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By Robert Gagliardi
WyoSports 

May showing off speed, athleticism on defense for Cowboys

 

Michael Smith/WyoSports

University of Wyoming's D.J. May fights for extra yardage during the second quarter of a game against the 2014 season opener against Montana last season. May was moved to defense for the 2015 season where he has excelled so far in fall camp for the Cowboys.

LARAMIE -- When talking about getting more speed and athleticism on defense, D.J. May's name often comes up.

When talking about possibly returning punts, May's name also is mentioned.

As fall camp for the University of Wyoming football team enters its second week, it is clear that there are places on this team where May is needed.

May was moved from running back to nickel corner after last season because Bohl wanted more speed and athleticism in the back seven of the defense.

But during the spring, May was limited after recovering from knee surgery after he tore his ACL prior to the Colorado State game in mid-October. May watched and learned in the spring, but it wasn't the same as being out there and doing it.

The redshirt junior still has some learning to do, but he's has caught the eye of Bohl.

"First of all, he can run under 4.5-second 40, and he plays with that same type of speed," Bohl said. "Sometimes when a guy moves over from running back to defense you don't see that same type of field speed. We've seen that field speed from him.

"Many times a play will pop, and all of a sudden he's a white blur out there. Those were things we were deficient with last year. Beyond his effort there is his athleticism. He's continuing to learn and taken his role well."

A nickel corner normally is an extra defensive back used in passing situations.

However, in UW's 4-3 scheme the nickel can also be used as a strong-side outside linebacker who plays closer to the line of scrimmage.

At 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, May is undersized as a linebacker. However, size isn't UW's biggest concern.

"He's a guy with good burst and acceleration," UW defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Stanard said. "D.J. is a guy who can do what we need him to do there."

Taking proper angles to the ball and ball carriers, learning the play book and executing them on the field are areas May is still honing as UW is less than three weeks out before its season-opener at home against North Dakota.

May said his biggest transition was just the mentality of moving from offense to defense.

"It's not that hard, but when I was out there a little bit during the spring, it felt weird," he said. "I felt like I didn't fit. But now I feel like a defensive player. I'm flying around and making plays. I'm pretty comfortable out there right now."

May's emergence also has created competition at the nickel and strong-side linebacker with sophomore Tim Kamana, who played safety last season.

"Those guys on edge trying to get better," Bohl said. "Those are incremental signs of a developmental program."

Special teams help

UW has given several guys a look as a punt returner so far in camp, and Bohl has liked what May has done there so far.

The Cowboys haven't done as much with the kickoff return game in camp thus far, but May has experience there. Last season, he returned 10 kickoffs for an average of 24.2 yards. In 2012 as a true freshman he returned 10 kickoffs for a 20.9-yard average.

"I just what to show my athleticism and that I can play," May said. "I've Been here for three years and not been to a bowl game. whatever the team needs I will do it."

Camp notes

Concussions and hamstring injuries are starting to mount for UW.

Bohl said there were 20 guys on his injury report prior to Tuesday's practice, and most of those injuries involve concussions and hamstrings.

"The number of concussions we have now are probably as many as we had all of last year," said Bohl after UW's 11th practice of camp Tuesday. "I think some of it has to do with our guys being competitive, and we've had more spirited contact.

"We've driven them hard and we're a bit nicked up. We need to get some guys back."

Bohl also said the players out who and are being counted on to play major roles this season are expected to miss UW's season-opener Sept. 5 at home against North Dakota.

Senior running back Shaun Wick (concussion) remains out. Bohl said sophomore running back Brian Hill was held out Tuesday with a minor rib injury. Senior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough also was held out with a tight hamstring.

Bohl said UW had just one team period Tuesday, compared to two on most days, due to a lack of players.

He also said most of the offensive and defensive instillation is in, and now it's about "refining our execution and techniques."

"We're making progress, but maybe not as fast as every coach would like," Bohl added.

The Cowboys practice twice today at 9 a.m. and 3:50 p.m. Their first and only major scrimmage of camp is at 11 a.m. Saturday, which is closed to the public and media.

 
 

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