The Wyoming Cowboys conducted their second spring practice on Wednesday morning with the emphasis continuing on fundamentals and increasing the pace of practice. Fifth-year Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen liked the improvement of his team from day one to day two of spring drills, but still emphasized after practice the need for his team to continue to improve each and every day of the Cowboys’ 15 spring practices.

“I think we did some things better today,” said Christensen. “We still didn’t catch the ball as well as I would expect from our skill guys, but we’ll keep working on that. Certainly the tempo, the execution, the practice habits improved from day one to day two, which is what we really look for. The fact that we were better this practice than the last one is what is important.”

Christensen was asked specifically if he was pleased with his team’s adaptation to a faster practice pace this spring.

“They weren’t used to it yesterday, but it is going to get a lot faster,” said Christensen. “It was faster today and it is going to get a lot faster. We still want to quicken the pace more than we’re going right now. The speed of running plays allows us to get more plays in each practice. I think we ran 130 plays today.

“We’re still getting in practice shape. As hard as we conditioned in the off-season, it still takes time to get the players in playing shape. Certainly the tempo was better today than it was yesterday, but not where we need it yet.”

The first two practices of spring have been non-contact drills without pads. The head coach was asked what he and his coaching staff are able to evaluate in these early non-padded practices.

“We’ll meet for about three hours this afternoon and watch the complete video of today’s practice together as a staff and evaluate each snap and each player,” said Christensen.  “We’ll spend more time watching the video than we spend on the practice field. Those sessions include us evaluating every player and talking about their progress to determine who can help us.

“But with that said, it’s hard to evaluate where you really are at until you start hitting and getting more facets of your offense and defense installed. There is a lot of fundamental work getting done right now, so there’s not a great deal of evaluation that we can get done yet. But starting next week, we’ll get a better feel for how everyone is practicing when we put pads on.”

On the defensive side of the ball, cornerbacks coach Renaldo Hill has been added as a full-time assistant coach this season after serving as a graduate assistant at Wyoming a year ago. The former All-Big Ten performer at Michigan State played 10 years in the NFL as both a cornerback and safety, concluding his career in 2010 with the Denver Broncos. Christensen was asked to comment on what it meant to his team to have a recent NFL veteran as a part of its coaching staff.

“Renaldo (Hill) has a wealth of experience at the position,” said Christensen. I think that is critical for our secondary players to hear it from a guy who has done it at the highest level for 10 years. He’s done a nice job, and he can still get out there and demonstrate technique better than anyone, having just been out of the NFL for a couple seasons.”

Offensively, junior wide receiver Dominic Rufran returns after starting every game in 2012, and starting 16 of 25 career games as a true freshman and sophomore. The competition at the wide receiver position this spring is as intense as it has been in many years for the Cowboys, with a great deal of depth in the unit.

“Competition is always good for any position,” said Rufran. “With the receivers, we’ve got a lot of good athletes, and so when you bring that type of competition into each practice it makes us better. The ones get pushed by the twos and the twos by the threes.  Competition makes the team that much better.”

On top of catching the ball effectively, Rufran and his teammates are also heavily involved in the blocking schemes for the Wyoming offense. He said it is one of the areas that is stressed by wide receivers coach Derek Sage.

“Blocking is something Coach (Derek) Sage emphasizes every single day,” said Rufran. “Even without pads on yet, he tells us every day ‘fundametals, technique, be sound’. He wants us to be the best blockers we possibly can be. Everyday, no matter what, we go through blocking drills. In the film room we analyze how we block, and we watch people who block well. We’re always working on blocking.”

Rufran was asked what his personal goals are for his upcoming junior campaign and what his hopes are for the future.

“I’m really just looking to carry over from where last season left off. Give everything I can give, and leave everything  else up to God."

“I’m in business administration and would like to be an entrepreneur  So maybe I’ll own my own business one day -- something along those lines.”

One of the new additions to the Cowboy receiving corps this year is junior-college tight end J.D. Krill.  Christensen was asked how the decision to recruit a tight end into the UW offense came about.

“We wanted to add a few more elements to our offense,” said Christensen.  “I felt comfortable with the things we were doing in the past, but we felt this (adding a tight end) would give us another element.  So far, it’s been good.  I like what I see out of him (J.D. Krill).

“Tight ends are big targets.  We didn’t attach them much at Missouri.  We’re still determining how we’ll utilize that position here as time goes on.  At Missouri, they were a big part of our offense, but they played more of a wide receiver position.  I think J.D. will play more like a true tight end.”

The Cowboys don’t have any other practices prior to Easter break this weekend, but they will have Thursday meetings, and will resume practice on Monday.

“The schedule for the rest of this week, is they will have lifting and position meetings tomorrow, and then they’re off for a three-day break for Easter,” said Christensen.  “Starting next week, we’ll go Monday, Wednesday, Friday for the next four weeks leading up to the spring game on Saturday, April 27.  See the complete schedule of Cowboy spring practices that follows.

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