Wyoming Football Returns With the Start of Spring Drills
Five weeks of spring football practice begins Tuesday for the Wyoming Cowboy football team.
Head coach Craig Bohl starts his sixth season at UW with 13 starters and 46 lettermen returning from last year. That team finished with a 6-6 overall record, which included four straight wins to conclude 2018.
Leading the team are three seniors that have made an impact since they were freshmen. Wyoming has two All-America candidates in middle linebacker Logan Wilson and kicker Cooper Rothe. Then there’s two-time honorable mention All-MW performer Tyler Hall, who has been key as a kick returner and at cornerback and the nickel back/linebacker spots.
A fourth returner that received recognition last season was center Keegan Cryder. He was named a First Team Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. Cryder started all 12 games last season, the last eight at center.
There are several storylines to follow throughout the 15 practices.
The quarterback battle will be intriguing to follow. Sophomore Tyler Vander Waal started nine games last year. He led the Pokes to four wins, including the dramatic rally in the snow at home over Air Force. Then there’s Sean Chambers, who played in four games, but thanks to the new rule the NCAA approved last year that gave freshmen the chance to play in up to four games, he’s still a redshirt freshman. Chambers guided UW to victories over Colorado State and San Jose State. He nearly led an upset of Utah State in his first action and also started the Air Force game before an injury cut short his season. The final piece in true freshman Levi Williams, who enrolled early after a big career at Smithson Valley High School in Canyon Lake, TX.
There’s a battle at running back to replace Nico Evans, who ran for 1,325 yards in 2018 and was First Team All-Mountain West. Sophomores Xazavian Valladay and Jevon Bigelow both saw significant playing time last season. Valladay played in all 12 games, while Bigelow saw action in nine. Redshirt freshman Reow Jackson, who was injured last fall camp will also be in the mix.
Who will step up at safety? The Cowboys have a tough task to replace four-year starters in Andrew Wingard and Marcus Epps. Perhaps one of the best duos ever to don the brown and gold, it will be a tall order to replace their productivity. Senior Alijah Halliburton was in a regular role in 2018 and was fourth in tackles with 61. Other than that, there are four players with some experience, but primarily on special teams.
There’s also the return of some injured players, which include, but aren’t limited to wide receiver C.J. Johnson, guard Gavin Rush, and tight end Josh Harshman. Johnson and Rush missed all of last season, while Harshman played in the first three before a season-ending injury.
Finally, Wyoming has three new coaches on staff in Bart Miller (OL), Shannon Moore (TE/FB), and Jay Niemann (LB). In addition, Jake Dickert (DC and Safeties) and AJ Cooper (Defensive Run Game Coordinator/DE/Special Teams Coordinator) have added to their roles. Coach Bohl promoted Dickert to defensive coordinator as he enters his third season on staff. Bohl gave more responsibility to Cooper, who has been here since Bohl came to UW.
The Cowboys will be practicing on Tuesday’s, Thursday’s and Saturday’s over the next five weeks. All practices are closed to the public, except two. The first is an outreach practice in Casper on Saturday, April 13 at 2 p.m. from Cheney Alumni Field. The second is Wyoming’s annual Spring Game, which is set for Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium.