Football is back in Laradise

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The University of Wyoming football team began spring practice Tuesday. The Pokes will hold 15 practices, culminating in the Spring Game April 27.

A combined 13 starters return for the 2019 season, meaning a lot of holes will need filling before the opener against Missouri. Here are a few burning questions for spring football.

 

How big of a step will Sean Chambers take?

Chambers took over the quarterbacking duties Oct. 20, replacing starter Tyler Vander Waal who was largely ineffective through the first month and a half of the season. Chambers kickstarted a once dormant offense mostly with his ability to run. He rushed for 396 yards in three starts before breaking his leg against Air Force.

Chambers only attempted 25 passes, completing 15 of them, in the quartet of games he saw the field. How much will offensive coordinator Brent Vigen open up the playbook for Chambers? Will Chambers be able to sling it around a little more this fall, having been in the system a year now?

He hasn’t thrown it that much, but Chambers has proven he has a capable arm. Also, how much of Chambers running game will be taken away, if any at all? He’s a good runner, but running your quarterback a lot increases the likelihood of injury (i.e. Chambers last year).

 

Who carries the load at running back?

Nico Evans was by far the most pleasant surprise from last year’s 6-6 campaign. The redshirt senior burst onto the scene, leading the Mountain West Conference in rushing.

Redshirt freshman Xazavian Valladay and true freshman Jevon Bigalow received 71 and 69 carries, gaining 396 and 292 yards, respectively. Which one of those two will make the larger leap in year two? Or will Wyoming go with a two-headed rushing attack?

The Pokes need a strong running game to alleviate some of the pressure on Chambers. An effective running game is something the Pokes lacked two years ago when they had one of the worst offenses in the county, and that was with Josh Allen at quarterback.

 

Searching for safeties

Strong safety Andrew Wingard and free safety Marcus Epps became household names during their careers at Wyoming. For four years, Pokes’ fans could count on the back end of the secondary being held in check.

Who steps up now? One of the answers is Alijah Halliburton. The senior played in 12 games last season, collecting 61 total tackles. Who will be Halliburton’s running mate at safety?

 

How will the defense look?

Perhaps the biggest loss from last season was a man that didn’t even suit up for the Pokes. Defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton left to take the same job at Kansas State, and Wyoming promoted secondaries coach Jake Dickert to defensive coordinator.

It’s no secret, Wyoming’s defense was nothing short of stout under Hazelton.

In his two years as defensive coordinator, the Pokes ranked inside the top 25 nationally in total defense.

In Laramie  in November, being able to lean on your defense is a must. Can the Pokes do that with a new guy calling the shots?

These 15 practices are paramount for Wyoming. With plenty of question marks both offensively and defensively, each rep this spring will be evaluated and dissected as the Pokes begin preparation for the 2019 season.

 

Pokes Notes

The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team defeated Pepperdine 61-60 Thursday night in the third round of the NIT. The Cowgirls will play at Arizona in the quarterfinals Sunday.

UW’s wrestling team finished in a tie for 34th at the NCAA tournament last weekend, tallying 9.5 points. Former Sheridan Bronc Hayden Hastings was eliminated in the second round of the consolation bracket.

UW men’s golf team finished ninth as team at the Oregon Duck Invitational. Former Sheridan Bronc Kirby Coe-Kirkham placed 29th overall (second on the team).

By |Mar. 29, 2019|

About the Author:

Bud Denega joined The Sheridan Press in November 2017 as the primary sports reporter. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Wyoming. Prior to working in Sheridan, Bud spent time as a sports reporter for the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota, before being a sports reporter for the Laredo Morning Times in Laredo, Texas. Email Bud at: bud.denega@thesheridanpress.com

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