April 3, 2012

Cowboys Prepare For First Scrimmage

The Wyoming Cowboys are set for their first scrimmage of springs drills and UW head coach Dave Christensen expects to get a better evaluation of his Pokes on Wednesday. They will have three official scrums before the end of drills.

"We're trying to test our players in a variety of scenarios," said head coach Dave Christensen. "Each of these situations is designed to see how they perform under the pressures of those particular situations. We're looking to find which players are ready to play right now, and next identify those who are close. Going forward, we will evaluate over the remaining eight spring practices which players we feel can help us win games next year."

When asked some of the players who have impressed early in spring drills Christensen said he has been encouraged by a number of younger players who are getting increased reps this spring.

"Colby Kirkegaard (quarterback) is a player who I feel improved from the first 50-percent scrimmage to the second one," said Christensen. "I think he has done some good things. Our offensive line has made improvement through the first six practices. We have a lot of competition there. I think Daniel Fleischman is getting better each day, and he's finally healthy. Daniel is a smart kid. The same with Travis Bogard, he's a smart football player. They're both developing and getting better each practice. Jake Jones is making good progress, as is Austin Traphagan. Connor Rains, our junior-college transfer, is getting better each day. He's very athletic, but needs to continue to increase his strength as he makes the transition to this level. He's certainly one of our more athletic offensive linemen. This is really valuable time for those young players."

Two of the focal points will be to find talent at wide receiver and a replacements for Alvester Alexander who left early to enter the NFL draft and Ghaali Muhammad moving from RB to linebacker.

"From the receiving standpoint, we are starting to come along at that position. There are a number of young guys competing for playing time at receiver," said Christensen. "At running back, I think Kody Sutton has been practicing better and better each day. He's starting to make some improvement."

One of the more athletic players on defense is sophomore Mark Nzeocha and he is making good strides since last year, along with a number of other underclassmen.

"Mark Nzeocha is one of the young defensive players who are making nice progress," added Christensen. "We moved him from linebacker to safety, and he is doing a nice job there. It is good to get Partick Mertens (defensive tackle) back and seeing him out there again. Linebacker-wise we have some experience with Korey Jones, Devyn Harris and Oliver Schober. I think Zack Berg is starting to stand out a little bit for a young guy who is coming along. Both corners return in Blair (Burns) and Marqueston (Huff). In terms of the young guys backing them up, I've been pleased with Darren White and DeAndre Jones. They've both been doing a nice job."

Christensen gave a couple updates on the status of some veteran Cowboys who have been limited this spring by offseason injuries or surgeries.

"I'm pleased with how they're all coming along," said Christensen. "Brett (Smith) is able to get a lot of throwing in during practice. I feel good about the work he has been able to get done. He's improving his arm strength, and is doing a nice job. Luke Ruff is getting a lot of reps in coverage at safety, and is getting good quality work in but is limited in his contact."

The return of Patrick Mertens to the defensive line is expected to give the Cowboys a boost this fall after sitting out last season with illness.

"Patrick Mertens is not back to wear he was conditioning-wise yet, but he's certainly shown that he can get through an entire practice and get a lot of work done," said Christensen. "+It's just a matter of improving his stamina throughout spring."

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