LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The first fall depth chart for the Wyoming Cowboy Football team was released on Tuesday by head coach Craig Bohl and his staff. There weren’t a lot of surprises in the projected starters, but there were several new players who earned their way on to the first two deep in back-up roles.
On offense all of the starting positions remained the same from the final spring depth chart, including Cameron Coffman being listed as the projected starter at quarterback.
Defensively, a couple players who missed or were limited in spring football due to injuries rose to earn the No. 1 spots on the fall two deep. Those two individuals were sophomore cornerback Robert Priester and junior strong-side linebacker/nickel back D.J. May. Priester started seven consecutive games as a true freshman in 2014 before suffering a knee injury that caused him to miss the season finale at New Mexico and knocked him out of 2015 spring practice. May also injured his knee in practice in late October of last season, causing him to miss the final five games of the season and limited his participation in 2015 spring drills.
Bohl was asked to describe May’s progression up the depth chart this fall after switching from running back to the strong-side linebacker/nickel position in the offseason.
“It has been a pretty fast progression for D.J.,” said Bohl. “He was not able to go through spring football because of an ACL reconstruction. He has come back from that surgery as we expected. He does possess great speed. He has good change of direction, and is an aggressive player. In our league, the nickel player is becoming a more common player than the SAM linebacker. In our league, you tend to play more nickel than you do three linebackers, so to have a guy with his ability out there is going to help infuse some speed and athleticism to our defense, which we need.”
C.J. Jennings, who was listed No. 1 at corner coming out of spring football, is listed as the backup to Priester, and Tim Kamana, who was listed atop the strong-side linebacker/nickel back spot in spring, is right behind May at that position.
The only other change to the defensive projected starters from spring is at free safety. Redshirt freshman Marcus Epps is listed No. 1 at free safety. He is backed up by true freshman Andrew Wingard. Coming out of spring, redshirt freshman Adam Pilapil had earned the No. 1 position at free safety, but Bohl announced last week that Pilapil would be suspended for the first game of the Cowboys’ season due to a violation of team rules.
Among the young players who earned their way onto the two deep this fall on offense are: true freshman wide receiver Joseph Parker, listed No. 2 at one of the wide receiver spots; redshirt freshman Brinkley Jolly at left tackle; sophomore Kurtis Stirneman has moved from the No. 2 spot at right tackle to the No. 2 spot at left guard; true freshman Kaden Jackson is listed No. 2 at right guard; and true freshman Zach Wallace is listed No. 2 at right tackle.
Young players who have emerged on defense to earn two deep spots are: Wingard, who is listed No. 2 at both free safety and strong safety; true freshman defensive end Carl Granderson, who is listed as the backup to senior left end Eddie Yarbrough; redshirt freshman Sidney Malauulu has moved from No. 2 at defensive tackle in the spring to No. 2 at nose tackle on the fall depth chart; redshirt freshman Conner Cain, who is now listed No. 2 at defensive tackle; and junior college transfer and first-year Cowboy Tavita Faaiu, who is listed as the backup at right defensive end behind senior right end Siaosi Hala’api’api.
Positions on the depth chart that were not announced in the first fall depth chart were: place-kicker, kickoff returners and punt returners.
The head coach was asked if there was anyone who had earned their way on to the depth chart that surprised him.
“We are pleasantly surprised with the number of freshman who are integrated in the two-deep,” said Bohl. “We had high expectations of this class coming in. They’ve exceeded our expectations since they’ve come into camp. I think it is a little bit of an indication of being able to go through our first full recruiting cycle. Plus it’s an indication of a lack of depth in our program. Ideally when your program is where you want it to be you’re not playing as many freshmen. But I can also say that some of these young players as we evaluate them are in a position, as we continue to work with them, to give us winning performances.”
Asked to talk about the number of freshmen from this year’s class who may end up playing this season, Bohl said, “I will tell you this, if we pull a redshirt off a freshman they are going to play. It’s not going to be a situation where we pull a redshirt off someone we see playing only a few reps.”
Following Tuesday afternoon’s practice, Bohl also shared with media what the focus of practice was on Tuesday. “We went through a lot of special situations that occur during the course of a season, sometimes they occur, sometimes they don’t, but you always want to be prepared,” said Bohl. “It was a day where we somewhat backed off on the physical amount of running that we did. We’re only about 10 days out from the opener, so we have to balance the amount of work.”
Practice ended with the players having a chance to have some fun. All the players, including all the linemen, were allowed to compete in an on-side kick drill to determine the player with the best hands. The final four individuals to survive included: two defensive linemen, junior nose tackle Chase Appleby and freshman defensive end Skylor Clinton; one offensive tackle, redshirt freshman Brinkley Jolly; and one wide receiver, junior Jake Maulhardt. Appleby and Jolly ended up as the final two survivors, and after each failed to catch their first on-side kick in the final round it went to sudden death. Appleby caught his final attempt, while Jolly was unable to catch his final ball, and the Cowboys’ starting nose tackle was the champion. “We had some fun at the end of practice,” said Bohl. “The players and coaches have been going every day since we reported to camp. They haven’t had a day off, so to have some laughter and some levity I think is important at this point of camp to boost morale.”
Bohl concluded his comments with an injury update.
“We’re getting more players back,” said Bohl. “Shaun Wick is full go. We were disappointed to hear that Trevor Meader tore an ACL in his knee, so it was more damage than I had originally thought, and he will be done for the year. Grant Lewis, as I said yesterday, I think will also be done for the year with a torn ACL. Unfortunately, those things do happen in fall camp, and that is why we are trying to build as much depth in the program moving forward.”
The Pokes are scheduled to return to practice on Wednesday morning.
Fans may access additional coverage of Wyoming Cowboy football fall camp through GoWyo.com/videos, WyomingAthletics on YouTube, @wyoathletics on Twitter and wyoathletics on Facebook.
Fans interested in purchasing tickets to 2015 Wyoming Cowboy Football games may go online at www.GoWyo.com/tickets, may call the UW Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or 307-766-4850 or may stop by the ticket office on the west side of UW’s Arena-Auditorium.