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Wyoming team begins first of 15 spring practices next Monday; coach Bohl looks to fill gaps

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LARAMIE, Wyoming — Evaluating players and implementing systems on offense, defense and special teams.

Those are the top two goals for second-year University of Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl during the Cowboys' 15 spring practices, the first of which is Monday.

The evaluation is going to be challenging at some positions and could be tougher at others with a handful of players experienced players not coming back from last year. Along the offensive line, senior guard Jake Jones, junior guard Sam Hardy and senior tackle Austin Traphagan won't be back, according to UW's spring prospectus.

Jones played in 34 games and started 31. Hardy and Traphagan combined for 26 games and eight starts.

UW sports information director Tim Harkins said Jones graduates in May with a degree in math and wants to "move on in life." And he said Traphagan wants to follow in his father's footsteps to be a veterinarian and wants to focus on school.

It's uncertain at this time why Hardy left.

UW returns three starters in the offensive line — senior center Rafe Kiely, sophomore tackle Ryan Cummings and junior guard Chase Roullier.

But Kiely will be limited during the spring due to injury. His backup last season — junior Jacob English — was moved to defensive tackle.

"We're going to be thin at some spots as we head into spring," Bohl said. "But with the three veterans returning, we feel they can help some of our younger players continue our progress in establishing a tough, physical style of play up front."

As many as seven offensive linemen, six of whom are either redshirt freshmen or sophomores, should get looks this spring. Senior Troy Boyland was moved over from defensive tackle. Redshirt freshman Brinkley Jolley was moved from tight end.

Even though the offensive line lost some key players and evaluating all players at every position is important this spring, Bohl said biggest concerns are quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive secondary.

Bohl told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (http://bit.ly/19nk9Zp ) that UW is at "almost at ground zero" at the last three spots.

UW has five quarterbacks to look at this spring, but senior Cameron Coffman has experience on his side.

He transferred from Indiana last season and sat out to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. In 14 games at Indiana he hit 59 percent of his passes for 2,763 yards with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. As a sophomore he was 247 of 407 for 2,734 with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said, "(Coffman) comes in with the strong chance he would be able to be the guy this coming fall. I don't think he's done anything to lead us to believe that isn't a great possibility,"

Bohl said Coffman's experience is a plus, but the other four quarterbacks have worked hard over the winter. They are: redshirt sophomore Aaron Young, sophomore and junior-college transfer Josh Allen and redshirt freshmen Austin Fort of Gillette and Nick Smith.

"To walk out of spring football with a declared starter at quarterback is what you're looking for," Bohl said. "My experience has been if you have some sort of 'quarterback controversy,' more than likely you're not real solid at quarterback.

"The likelihood of having two really talented quarterbacks you can't decide on because they're so good doesn't happen a lot."

At receiver, UW has only two players on scholarship back who caught passes last season - juniors Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt.

Junior Lucas Wacha is the only linebacker who returns who has played a lot of football.

An outside linebacker his first two years, Wacha will be moved inside this season at around 217 pounds.

Senior Malkaam Muhammad has played in 17 games, mostly on special teams, and he missed time last season with a dislocated elbow.

Three juniors have moved to linebacker this spring: Eric Nzeocha (from tight end), Trent Sewell (from receiver) and Will Tutein (from safety).

Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Stanard said, "It's going to be an interesting spring from the standpoint of a lot of evaluation."

In the secondary, senior Tyran Finley and sophomore Robert Priester started games at cornerback in 2014. But Priester will miss all of spring recovering from knee surgery.

Sophomore Tim Kamana is the most experienced guy back at safety, having started eight games last season and recorded 44 tackles.

UW also has a new safeties coach in Curt Mallory.

Said Kamana: "It's a clean slate, and (spring) will be the first impression that coach Mallory gets of us. It's all about playing as one tight-knit group and trusting the guys around you to execute their assignment."


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com

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