday’s scrimmage a dress rehearsal for the Wyoming Cowboys.

The Cowboys will amp it up from 69 plays on Thursday, to about 120 plays for Saturday's scrimmage. Practice begins in the Indoor Practice Facility at 9 a.m., with the scrimmage slated for about 9:45 a.m.

Saturday will also be a chance for the Cowboy defense to get back its brown jerseys, after the offense prevailed in its scoring system, 38-27.

Wyoming junior cornerback Marcell Gipson said the defense has to do a better job on Saturday, as they complete their first week of spring ball.

“No touchdowns, definitely, and get some turnovers,” Gipson said. “For the secondary, I just hope we don’t make any mental mistakes and communicate out there for the most part.”
Cowboy senior running back Darius Terry, who scored one touchdown on Thursday, is looking forward to additional work they will receive.

“It’s exciting … about 120 plays to get after it,” Terry said. “I’ve been waiting for this all year.”

First-year Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said it will be more of the same for all facets of the team and hopefully a chance to refine what they have accomplished.

“We’ll look to put guys in the actual pressure of game situation, the tempo of the game when the ball is being moved,” Christensen said. “We’ll look at turnovers, taking the ball away on defense and protecting the ball at offense. Those are a couple of things that we are emphasizing this spring. Obviously, we’re looking at the number of penalties, which we were good (Thursday). We’re just looking for competition, to see how the kids compete, their physicalness in a live situation. We’re getting a lot of questions answered.”

Offensively, the Cowboys had their best day of practice on Thursday, considering how much they have had to absorb in this first week.

“We’ve put a lot of stuff in, but we’ve had to taper back a little because they are getting a little overloaded,” Christensen said. “We’ve backed off. I would say at this point of time, what we have wanted to get put in this spring, we’re probably 65 percent of what we want to get in. We’ve made good progress.”

At the same time, Christensen said they are coming along at the pace that he expected.

“They are picking up the system, they are learning the tempo of how we want to play," he added. “The big thing is we have to become a much more physical offensive line to help our running game and get a chance to throw. We have to be able to play catch better and catching the football in this offense is very, very important.”

Terry, who looks to pick up for departed backs Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon, said it has been a good spring to date. The fast tempo has been a big change, almost to the point that it hurts physically.

“But you look across the line, and you think, ‘man, if I’m hurting, our defense is hurting,’” Terry said. “It gives us a little spark and makes us want to go harder. It’s more explosive to what we are used to.”

Defensively, Christensen said he likes the experience coming back from last season, although the defensive line is a little banged up with injury and illness. At the same time, he said that is enabling some of the younger players to pick up some valuable playing time.

“We’re making good progress defensively and we’ll continue to improve on getting the proper leverage positions and keep every thing in front of us,” Christensen said.

Gipson said it isn’t as much of a change defensively as it is for the offense, with the retention of Marty English, who moved up from linebackers coach under Joe Glenn to defensive coordination under Christensen.

“For the most part, Coach English has put his twist on the coverages and things like that, but it is not too much of a change,” Gipson said. “ It’s the tempo -- we’re just running and running.”

Saturday’s scrimmage will feature the series beginning at the offense’s own 2-yard line, 25-yard line and 35, followed by series beginning at the defense’s 45-yard line and 25, along with some work on two-minute offense and concluding with series beginning at the offense’s own 30 and 40-yard lines.

Fans are reminded that while the scrimmage is open to the public, they will have to observe in the west end zone for safety reasons.

Editor’s Notes: KOWB/KCGY sports director David Settle contributed to this report.