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Wyoming's defense is shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme this season under new coach Bohl

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LARAMIE, Wyoming — Finally, Eddie Yarbrough is home.

When he says that, Wyoming's junior defensive end isn't referring to Laramie or his hometown of Aurora, Colorado He's not getting metaphorical, either, waxing on about home being a state of mind.

Home, in Yarbrough's definition, lies on a football field, next to three other mammoths ready to overwhelm an offensive line and lay claim to a quarterback.

"I know the 4-3 like the back of my hand. That's home for me," Yarbrough said, flashing his trademark child-like grin.

Yarbrough and Co. have plenty to smile about these days. Wyoming's new coach, Craig Bohl, has brought a defense-first mindset as well as a new scheme — the 4-3 — to War Memorial Stadium. But as these Cowboys have proven, "new" doesn't necessarily mean "unfamiliar."

The 4-3 scheme, which features four defensive linemen and three linebackers, was the primary set at Wyoming up until last season. Many players currently on the roster were recruited to play in that scheme, and just as many — Yarbrough included — came from that scheme in high school.

With more bodies lining up in front, each lineman's responsibility — their gap — is well-defined. It's also harder for an offensive line to double-team a specific player, since there's more wrecking balls crashing into them every snap.

Sophomore defensive tackle Uso Olive told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1rKMuyb ), "I can play my game now."

Olive barely waited for the question to be completed before hurling the answer right back. Confident, he repeated himself even louder.

"I can play my game now. I can play my game now."

Saturday is the first day of spring practice in full pads.

As Yarbrough likes to say, it's the first day of full-on violence.

"I have the day circled on my calendar, because I'm ready to go out there and hit. I love hitting. I love the contact of the game," Yarbrough said. "I love the things you can get away with. If you tried to do this on a Sunday afternoon at a Walmart, you'd probably get arrested for half the things we do as a defensive line. I'm excited to just get out there and be violent."

Olive and senior nose guard Patrick Mertens, who both return from last season's rotation, have a new coach but a familiar face guiding them toward the quarterback. After previously coaching the running backs and offensive line, veteran assistant coach Pete Kaligis will work with the defensive tackles this season.

And Kaligis, previously an All-American offensive lineman at Washington, brings a unique perspective to the defensive line room:

The enemy's.

"He's telling me what an offensive lineman is doing, his steps, and that's very beneficial to any d-lineman because you understand your enemy, your opponent," Olive said. "Coach Kaligis brings energy. He's passionate about the game, and he's passionate about us."

With the 4-3 defense, Wyoming is going to need more linemen to step up and be productive on the interior of the line behind Mertens and Olive. That could mean Dalton Fields and James Diamanti, both Colorado products who redshirted last year.

It could be Chase Appleby, Troy Boyland or one of the several defensive tackles that arrive in the fall.

Depth on the interior was a weakness last season, and with the switch to the 4-3 Wyoming can't afford to have it exposed again.

"It's going to be critical," Kaligis said simply.

For now, those questions linger in the background. Enthusiasm and energy shines through. Yarbrough is excited to be "home," and Olive plans to live in the backfield.

The verdict is out on the new-look 4-3. But to some, the future is already bright.

"Sacks are going to go up this year. I can guarantee you that," Olive said definitively. "It's going to be a great year for the state of Wyoming."


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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