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Cowboys prepare for coming season with scrimmage

The loss of starting running back Dawaiian McNeely is a challenge the Pokes will need to figure out before the start of the coming season.

Sept 16, 2022; Laramie, WY, USA; Wyoming Cowboys quarterback Andrew Peasley (6) against the Air Force Falcons at War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-UW Media-Athletics

LARAMIE, Wyo. — With the 2023–24 college football season on the horizon, the Wyoming Cowboys held their first major scrimmage of the year Saturday morning, giving coaches, players and fans a first look at this year’s squad.

The scrimmage was without a key member of the team, however, as head coach Craig Bohl said a knee injury to junior running back Dawaiian McNeely required an MRI and has kept him from practicing.

“It’s a torn ACL,” Bohl said. “Dawaiian will be done for the year, so a major surgery. We were concerned about that. We’re going to support him. He’ll get his surgery, will get into rehab and hopefully he’ll be back for next year.”

Running Backs

McNeely was Wyoming’s projected starting RB entering fall camp. With him out, Bohl said he and his coaching staff are still in the process of evaluating the remaining talent at the running back position.

“We’re working through all that right now,” Bohl said. “D.Q. [James] has done some things well. He’s not quite 100%. We think he will be. He’s been slowed by some rehab, but he’s making some progress.

“I think Jamari [Ferrell] is doing some good things, as is Sam Scott. I was encouraged to see Harrison [Waylee] run up and down the field today. I think he was running up to 3,000 yards today. Whether we’d have him for the first game or not I think is somewhat doubtful. But we’re going to get a couple guys ready to play against [Texas] Tech.”

Bohl added that the loss of McNeely is a blow to the team’s depth, and makes any further injuries to the lineup that more challenging to overcome.

“When you lose a player like Dawaiian, who we were counting on, that is a concern,” the coach said. “It’s less than ideal, but it’s not like we’re going to alter our offense.

“A lot of [the other running backs] are going to be able to show what they can do as a running back in Saturday’s scrimmage. You can practice all you want but who can break a tackle, who can make somebody miss, who goes down on the first contact? It will start separating itself out.”

Saturday’s Scrimmage

The Pokes ran 84 plays during the scrimmage, Bohl said. Among the plays were offensive, defensive and special teams schemes.

“I want to see who can make plays, who can finish off that last 10%, who can finish off a block, who can get off a block, who can tackle, who can come up with a contested catch, who can knock the ball down,” Bohl said, “all those fundamental things. It won’t be a deal where we’re trying to out scheme one side of the ball or the other.”

Quarterback Competition

After a stellar campaign last season helming the quarterback position, Andrew Peasley enters the season as the prohibitive favorite to keep the starting spot. Sophomore Evan Svoboda entered fall camp listed No. 2 on the depth chart, ahead of last year’s backup, Jayden Clemons.

Bohl said Svoboda’s development has been encouraging to see.

“The guys have really worked hard,” Bohl said. “It’s not that we don’t like Jayden, but he had such a library of experience last year that we decided to tilt the rep count for Evan this fall. He’s much further along than where he was. He has always had a strong arm, but I think he’s learning to play quarterback better.”

Strength up the Middle

Along with having Peasley back as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback this year, the Cowboys also return starting center Nofoafia Tulafono.

“Continuity comes into play,” Bohl said. “It’s kind of like in baseball — if you’re strong up the middle you have a shot to be pretty good. Certainly that experience and continuity is going to be important for us.”

Defensive End Depth

Wyoming returns three defensive ends in junior DeVonne Harris and sophomores Sabastian Harsh and Braden Siders. Harsh is not practicing due to a recent minor surgical procedure to clean up a knee, but Bohl said he’s expected back before the season opener. After those three, there are other young players battling to earn playing time at the defensive end rotation.

“Tyce [Westland] is a guy we’re taking a look at and Kevin [Sjogren],” Bohl said. “Those are going to be the next guys up. I think we have three really consistent players [in Harris, Harsh and Siders]. We’re looking to solidify who our fourth and our fifth guys are because at that position, you play a lot of guys.”

Tickets to the 2023 Season

Fans interested in purchasing tickets for the 2023 Wyoming Football season can do so online here or by emailing tickets@uwyo.edu; calling the UW Athletics Ticket Office at 307-766-7220; or stopping by the ticket office on the west side of UW’s Arena-Auditorium. Season tickets start at $170 and single-game tickets start at $20 for adults.