*Courtesy University of Wyoming Athletics Media and Public Relations
2014 University of Wyoming Football Spring Practice Schedule
Wednesday, March 26 8:00 a.m. (No Pads, Practice #1)
Friday, March 28 8:00 a.m. (No Pads, Practice #2)
Saturday, March 29 Time is TBA (First Padded Practice/Non-Tackle, Practice #3)
Monday, March 31 8:00 a.m. (Pads, Practice #4)
Wednesday, April 2 8:00 a.m. (Pads, Practice #5)
Friday, April 4 8:00 a.m. (Pads, Practice #6)
Saturday, April 5 Time is TBA (Scrimmage #1, Practice #7)
Monday, April 7 8:00 a.m. (Pads, Practice #8)
Wednesday, April 9 8:00 a.m. (Pads, Practice #9)
Friday, April 11 8:00 a.m. (Pads, Practice #10)
Saturday, April 12 Time is TBA (Scrimmage #2, Practice #11)
Monday, April 14 8:00 a.m. (Pads, Practice #12)
Wednesday, April 16 8:00 a.m. (Pads, Practice #13)
Friday, March 18 8:00 a.m. (No Pads, Practice #14)
Saturday, April 19 Time is TBA (Spring Game, Practice #15)
Laramie, Wyo. (March 3, 2014) -- The first spring practice under the direction of new Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl will kick off on Wednesday, March 26 with an 8 a.m. practice. That will be the first of 15 spring practices that will conclude with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 19.
Practices this spring will begin at 8:00 a.m. on weekdays (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) and will last for approximately two hours each day.
The first 20-30 minutes of practices will be open to media and the general public. Student-athletes and coaches will be available for interviews with the media after each practice. The Cowboys will utilize War Memorial Stadium and the Indoor Practice Facility for spring drills.
During 2014 spring ball, the Cowboys are scheduled to conduct three scrimmages on Saturday, April 5; Saturday, April 12; and the Spring Game on Saturday, April 19. Start times and access to the three spring scrimmages will be determined at a later date.
Bohl will welcome back 18 starters from last season and 46 letterwinners. Seven offensive starters return from last season, nine return on defense and both the Pokes starting place-kicker and punter return. The 46 returning lettermen are evenly divided, with 22 on offense, 20 on defense and four on special teams. In addition to the 18 returning starters from a year ago, the Cowboys have 13 other returning lettermen with starting experience (seven on offense and six on defense.)
Among those returning on offense are: the Cowboys’ leading receiver, senior Dominic Rufran (75 receptions for 960 receiving yards); leading rusher, junior Shaun Wick (979 rushing yards); senior wideout Jalen Claiborne (33 catches for 452 yards); sophomore wide receiver Tanner Gentry (39 receptions for 376 yards); junior offensive guard Jake Jones (who has started every game of his career -- 24 straight); and senior offensive tackles Walker Madden (10 career starts) and Connor Rains (12 career starts).
On defense, First Team All-Mountain West defensive end Eddie Yarbrough returns for his junior season, and Honorable Mention All-MW linebacker Jordan Stanton returns for his senior campaign. Including Stanton, six senior starters return on defense. The other five senior starters returning on defense are: cornerback Blair Burns (32 career starts), defensive lineman Patrick Mertens (30 starts), linebacker Mark Nzeocha (19 starts), linebacker/defensive end Sonny Puletasi (21 starts), and strong safety Darrenn White (14 starts). Mertens was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA as was another senior, linebacker Devyn Harris, who started two games last season and has 18 career starts to his credit. Sophomores Tim Hayes, a cornerback, and Lucas Wacha, a linebacker, also return after starting seven and 11 games, respectively, in 2013.
Key losses to the Cowboy squad of course include the quarterback position, after three-year starter and Honorable Mention All-Mountain West selection Brett Smith declared for the 2014 NFL Draft following his junior season. Also gone on offense are 2013 seniors: Tyler Strong, who started 32 games at offensive guard during his career; and Honorable Mention All-MW selection Robert Herron, 27 career starts at wide receiver. On defense, the two senior starters who must be replaced are: Second Team All-Mountain West peformer Marqueston Huff, 35 career starts at free safety and cornerback; and Justin Bernthaler, 15 starts over his two-year career at Wyoming.
Adding to the returning group of starters are some other key individuals who missed last season due to injury. Among those are: redshirt junior cornerback Tyran Finley, who started the season opener at Nebraska but was injured in that game and missed the remainder of the season; senior defensive end Riley Lange, who missed the entire 2013 season with an injury; redshirt sophomore running back D.J. May, who also missed all of last year due to injury; junior offensive tackle Austin Traphagan, who was injured following the fourth game of the season and was out the remainder of 2013; and senior strong safety Darren White, who suffered an injury in week six against New Mexico that knocked him out for the last six games.
Spring drills will provide Bohl and his staff an opportunity to evaluate a number of quarterbacks as they look to replace three-year starter Brett Smith. Sophomore Tommy Thornton was the backup last season. He will be joined in the competition this spring by redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard; junior-college transfer Aaron Young, who comes to Wyoming as a sophomore with three years of eligibility; and senior Sam Stratton, who is healthy again and has switched back to his original quarterback position from wide receiver. Two freshmen QBs will join the competition next fall after signing national letters of intent with the Pokes this past February. Those two freshmen are Austin Fort, from Gillette, Wyo., and Nick Smith, from Merritt Island, Fla.
Running back should be one of the deepest positions for the Cowboys in 2014. Junior Shaun Wick returns after leading Wyoming with 979 rushing yards as a sophomore in 2013. Sophomore Omar Stover saw action in four games last season as a true freshman. D.J. May, who rushed for 374 yards as a freshman in 2012, returns after missing all of 2013 with an injury. Redshirt freshman Joshua Tapscott will also compete for playing time this spring. Like the quarterback position, two freshmen, Brian Hill from Belleville, Ill., and Nico Evans from Los Angeles, Calif., come on board in the fall.
The Cowboy receiving corps returns seven of its top 10 receivers from a year ago, and three of four starters. That group will be led by senior Dominic Rufran, who led UW in both receptions (75) and receiving yards (960) as a junior. Sophomore Tanner Gentry had 39 catches for 376 yards in a starting role as a true freshman in 2013, and senior Jalen Claiborne caught 33 passes for 452 yards his junior campaign. Running back Wick also contributed 21 catches for 118 yards. The two individuals who will be missed from the receiving corps will be 2013 Honorable Mention All-MW receiver Robert Herron (72 catches for 937 yards) and former running back/wide receiver Brandon Miller (23 receptions for 193 yards in 2013), who both completed their senior seasons last year.
Wyoming’s offensive line will be led by junior offensive guard Jake Jones, who has started every game (24) since the beginning of his redshirt freshman season of 2012. Also returning are senior offensive tackles Walker Madden and Connor Rains, who started 10 and 12 games, respectively, a year ago in their first seasons playing for UW. The biggest loss on the O-Line is three-year starter Tyler Strong at left guard. Strong completed his Cowboy career starting 32 of 42 career games. Also gone is center Albert Perez, who started six games at center in his one year playing for the Cowboys after transferring from junior college. Four other Cowboys on the offensive line return with starting experience under their belts. Junior Rafe Kiely started five of the last seven games at center last season. Sophomore Chase Roullier started in each of the last two games of the 2013 season -- one game at center and one at guard -- and sophomore Nathan Leddige started the last two games of 2013 at left tackle. Also coming back from injury this season will be junior Austin Traphagan, who missed the last eight games of 2013 due to injury, but played in seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2012 and started one game versus Boise State.
Tight ends and fullbacks will be two positions that Bohl and his staff will be looking to fill as they implement their West-Coast offense.
The Wyoming defensive staff will be shifting to a 4-3 defensive scheme that they were very successful with at North Dakota State. On the defensive line, Eddie Yarbrough returns for his junior season after earning First Team All-Mountain West honors at defensive end as a sophomore. Senior Patrick Mertens was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. He will bring a wealth of experience to the Cowboy defense. Joining those two veterans will be sophomore Uso Olive, who played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2013. Two other returning Cowboys who played the “Buck” position last year, which was a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position, are senior starter Sonny Puletasi and junior Siaosi Hala’api’api.
The Cowboys also have four experienced linebackers returning, three of which are seniors. Senior Jordan Stanton returns in the middle after earning Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors a year ago. Stanton led the Cowboys with 134 tackles, and ranked No. 5 in the nation, averaging 11.2 tackles per game. Fellow senior Mark Nzeocha started all 12 games his junior season. Sophomore Lucas Wacha started 11 of 12 games in 2013 as a redshirt freshman. The third senior returning is Devyn Harris, who like defensive lineman Mertens was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Harris has started 18 career starts to his credit.
Wyoming’s secondary returns three experienced seniors and two sophomores who all started multiple games a year ago. The most experienced member of the group is senior cornerback Blair Burns, who has started 32 games entering his senior season. Darrenn White will be returning from injury in 2014. The senior had started 14 consecutive games at strong safety for the Pokes prior to being injured in the sixth game of the 2013 season. That injury caused him to miss the final six games last year. The third senior who returns to the Cowboy secondary after starting multiple games last season is cornerback DeAndre Jones. Jones started the final four games in 2013, and has six career starts to his credit. The two sophomores with starting experience are cornerback Tim Hayes and strong safety Xavier Lewis. Hayes started eight games at cornerback as a true freshman in 2013, while Lewis started the final two games of his true freshman season at strong safety. Redshirt junior Tyran Finley started at corner in the 2013 season opener at Nebraska, but was injured in that game and missed the remainder of the season. Senior Jesse Sampson also started one game his junior season, against Colorado State, but nagging injuries limited him to only four games after transferring to UW from junior college.
Experience abounds on Wyoming’s special teams’ unit. The Pokes return their: starting place-kicker, senior Stuart Williams; starting punter, sophomore Ethan Wood; starting long snapper, sophomore Brendan Turelli; and starting holder, senior Sam Stratton. Also returning is junior Justin Martin, who has served as Wyoming’s kickoff specialist parts of the past two seasons.