The Wyoming Cowboys couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to open fall camp. With the temperature in the mid 80s under a clear sky in Laramie, the Pokes conducted a two-hour morning practice on Wednesday to kick off fall drills.
As newcomers were experiencing their first practice as Cowboys, a group of veteran players picked right up where they left off last spring led by junior running back Titus Swen, who ninth-year Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl singled out in his first press conference of the fall.
“Titus (Swen) came back and reported right where I thought he’d be,” said Bohl. “Really pleased with his movement and we’ll be able to do a lot of things with him. That next backup spot is really going to be important for us. We usually have two running backs. One of those guys will come to the forefront. We feel really good about Titus, but we also feel good about the ability of the other guys.”
A young defensive player who made a positive impression on Wednesday was true freshman defensive back Malique Singleton. A native of East Anchorage, Alaska, Singleton played his high school football at Grandview High School in Aurora, Colo.
“What I did see today — it was just one play — Malique Singleton made an outstanding interception,” said Bohl. “Of course he was an outstanding player at Grandview and had a really excellent high school career. He’s someone we’re going to take a hard look at.”
Some position groups that were highly competitive during spring practice were positions that Bohl spoke about again on Wednesday. Those positions being quarterback, offensive line and defensive end.
“We’ve got good competition at quarterback. I think we’re throwing the ball and catching the ball better,” said Bohl. “Our (number) one offensive line looked good, but after that we’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m pleased with our defensive ends as I’ve talked about (during spring practice).”
One of those offensive line positions that the Cowboys are looking to fill is the center position where former Cowboy Keegan Cryder started the last 40 games of his career, beginning with the fifth game of his redshirt freshman season. One of the Cowboys competing for that starting spot is sophomore Nofoafia Tulafono, who Bohl was asked about at Wednesday’s post-practice press conference.
“Keegan (Cryder) played a lot of snaps as did Logan Harris before him,” said Bohl. “He’s (Tulafono) making progress. I thought he had a good first day, but to step into those shoes is a big, big challenge. We do everything from under center to shotgun and we have a lot of moving parts as far as pass protection and IDing (defenders) in zones. He’s a bright guy. It’s going to be his time to shine and we’re going to push him. I think we’ve got some good players inside and sometimes you can swing a guard and center back and forth. We try not to do that a lot, but we may look at doing that with say Jack Walsh (redshirt freshman offensive guard). We’ll find out which best three that we have there (at center and offensive guard).”
Wednesday’s practice happened to fall this year on Coach Bohl’s 64th birthday. When asked by a member of the media how his birthday was going, Bohl laughed, “I woke up and my wife said Happy Birthday to me with a cup of coffee, but I was already thinking about the first day of practice.”
Being the first day of practice for a number of new Cowboys, Bohl had a message for his newcomers as fall camp opened.
“What I talked with them about was they are transitioning from the training they did this summer, which was excellent and lays a foundation, but this style of training we’re doing now (during fall camp) is different,” said Bohl. “They’ve got to be able to stay on the field, make sure that they’re hydrated and all these little things that you might not think are important but when we double rep the way we practice we need everybody out there. I also told them to take advantage of the repetitions. We’ve got five quarterbacks out there but sooner or later we’re not going to be able to rep five quarterbacks. When you have an opportunity to get 11 on 11 work you have to take advantage of that.
“If we’re going to be the type of team that we need to be there’s no Knute Rockne speech or silver bullet, it’s going to be put your hand in the dirt and get better. That’s the only way I know to do it and it works, so we’re going to methodically go through camp. It will be a grinder.”
During Wednesday’s press conference, a topic brought up by one of the media members in attendance was the positive team chemistry that players have talked about since spring practice. The head coach was asked Wednesday how he perceives his 2022 team’s chemistry and what his role is in that.
“I identified with you guys last year as a head football coach that I thought I failed. It’s not easy for me to say that I failed in that regard, but we missed the mark last year,” said Bohl. “We need to play cohesively as a team and rededicate ourselves to the type of culture that we want to have. You can have meetings, you can have all kinds of stuff but it comes down to what goes do on in the locker room, what goes on on the field and what type of mentality you have. I’m glad our players have echoed that.”
The day prior to fall camp opened, Bohl announced that Gordie Haug was being promoted to Executive Director of Recruiting for Wyoming Football in addition to continuing as the Cowboy running backs coach. The head coach talked about what led up to that decision.
“It (recruiting) certainly has changed and a guy like myself needs to evolve,” said Bohl. “Gordie (Haug) came here as a recruiting coordinator. If you look at the makeup of our football team through that time our talent level improved exponentially. I’m looking at the lay of the land now with where we’re at and the skill set that he has. He had a desire to coach running backsm and he’s a good running backs coach — but we’re going to ask him to reengage with our (recruiting) strategy — everything from high school recruiting to what we’re doing with transfers. He’s very, very capable. He’s a bright guy. He’s watched a lot of tape and a lot of those guys who you see (photos of) hanging up in the IPF he identified those guys. I just felt like it was appropriate for him to reengage, particularly in these times right now.”
Finally Bohl was asked about the development of transfer quarterback Andrew Peasley, who joined the team in the spring from Utah State.
“It has been a real — I wouldn’t say pleasant surprise — but any time you have an older guy join your program you have some concern,” said Bohl. “It seems like just yesterday that he and his father were sitting in my office and we were all going, ‘How is this going to work.’ It was unchartered territory for him and unchartered territory for us. I’ve appreciated his willingness to learn about Cowboy Football, assimilate in and earn his spot and to be humble. It’s been a good relationship thus far, and I have no reason to believe it won’t continue to grow. I’ve seen our players respond well to Andrew.
“I’ve seen that with all of our transfers. One of the things that we did is I spent a lot of time with Matt Wells (former Utah State head coach), who recruited him, talked with Matt and talked with Gary (Anderson, another Utah State former head coach), so you get a book on a player. I’m not saying the book is always accurate but we try to dig as much as we can, and I’m pleased.”
The Cowboys will conduct their second practice of fall camp on Thursday at 10 a.m. as they prepare to kick off the 2022 season one month from today when they travel to Champaign, Ill., to play the University of Illinois.