LARAMIE – The Wyoming offense displayed an ability to throw the ball deep in Saturday’s third practice of spring and first practice in full pads.
Senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry caught a 66-yard touchdown pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Josh Allen, and the two later connected on another TD pass of over 50 yards. The Cowboys practiced in Wyoming’s Indoor Practice Facility, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.
Gentry, who was leading the Mountain West in receiving yards in 2015 prior to suffering a shoulder injury, looked very sharp in Saturday’s practice.
“There certainly were some bright spots today,” said Bohl. “I thought we threw deep well. We’ve always known Josh (Allen) has good arm strength, but today he and Tanner (Gentry) connected with a couple deep balls for touchdowns. Josh put the ball on the money on those two plays.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Bohl was pleased with the pressure the defense was able to get on the Cowboy quarterbacks in Saturday’s practice.
“I thought our defensive line had some good pressure today,” added Bohl. “That can be a double-edged sword because you have to evaluate the offensive line at the same time, but I did think we got some good edge pressure which is going to be really helpful for the progression of our defense.
Bohl was asked to expand on his impressions of the move he and his coaching staff made on the offensive line to start spring practice. That move shifted junior offensive tackle Ryan Cummings from left tackle to right tackle and sophomore offensive tackle Wallace from right tackle to left tackle.
“We think that move is going well,” said Bohl. “The combination of Zach (Wallace) and Chase Roullier on the left side really helps us in some of our five-step drops, and having Ryan (Cummings) and Kaden (Jackson) on the right side seems to be working well.’
Bohl was also encouraged by the work ethic of his team overall and indicated he likes the progress they’ve made in the first week of spring drills.
“There was a good tempo to today’s practice,” said Bohl. “We repped a lot of plays. I think the ‘want to’ is there by the players, and we are certainly further along from previous years in terms of our understanding of what we are doing. We like the progress that we’re making. We look like a more confident football team, however we are still young.”
A couple of seniors to be who finished up the 2015 season playing some of their best football are tight end Jacob Hollister and strongside linebacker/nickel back D.J. May. Bohl was asked to comment on what he sees from those two key players.
“It is another year of experience for both of them, and even though they are seniors we have to remember that this is the first spring D.J. (May) has had a chance to play nickel,” said Bohl. “Jacob (Hollister) has gotten stronger and more comfortable in our system. He is a very capable pass receiver. He needs to continue to develop his blocking skills, but he definitely finished up last season on a productive note.”
May was asked how he thinks he has progressed with one year of experience playing linebacker after playing running back for the Cowboys his first two seasons.
“Last year at this time, I was still hurt and was rehabbing, so I didn’t really start playing linebacker until fall camp,” said May. “I was trying to figure things out week-by-week last year. Now I can try to perfect the things I learned last year. I’m trying to play faster, make all my reads way quicker and minimize my errors.”
May’s first goal for this year is to remain healthy, something that he has struggled with during his career.
“My first goal is just to stay healthy,” said the senior from Federal Way, Wash. “I’ve been trying to keep my weight up. I’m between 210 and 215. Last year, I was playing at like 200 pounds. I’m trying to take care of my body more.
May will also likely be involved in returning kicks for the Cowboys again in 2016. A year ago, he was one of the leading kickoff return men in the Mountain West and the nation, averaging 26.2 yards per kick return to rank No. 4 in the MW and No. 24 in the NCAA.
Hollister has put on significant weight from last season. He is weighing in close to 240 pounds this spring, after playing around 230 as a junior. He was asked how he feels with the extra size.
Hollister had a very productive season in 2015. He was third on the team in catches (26), receiving yards (355) and TD receptions (3), and finished the year with the best game of his career in Wyoming’s victory over UNLV. Hollister caught five passes for a career best 119 yards and scored one TD in the win over the Rebels in the season finale.
One of the final questions that media asked Bohl following Saturday’s practice was whether he saw any separation between the two quarterbacks in the first week of spring practice.
“I think it’s too early,” said Bohl. “There is going to be a body of work that we’ll be looking at. We’re mixing our two quarterbacks (Josh Allen and Nick Smith) going from the first group to the second group. We’re charting everything they do. One guy will have a better day than the other on a certain day, but we’ll continue to evaluate our quarterbacks. Competition brings out the best in people, and both guys are competing well.”
Bohl gave media a preview of what was planned for week two of spring practice when the Cowboys return to the practice field next Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
“We will start incorporating more competitive drills into practice,” said Bohl. “We’re following protocol set by the NCAA where you can only do so much tackling to the ground. We didn’t do that on the first day of pads today, but we’ll start incorporating full-tackling drills. It is important to not only see which players can execute their assignments and be in the right spot but which guys can actually tackle and make plays.”
In addition to Kaden Jackson not completing practice Saturday due to injury, Bohl also said that tight end Austin Fort suffered a pulled muscle. Bohl added that Fort had been showing positive signs of his transition to tight end from quarterback.