Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Robert Gagliardi
WyoSports 

Youth is no excuse, but factor in Cowboys' early-season struggles

 

September 22, 2017

Prior to fall camp, fourth-year University of Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl said he expected a handful of true freshmen to play this season.

Through UW's first three games, that number is 11. Six redshirt freshmen also have played, along with 17 sophomores.

Three true freshmen and 11 sophomores have started games, and that will go up to 12 as sophomore Gavin Rush will start at left guard in place of injured senior Ryan Cummings (concussion) against Hawaii on Saturday night. Rush started all 14 games at left guard last season.

The point to all this: UW is a young football team. Is it an excuse for its 1-2 start? No, but it is fact that with many young players seeing significant playing time there will be growing pains.

As UW approaches the one-third mark of its season, those growing pains need to subside if it hopes to make a run at a Mountain West championship, or even get bowl eligible.

Bohl and staff haven't hesitated to play young players since they arrived in Laramie. Early on, much of that was done out of necessity based on the make-up of the roster. Some was done due to injuries.

For the most part, the reason for the injection of youth this season is those players were deemed to be the best to give the Cowboys the best chance to win.

The best example of this is along the offensive line.

Logan Harris of Torrington and Alonzo Velazquez earned starting jobs at center and right tackle, respectively, based on their performance during fall camp. It also enabled UW to move a proven commodity at right tackle in Cummings to left guard to shore concerns there.

UW coaches felt the five players they put out there along the offensive line through the first three games were the best five – no matter the position – to help the team win. Agree or disagree with that all you want, but the coaches see a lot more than you and I when it comes to making those decisions.

Going beyond the freshmen, many of UW's sophomores who are playing now may have seen playing time last season, but now have bigger roles. The best examples are at running back, wide receiver and tight end.

Remember, folks, UW had to replace 4,287 yards and 35 touchdowns at running back in Brian Hill, and 5,546 yards and 46 touchdowns in wide receivers Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt, along with tight end Jacob Hollister. Let's also not forget center Chase Roullier, who along with Hill and Hollister are currently on active NFL rosters.

At least right now, things don't look good for UW, especially offensively where it has been inconsistent at best.

Perhaps it is not fair to gauge those shortcomings against No. 24-ranked Oregon and 3-0 Iowa, just like it may not be the best judge of some of the Cowboys' successes with a 27-0 victory over a poor Football Championship Subdivision team such as Gardner-Webb.

A better gauge should start with Saturday night's MW opener against Hawaii, and the rest of the teams on the schedule.

Again, the players UW is putting on the field right now are the ones the coaches feel give them the best chance to win. That puts more of an emphasis on Bohl and staff to get those players ready to play each week. It also puts a lot of pressure on the players to execute their assignments.

Having so many young players on the field may bode well for the future, but the future is now for the 2017 Cowboys. Decisions to play so many youngsters weren't based on what future teams may do.

Youth isn't an excuse for UW's early-season struggles, but it is fact. The coaches must help those players grow up sooner than later for the Cowboys to be successful this season.

 
 

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