Aug 6, 2012 11:59 PM by Scott Breen - Q2 Sports
Laramie, Wyo. - The University of Wyoming kicked off fall football camp on Monday. The Cowboys conducted a two-hour practice in helmets on the North Forty Practice Field, with 103 players reporting.
"I think our kids have had a good off-season, and everybody we expected back was here and on-time yesterday when they checked in," said fourth-year head coach Dave Christensen. "We're excited to get the new guys out there and see how they mix in with the veterans, as well as see where our veterans are at after summer conditioning.
"I'm excited about this team. I think it will be the most athletic team and deepest team we've had since we've been here. Now we've got to carry those things over to the playing field."
When asked about his newcomers and what it will take for them to earn playing time this season, Christensen said, "The key for any of our young players to play this season is first they have to have the ability. The next thing is they have to be able to learn our offensive and defensive systems, and then they have to adjust to the speed at which the game is played at this level.
"But as many know, we've played 42 freshmen here over the past three years. We'll play the guys who are ready to play. I think we finally will be able to enjoy some really good depth this season, which is something we've worked hard at building during our time here."
Of the 103 players reporting, 12 are returning starters -- five on offense and seven on defense. Six return after receiving All-Mountain West Conference honors a year ago. Three returning seniors were selected to the 2012 All-Mountain West Preseason Team this summer. Those three are center Nick Carlson, safety Luke Ruff and defensive tackle Mike Purcell. And three have been named to 2012 preseason watch lists at their respective positions. Carlson was named to both the Rimington Trophy Preseason Watch List (honoring the nation's top center) and the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List (honoring the nation's top lineman). Ruff was selected to the Lott IMPACT Trophy Preseason List, and sophomore quarterback Brett Smith was selected to the Manning Award Preseason Watch List (honoring the nation's top quarterback).
A 13th returning starter from last season, sophomore Daniel Sullivan, was unable to report on Sunday. Sullivan, Wyoming's starting place-kicker as a true freshman in 2011, is currently dealing with a medical condition that is still being evaluated, but Christensen told the media following Monday's first practice that Sullivan would likely redshirt this coming season.
"We're healthy now, for the exception of Sam Stratton and Daniel Sullivan, but all the rest of the guys are ready to go."
"There is probably about a 90 percent chance that Daniel (Sullivan) will miss the season and redshirt this year," said Christensen. "We'll find out for sure over the next few days. But we expect him to be in school this fall and be with the team."
Stratton, who played as a backup receiver and a wildcat quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2011, suffered an injury during winter conditioning following last season. That injury caused Stratton to miss all of 2012 spring drills and will cause him to miss the entire 2012 season.
The other returning place-kicker on the Cowboy roster is sophomore Stuart Williams, who was Wyoming's starter in the 2011 season opener versus Weber State. Williams was a perfect six for six in extra points in 2011, but did not attempt any field goals.
"Stu kicked well today," said Christensen. "He did a nice job. We're looking at a couple guys in different situations -- a couple different kickoff guys. Everything is still up for competition."
As with the start of each fall practice schedule, the first few days of practice are not conducted in full pads. Monday's practice was in helmets only. On Tuesday, the Pokes will conduct their second practice, also in helmets only, beginning at 8:45 a.m. and concluding at about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday the Cowboys add shoulder pads before conducting their first full-padded practice on Friday, Aug. 10. The gradual build up to full-padded practices are to conform with NCAA rules requiring an acclimation period prior to teams progressing into full-padded practices.
Christensen said that those practices prior to moving to full pads are very important practices in terms of teaching fundamentals and installing offensive and defensive systems.
"The first few days before we put full pads on will include a lot of installation of our systems," said Christensen. "We will work on a lot of fundamentals, and will introduce elements of the kicking game. There will be a lot of meeting time these first few days, and then we'll start getting the physical work in."
It was also announced on Monday, that sophomore offensive tackle Daniel Fleischman had recently suffered a season-ending injury, and had decided to leave the team for personal reasons. Fleischman was listed as the projected starter at right offensive tackle coming out of 2012 spring drills. He was backed up by senior Kyle Magnuson, who missed spring practice due to injury.
"We moved Mags (Kyle Magnuson) in there today," said Christensen. "Mags has gotten a lot of snaps over his time here. He missed time last spring due to injury, but he's healthy and ready to go now. We have two junior-college offensive tackles (Connor Rains and Walker Madden) who will also be working in there. That is an area where we feel like we have some depth this year."
The Cowboys will conclude the first week of practice on Saturday with an afternoon scrimmage in War Memorial Stadium. That Saturday practice will begin at 3:45 p.m. and will be open to the public and media. Regarding his decision to schedule a scrimmage in the first week of fall camp, Christensen attributed part of that decision to the number of veterans returning.
"We'll be in shoulder pads and helmets for two days on Wednesday and Thursday and then be in full pads on Friday before our first scrimmage, but with the number of veterans we have back we feel like we will be ready to get a productive scrimmage in early," said Christensen. "The more scrimmage work we can get done early in practice, the more we can allow our guys to get fresh toward the end of camp as we prepare for our season opener."
Wyoming opens the 2012 season on Saturday, Sept. 1 at Texas.
Monday's practice at the North Forty Practice Field was a return to a fall tradition for the Pokes. The North Forty was for many years the traditional practice location leading up to the start of the season, but the Cowboys had not practiced there since 2005. Beginning with the installation of artificial turf in War Memorial Stadium in 2005, the Cowboys moved fall camp to the practice field southwest of War Memorial Stadium and then began utilizing War Memorial Stadium as the regular-season practice location once the season opened.
This fall's Cowboy Football practices are open for the first hour to media and the public and then closed after that period.
The three fall scrimmages are scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 11 at 3:45 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18 at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, Aug. 22 at 8:45 a.m. and are open for both the public and media.