2023 Wyoming Spring Football Practice Off and Running
* University of Wyoming press release
LARAMIE -- Wyoming Football is back in action, kicking off Spring Football this week. The 2023 Cowboys return a team full of veterans from a squad that finished second in the Mountain West Mountain Division in 2022 and earned its fifth bowl-game appearance in the past seven seasons.
Entering 2023 Spring Drills is far from where the Cowboys were a year ago when Wyoming was the fourth least experienced team in the country but exceeded all expectations. Wyoming was the surprise team of the Mountain West, being picked fifth in the Mountain Division in the preseason media poll before finishing second.
A year ago, the Wyoming Cowboys entered Spring Football returning only 10 of 24 starters. A year later, UW enters the first week of spring practice returning 18 of 24 starters.
“It’s a fun time. It’s great to be out at practice,” said head coach Craig Bohl. “Our football team made some really good gains in the offseason. It’s always interesting when we have a debriefing with our strength and conditioning staff and go through the gains from winter conditioning. But a lot of times there is a difference between what has gone on in the weight room and how our guys translate when they get on the grass.
“I was encouraged by some of the things we saw this week. We’re a little bit thin at some spots. We’re probably not as deep at the offensive line right now because of some off-season surgeries. But we were able to rotate with three quarterbacks working on Tuesday. We’re taking a hard look at Evan Svoboda (sophomore, quarterback). I thought he did some good things today. Our transfer, Harrison (Waylee, junior, running back) from NIU has also showed some good things. Overall, it was a good first day, but we’ve got a whole lot more to go.”
When asked what areas of his team he was most focused on this spring, Bohl said, “First of all at the quarterback position, we’ve got to have continual progress there. We want to see Andrew (Peasley, graduate, quarterback) take another step forward as far as mastering our offense. Last year, a lot of things were new for him. He’s a bright guy, but it was his first year in our system. I think we’ve really got to zero in on who our back-up will be (at quarterback). Certainly the running back position is going to be important, and then some of our linebackers are injured right now so it’s an opportunity for some younger guys to show what they can do. And then that corner position is really important for us. I was encouraged by some things Kolbey (Taylor, sophomore, cornerback) did today. He is a long angular guy. I think we have good competition there.”
Bohl was asked what he specifically saw from Svoboda in Tuesday’s first practice of spring.
“Today, I saw him be much more sure of himself with his throws. His accuracy has improved. I thought he was better handling the huddle today, and he was more decisive.”
Another young quarterback who signed with the Wyoming Football program in the 2023 signing class and enrolled early at UW this January was true freshman Kaden Anderson.
Anderson suffered a season-ending injury his senior year of high school at Southlake Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas, and is still rehabbing that injury at Wyoming. Southlake Carroll has produced several successful Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) quarterbacks in recent history, including: current Texas Longhorn starter Quinn Ewers, who was Anderson’s predecessor and was the No. 1 recruit in the nation.
Chase Daniel (University of Missouri), Craig McElroy (University of Alabama) and Kenny Hill (Texas A&M and TCU) were all former Southlake QBs who went on to successful college careers.
“He (Kaden Anderson) is a very mature young man. I had a really transparent conversation with him and his mother," said Bohl. “We felt that it was best for him to get here, go through an offseason and spend time with our sports medicine staff. The other thought was to not have him come now, delay his enrollment, which could save him a year, but we felt like his healing is going to be really important this year. Also, this system we have, with complex terminology and all the moving parts, we felt like it was important for him to be in those meetings this year. But make no mistake about it, you’re not going to see him running around during next fall camp doing activities at the beginning.”
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At running back, the Cowboys return two experienced and talented backs in junior Dawaiian McNeely and sophomore D.Q. James plus they’ve added an experienced transfer in junior Harrison Waylee from Northern Illinois and sophomore Jordon Vaughn returns after playing well in last season’s Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl, giving the Pokes a wealth of talent.
“If you look at our track record in the past, we’ve ideally liked to have a 1-2 punch,” said Bohl. “Sometimes during the course of the year because of the number of hits those guys take, the depth at that position is really important. That position is going to be heavily looked at. Dawaiian (McNeely, junior, running back) was able to practice today, but I think he is going to miss some practices this spring. They are going to take a plate out, but we were in non-contact drills today and it was good to see him move around. He’s put on some lean muscle mass. I think he’s up to about 210 pounds. He’s always been a powerful guy, but he’s been a little undersized. That position in our offense, as you know, is a critical position. We’ve got to be able to move the sticks. It will be fun to see those guys progress this spring.”
The Cowboys have only one change on their coaching staff from the end of last season. Long-time coach Marty English decided to retire after 37 years as a college coach -- 12 of those years spent coaching at Wyoming.
His role as Wyoming’s defensive ends coach has been filled by former Cowboy great Brian Hendricks, who was a former player of English’s during his playing career from 2008-11. Hendricks will be entering his 11th season as a college coach in 2023. He most recently was the defensive line coach at Illinois State.
“It’s been a really good transition,” said Bohl. “I love Marty (English) and applaud him for being transparent with me and saying, ‘It’s time. I know it’s time.’ We started looking to see where we wanted to go from here, and of course Brian had played here for Coach English and was a two-time captain here. Anytime we have an opportunity to bring back a skilled coach who understands the culture here, we’re going to do that. Coach English and Brian had a chance to spend some time together during the transition, and opposed to some other changeovers where maybe the young guy doesn’t want to hear a thing from the old guy, with those two it has been seamless.”
In addition to the veterans returning for the Cowboys, there are also some other individuals returning this spring after suffering season-ending injuries last year. One of those is sophomore defensive end Sabastian Harsh from Scottsbluff, Neb.
Harsh received rave reviews from the Cowboy coaching staff during the spring of 2022 and into fall camp before he suffered a season-ending injury prior to the ‘22 season kicking off. Bohl was asked to share where Harsh’s recovery stands entering spring practice.
“He’s still a little bit off,” said Bohl. “I thought he was a little bit rusty today, but you can certainly see his athleticism. He’s very instinctive and it will be great to be have him participating in spring practices. He’s been cleared and we’re really excited about Sabastian.”
In the age of the transfer portal, Bohl was also asked if he has spoken with Wyoming head basketball coach Jeff Linder or given him any advice regarding having now gone through the transfer portal cycle the past couple of years and how Cowboy Football has adapted.
“I’ve spoken to Jeff,” said Bohl. “Of course our sports are somewhat different, but probably no one can relate to the chairs we sit in more than each other. We (Wyoming Football) had to evolve. As you guys know, last year’s football team we had a lot of unknowns, but I felt like we had a lot of players who really bought into wanting to play for Wyoming, and I thought we were a better football team because of that.
“I told him he’s going to learn a lot from these years. I encouraged Jeff to stay who he is. People know who he is, and I really want to encourage our fans to understand the landscape has changed but the sky is not falling. We’ll adapt and move forward.”
One of the areas of the Wyoming Football team that will have a number of new faces this season is wide receiver.
The Cowboys signed two veteran Division I transfers in Ayir Asante and Devin Boddie Jr. Both receivers will join the Cowboys in the summer of 2023 as juniors. Asante is transferring to Wyoming from Holy Cross, an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school in Worcester, Mass. He earned Second Team All-Patriot League honors at wide receiver for the Crusaders in three consecutive seasons (2019, ‘20 and ‘21) as voted on by Patriot League head coaches. He also was named Second Team All-Patriot League by Phil Steele in 2021. Asante was selected as an Honorable Mention Freshman All-American by Hero Sports in 2019.
He helped lead Holy Cross to their fourth consecutive league title in ‘22, with a 12-1 overall record and a 6-0 Patriot League mark. Holy Cross entered the 2022 FCS Playoffs as the No. 8 seed, earning them a first round bye. The Crusaders lost in the quarterfinal round to eventual FCS National Champion South Dakota State.
Boddie Jr. comes to Wyoming from Vanderbilt University of the SEC where he was part of the Commodores’ program the past four seasons. His best season came in 2021 when he ranked fourth on the team, catching 29 passes for 263 yards and scoring one touchdown vs. Stanford, while appearing in 12 games. In 2022, he played in six games, catching three passes for 61 yards with his long reception being a 38-yard reception against Hawai’i. A very successful high school player in the state of Tennessee, Boddie played his senior year of high school football at Whitehaven High School in Memphis, Tenn., where he was rated a three-star recruit by ESPN, Rivals and 247 Sports and earned All-State honors.
“The decision that was made with Ayir and Devin was for those guys to be able to finish out their degrees,” said Bohl. “It will be great to get them here during the course of the summer. To say that they will be able to replicate all the things they’re missing right now wouldn’t be accurate, but there is a difference between playing wide receiver as opposed to playing offensive line. The players can get some skill work done this summer on their own with 7-on-7 work in terms of tempo and timing and the fact that Andrew (Peasley) has played a lot of football helps that process. We need weapons at the wide receiver position, however I will say some of the gains that our current guys have made in this offseason have been outstanding. With the guys we have here, I think you’ll see us a step faster, but it will be great to add those guys in this summer.”
In terms of competition for positions this spring, Bohl said that he spoke with the team specifically about what would take place during spring practice this year and what he and his coaching staff would be focused on.
“I talked to our guys today, and I told them, ‘We’re going to teach you, we’re going to train you, we’re going to trust you and then we’re going to evaluate you,’” said Bohl. “All our players need to have a chip on their shoulders.”
Tuesday and Thursday marked the first of two of 15 spring practices for the Pokes. Wyoming will practice on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays over the next five weeks, with the final day being the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 29 at 2 p.m. in War Memorial Stadium.
The Spring Game will be open to the public. All other practices will be closed.
Craig Bohl -- The Longest Tenured Football Coach in Wyoming History
Craig Bohl enters his 10th season as Wyoming’s head football coach in 2023. That is the longest tenure for a football coach in Wyoming Football history. Bohl was previously tied with John Corbett and Lloyd Eaton, who each coached the Cowboys for nine seasons. Corbett coached the Pokes a century ago, from 1915-23.
One of Corbett’s nine seasons (2018) the Pokes ended up canceling the season due to a flu epidemic. Eaton led the Cowboys for nine seasons from 1962-70.
2023 University of Wyoming Football Spring Practice Schedule
Tuesday, March 28 6:10 Approximate Practice End Time, Media Interviews After Practice in HAPC Team Room (Practice #1)
Thursday, March 30 6:10 Approximate Practice End Time, Media Interviews After Practice in HAPC Team Room (Practice #2)
Saturday, April 1 TBA, No Media Interviews on Saturdays (Practice #3)
Tuesday, April 4 Late afternoon, Media Interviews After Practice (Practice #4)
Thursday, April 6 Late afternoon, Media Interviews After Practice (Practice #5)
Saturday, April 8 TBA, No Media Interviews on Saturdays (Practice #6)
Tuesday, April 11 Late afternoon, Media Interviews After Practice (Practice #7)
Thursday, April 13 Late afternoon, Media Interviews After Practice (Practice #8)
Saturday, April 15 TBA, No Media Interviews on Saturdays (Practice #9)
Tuesday, April 18 Late afternoon, Media Interviews After Practice (Practice #10)
Thursday, April 20 Late afternoon, Media Interviews After Practice (Practice #11)
Saturday, April 22 TBA, No Media Interviews on Saturdays (Practice #12)
Tuesday, April 25 Late afternoon, Media Interviews After Practice (Practice #13)
Thursday, April 27 Late afternoon, Media Interviews After Practice (Practice #14)
Saturday, April 29 2:00 p.m., Brown and Gold Game, War Memorial Stadium, Media Interviews After Game (Practice #15)
The Spring Game on Saturday, April 29 will be free and open to the public. All other practices are closed.
PRESS PASS: Roaming The War
-PRESS PASS: Roaming The War