Cowboys' Bohl optimistic after first spring practice

Mar 26, 2017 From wire reports

Laramie -- The first full-padded practice of 2017 spring drills was conducted by the Wyoming Cowboys football team on Saturday under near perfect conditions in War Memorial Stadium.

After the practice, Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl met with media to discuss Saturday's practice and the completion of the first of five weeks of spring practices.

"We didn't have any live scrimmaging or live tackling today," said Bohl. "I think it was just important to get our guys in the fold and get them used to carrying the pads.

"I'm pleased with the progress of our football team. I think the strength staff has really done a good job. I think our players came back and entered spring ball in good condition. Seeing some of the younger players coming around well is encouraging.

"I'm a little bit displeased with the number of balls on the ground between the center and quarterback exchange -- that needs to get cleaned up. And then I think defensively on the back end we're still giving up some deep balls and we need to improve on that."

One of the young Cowboys who is going through a position change this spring is sophomore Jaylon Watson, who began his Wyoming career as a linebacker, was moved to defensive end his redshirt freshman season and is playing fullback this spring.

"Jaylon's a guy that we noticed to be explosive, and he's a physical guy," said Bohl. "The other thing we noticed is he has really good hands and he's getting close to 250 pounds. So you're looking at a guy who has good feet, good size and good hands. He is also a smart player. We were looking for some more depth and a thumper at the fullback position, but that person also had to be able to catch the ball.

On the offensive line with the move of last year's staring left guard, Gavin Rush, to center this spring, there are a couple players competing for playing time at the guard position -- redshirt freshman Jace Webb and junior Cole Turner.

"First of all, Cole has been here a long time and certainly improved, and Jace was a heavily-recruited guy," said Bohl. "Both of them have good size. Cole has a lot of experience, and Jace is a smart, aggressive guy, so it's a good combination."

Another offensive lineman who is getting an added opportunity at playing time this spring is sophomore offensive tackle Pahl Schwab from Afton.

"First of all, a lot of time at the tackle spot if you aren't noticing them in practice there is good chance they are doing some good things, and that's been the case thus far this spring," said Bohl. "We're always excited about having a guy from Wyoming -- from Star Valley in Pahl's case -- come in and show good things. He did a nice job and showed good competitiveness on our scout squad in the past, and as he is in the program longer and longer we feel good about him. Now how far he progresses, we'll see. But he's going to get a lot of opportunity this spring.

Sophomore place-kicker Cooper Rothe was kicking the ball particularly well during Saturday's practice and Bohl was asked about his progress from starting as a true freshman in 2016 to now.

"We've talked about the next step with Cooper (Rothe) after playing as a true freshman last season," said Bohl. "It's important that he become more efficient. We'll continue to work on that during the course of spring. We felt that he struck the ball well today, and I think he was 100 percent on field goals today.

"The challenge I thought for him being a true freshman last year went beyond the physical ability. To have the mental toughness to be able to go out there and compete at that position is hard and challenging.

"Now that he has had a year of experience to understand how competitive it is when you run out in War Memorial Stadium and everyone is watching to see if you make the kick -- that experience will benefit him."

Bohl was asked about the development of the receiving corps this spring and whether he was looking for two or three key individuals to emerge to resemble the Cowboys' passing game of a year ago, or whether he was looking for a broader balance from a number of different receivers in 2017.

"Josh (Allen) is getting more of a rhythm with some of our younger receivers," said Bohl. "I know John Okwoli, James Price, C.J. (Johnson) and Austin Conway all have good ability, so we're pleased about that.

"One thing that really changed last season offensively was we became pretty much a 50/50 football team (between rushing and passing), and that's really difficult to defend.

"I think Josh (Allen) has stayed on pace. His reads have gotten a little bit better, and I think our offensive line have done a nice job. But, we need to make plays at the wide receiver position. Last year, Josh made a lot of big plays, but our receivers made a lot of plays, as well. We feel the future looks really bright with these guys, but most of them are somewhat unproven."

Bohl did update media on the status of junior strong safety Anthony Makransky, saying that Makransky's injury suffered last Thursday was confirmed as an achilles tendon tear and that he would likely have surgery sometime next week.

Spring practice resumes next Tuesday.

There will be three practices during the second week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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