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Wyoming’s offensive line developing depth as veteran defensive line continues to shine

The Cowboys may have one of the best returning defensive line units in the entire Mountain West Conference.

University of Wyoming Cowboys offensive line. (UW Photo)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — As the Wyoming Cowboys concluded Wednesday’s practice on the North 40 practice fields, the defensive line unit continued to shine as they were able to put pressure on Wyoming quarterbacks repeatedly. With the returning talent on the defensive line, though, that is not that surprising. The Cowboys may have one of the best returning defensive line units in the entire Mountain West Conference.

“I talked to [offensive line coach] Joe Tripodi and [offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach] Tim Polasek yesterday about that,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. “Within our conference, our front, particularly our tackles, feature three bona fide players [Cole Godbout, Jordan Bertagnole and Gavin Meyer] who have stood up and gone toe-to-toe with whoever they’ve faced. That brings out the best in you when you have to go up against those type guys everyday in practice. And as coaches we have to look and see where we’re making progress [on the offensive line] when considering the dynamics of who they’re going up against.

“I’m seeing some positive signs. I think our offensive line is continuing to make progress. A guy who is emerging is Luke Sandy, who is from Colorado and who has not played a lot, but he is pressing himself into a position where he may be our sixth [offensive lineman], could be our fifth. Ideally, you want to have eight offensive linemen. To say we have eight that we feel completely good about right now would be less than honest. But Luke is making progress and there is a real battle with he and Wes King.

“I also want to say that I’m really pleased with how our guys are practicing. There has been intense competition, but there hasn’t been the extracurricular activity that ends up in a fight. Some people think that is macho but it really has nothing to do with football teams getting better. I’ve been around a lot of really good football teams and most of the time if guys are able to practice hard against one another every play, that is what makes them better.”

Leading the offensive line group this season are sixth-year offensive tackle Frank Crum and junior center Nofoafia Tulafono, who both have extensive starting experience. After those two veterans, however, are a group of much younger players. On the right side of the offensive line are sophomore guard Jack Walsh and sophomore right tackle Caden Barnett. At left guard are redshirt freshman King and redshirt freshman Sandy.

Crum an example of Wyoming’s ability to develop players

Wyoming’s sixth-year offensive tackle Crum is one of the shining examples of how the Cowboy Football program has been able to develop players through the years. Crum grew up in Laramie and played football and basketball at Laramie High School. His father, Gary Crum, was an All-Conference offensive lineman at Wyoming in 1981. When Frank was coming out of high school, he was trying to decide between pursuing a college football career or a college basketball career.

“Frank was a guy who was going to be a basketball player,” Bohl said. “He had some good size and played here at Laramie High. He, I and his dad had a really firm conversation up in my office. I told him we were going to offer him, and I wanted him to think about that because there would be no quitting and he was going to have to work extremely hard. I also told him we were rolling the dice a little bit on whether he was going to take ownership to get bigger and stronger, and he’s done all that. His recruitment was certainly more art than science. He took ownership of his development, and he represents this state well. He’s on everybody’s NFL draft board right now and he’s having a good fall camp. What’s really encouraging is he’s concerned about the Cowboys and not all the other stuff. It was a little bit of a reach — but a good decision.”

Running back updates

Bohl shared with media that there was a potential significant injury suffered in Wednesday’s practice to junior running back Dawaiian McNeely.

“I’m concerned about Dawaiian,” Bohl said. “He did not finish practice. We’re looking at a potential knee injury, and we’re looking at getting an MRI. We have a great partnership with Premier [Bone and Joint] and hopefully we’ll get some information on Dawaiian soon. I feel for him. He’s gone through so many injuries. Obviously, we wouldn’t be pulling an MRI as soon as possible if we weren’t concerned by some of the initial indicators.

“[Junior running back] Harrison Waylee is making really good progress, and we’re encouraged about that. He is not practicing yet, but he is out running now. D.Q. [James, sophomore running back] is making progress. He’s been cleared and we’re giving him some repetitions now. We’ll continue to monitor how many reps we give him. I also think Jamari [Ferrell, junior running back] is doing some really good things, along with [sophomore running back] Sam Scott.”

On a positive note

There was one positive injury update provided by Bohl on Wednesday regarding sophomore defensive end Sabastian Harsh.

“We do expect Sabastian Harsh back by the start of the season,” Bohl said. “He had a wire put in his knee [in a previous surgery] and unfortunately that broke. I don’t want to say it was a cosmetic procedure that was done today, but we anticipate that [injury] is not going to be something that is going to hold him back.”

Bohl’s thoughts on conference realignment, expansion

“A lot of those things are outside of my pay grade; however, as 12 football coaches in our little world there is a great deal of unity there,” Bohl said. “I would like to applaud our commissioner [Gloria Nevarez]. I think she is really savvy and has a good pulse on what is happening. Also, I want to give a big shout out to [former Mountain West Commissioner] Craig Thompson. There was a lot of foresight that he had as far as maintaining this league through all the tumultuous times. We have one commissioner who has exited who is still having an impact, and I think our current commissioner along with [MW Deputy Commissioner] Bret Gilliland gives us really solid leadership down in Colorado Springs [at the league office]. I do think we have a unified league. I think we’re well positioned with really good leadership, really good coaches and really good institutions.”

Tickets to the 2023 season

Fans interested in purchasing tickets to the 2023 Wyoming Football season may go online at www.GoWyo.com/tickets; email tickets@uwyo.edu; call the UW Athletics Ticket Office at 307-766-7220; or stop by the ticket office on the west side of UW’s Arena-Auditorium. Season tickets start as low as $170 and single-game tickets start as low as $20 for adults.