Wyoming Football Begins Practice Friday Morning, First Game Aug 31st

Sports News July 30, 2019



Wyoming Football Begins Practice Friday Morning, First Game Aug 31st

LARAMIE, WY. —  Riding a four-game winning streak to end last season, the Wyoming Cowboys will open fall camp on Friday, Aug. 2 with a morning practice.  Following the morning practice, the Cowboy players and coaches will participate in their annual Media Day in the Indoor Practice Facility.
Media Day Schedule for Friday, Aug. 2
The Cowboys’ first practice on Friday is scheduled for 9:20 a.m., M.T.  Friday’s practice is closed.  The annual Media Day for the Fall sports of football, cross country, soccer and volleyball will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the Wildcatter Stadium Club and Suites.  From 11:30 a.m. to Noon, coaches and student-athletes from the cross country, soccer and volleyball teams will be available for media interviews in the Wildcatter.  From Noon to 1 p.m., a luncheon for media will be held followed by interviews with the football coaches and student-athletes in the Indoor Practice Facility from 1-2 p.m.

First Game of the Season
The 2019 season will kick off on Saturday, Aug. 31 in Laramie when Wyoming will host the Missouri Tigers of the SEC in a game scheduled to kick at 5:30 p.m., M.T.  Fans interested in purchasing tickets to the 2019 Wyoming Football season may: go online at www.GoWyo.com/tickets, email tickets@uwyo.edu, call the UW Athletics Ticket Office at (307) 766-7220; or stop by the ticket office on the west side of UW’s Arena-Auditorium.

Fans have an opportunity to be part of a first-time event in the history of War Memorial Stadium for the 2019 season opener versus Missouri on Aug. 31.  Wyoming Athletics is asking all Cowboy fans to participate in the “Stripe Out” of War Memorial Stadium by wearing Brown or Gold t-shirts based on their seat location.  The goal is to have alternating sections of the stadium be Brown and Gold.  Cowboy fans may access more information on tickets and t-shirts for the “Stripe Out” by going to: GoWyo.com/StripeOut

About the 2019 Wyoming Cowboys
Head coach Craig Bohl and his coaching staff will welcome back 13 starters (five on offense, six on defense and two on special teams) and 42 lettermen (20 on offense, 17 on defense and five on special teams) when Fall Camp opens on Friday.  Those returning players helped the 2018 Wyoming team post a 6-6 record, earn bowl eligibility for the third consecutive season and end the season on a four-game winning streak.  Wyoming not only returns 13 of 24 regular starters from last season, but there are a total of 31 Cowboys on the 2019 roster who have starting experience during their Wyoming careers.

The Cowboys finished 2018 strong with convincing road wins over Colorado State (34-21) and New Mexico (31-3), a home win over San Jose State (24-9) and a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Air Force (35-27) in a game that saw the Cowboys score three touchdowns in the final 4:30 of the game to erase a 27-14 deficit.  Wyoming also had two finalists for national awards in 2018 — a first in program history.  Former Cowboy and current Minnesota Viking Marcus Epps was a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy given to the most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on, and then junior Cooper Rothe was one of three national finalists for the 2018 Lou Groza Award, honoring the nation’s top collegiate place-kicker.  Rothe returns for his senior season as a leading All-America candidate.

Leading the team in 2019 will be a group of 12 seniors with starting experience — six on defense, four on offense and two on special teams.  Among that group are preseason All-America candidates Rothe, at place-kicker, and Logan Wilson, at middle linebacker.  Wilson has been named to both the 2019 Chuck Bednarik Award Preseason Watch List and Butkus Award Watch List.  The Bednarik Award is presented annually to the College Defensive Player of the Year.  The Butkus Award goes to the nation’s best linebacker.  Rothe has been named to the 2019 Groza Award Watch List and multiple Preseason All-America teams, including being named a Second Team Preseason All-American by the Sporting News.  Rothe is also the returning Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Year, and is the preseason pick by conference media members to win that award again in 2019.
Joining Wilson as returning senior starters on defense are: cornerbacks Tyler Hall and Antonio Hull, strong safety Alijah Halliburton, weak-side linebacker Cassh Maluia and defensive end Josiah Hall.  Three senior receivers with starting experience return in Austin Conway, Raghib Ismail and John Okwoli.  They are joined by redshirt senior tight end Josh Harshman.  On special teams in addition to Rothe, his holder, senior Nick Szpor. returns to start for his fourth consecutive season.

A number of underclassmen also return after playing critical roles for the Pokes a year ago.  Quarterbacks Sean Chambers and Tyler Vander Waal both return after sharing the starting duties last season.  Chambers came out of 2019 Spring Practice as the projected starter.  In his first start as a collegian, Chambers played a big role in Wyoming’s 34-21 road win at Colorado State.  The true freshman rushed for 101 yards and one rushing touchdown and completed 7 of 10 passes for 116 yards and two passing TDs in the victory.  Chambers also led UW to its home victory over San Jose State.  Vander Waal was the starter in three of Wyoming’s wins against New Mexico State, Wofford and New Mexico and came off the bench early in the first quarter for an injured Chambers to help key the Cowboys’ miraculous win over Air Force.  Due to the new NCAA redshirt rules implemented last year, Chambers got his freshman season back as he played in only four games.  He will be a redshirt freshman, and Vander Waal will be a sophomore.

Running back Xazavian Valladay returns for his sophomore season.  Valladay had the best game of his college career in the season finale at New Mexico.  Valladay rushed for 192 yards on 22 carries and scored two rushing touchdowns versus the Lobos.

Other key offensive returners who are underclassmen include sophomore center Keegan Cryder, who earned First Team Freshman All-America honors in 2018 from the Football Writers Association of America.  Tackles Rudy Stofer and Alonzo Velazquez started seven and five games respectively.  Velazquez’s season was cut short due to injury.  Junior Logan Harris is the projected starter at right guard and has 13 career starts to his credit, while sophomores Eric Abojei (five starts in 2018) and Patrick Arnold (four starts) are the projected co-starters at left guard entering Fall Camp.

The key underclassmen on defense returning starts with junior defensive end Garrett Crall.  Crall had 38 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in his first season as a starter in 2018.  Another talented defender is junior defensive tackle Ravontae Holt.  Holt’s four starts in 2018 came in the final four games of the season, corresponding to Wyoming’s four-game winning streak.  Junior nose tackle Javaree Jackson also has two starts and has played in 19 career games over his first two seasons.

Head coach Craig Bohl likes the blend of veterans and younger players he has entering his sixth season as the head coach of the Cowboys.

“When I look at our depth chart, I think Logan Wilson is a guy who you have to say is a dominant player in the Mountain West,” said Bohl.

“Cooper Rothe is another player who has risen to the top of our conference, and arguably you can make a case that they are a couple of the better players in the country.

“We’re in a little different situation than we were last year at quarterback.  Going into last year, we had unproven quarterbacks who had not played.  This year, we have two quarterbacks who have played quite a bit.

“If I look at areas on this year’s team where I think we can make some good progress, I would say the offensive line, the secondary and the linebackers.  I think our defensive front can be good.”

While Bohl acknowledges that his team lost several senior leaders from last year’s team, he also is quick to point out that this year’s Wyoming roster possesses a talented senior class with strong leadership.

“When you talk about guys who are excellent leaders, I think Josiah Hall has a great leadership influence on our team,” said Bohl.  “Certainly Logan (Wilson) does, as well.  Tyler Hall has that leadership quality.  Offensively, Sean Chambers for a young guy has that leadership ability.  Josh Harshman is another fifth-year senior who provides excellent leadership and there are other guys.  We’re not a super young football team, we have some older players on this team to go with the younger players we’ve brought in.

“This blend of experience and youth I think is an indication of where our program is at.  We have recruited, I think, well the last several years.  Certainly you’re going to have some ups and downs, but I think we’re on a trajectory for long-term success.”

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