Members of the Wyoming Cowboy football team practice during spring football as they ready for the coming season. (via University of Wyoming Athletics)

LARAMIE, Wyo. — As the second of five weeks of spring football practice nears completion for the Wyoming Cowboys, the team continues to ready itself for the coming season and has made quite a significant position move on the roster.

The big position move that Bohl announced after Thursday’s practice was of former linebacker Sam Scott to running back. Scott, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound sophomore from Omaha, Nebraska, spent his first two seasons at Wyoming playing linebacker.

But when the Pokes needed another running back for the Arizona Bowl, Scott, a standout high school running back, was asked to step into that role. Bohl announced Thursday that Scott’s move to running back has now been made permanent.

“Sam was really a good running back in high school,” the coach said. “It’s always been my thought that guys who can play running back can be a good linebacker.

“He’s embraced that change. We’re excited about him. He’s making progress and it’s going to be important for us to have a stable of running backs. Those guys get dinged up, they need to be fresh. I also know this, when a defense gets used to all their fits that this running back runs this way, Dawaiian [McNeely] is going to add something. Harrison [Waylee] is going to add something, and Sam is going to add something. We’ll be a run-first football team and those running backs are going to be important. That’s not to say that we’re not working on the passing game. We’re working on the passing game every day.”

Bohl also pointed to a redshirt freshman who came on strong toward the end of the prior season as one of the brightest spots of this offseason.

“Great to be out at practice again today. I think we’re making progress,” Bohl said. “One of the guys I’ve really been encouraged about is [cornerback] Kolbey Taylor. He’s a guy that has a tremendous amount of physical ability. He’s learning how to play football. He’s listening to coaching. It’s hard to coach 6-foot-4 as a corner, so I’m staying the heck away and letting coach [Benny] Boyd continue to work with him.”

Taylor is one of three returning cornerbacks with playing experience for the Cowboys. The other two are graduate Deron Harrell and senior Jakorey Hawkins. Hawkins made nine starts in 2022, while Harrell started five games. Taylor came on strong at the end of the season, playing in eight games as a redshirt freshman in 2022 and earning his first career start in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl. However, he was disqualified early in the bowl game due to a targeting penalty called against him.

Bohl was asked after Thursday’s fifth practice of spring if he was excited about the depth returning at the cornerback position.

“I don’t know if we have enough depth yet,” Bohl said. “I will say that Jakorey had surgery on his shoulder and he’ll miss the rest of spring. Having Kolbey out there has really been encouraging and it’s been exciting seeing him come along and mature. If you can have one dominant corner, you can leverage that. It would be great to have two dominant ones, but if you have one dominant corner you can do some things. We’re hoping one will really rise to the forefront.”

Regarding the passing game, Bohl is encouraged about the development seen at the quarterback position early in spring practice. In addition to returning starter Andrew Peasley, who earned Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors last year, Bohl had good things to say about the other Cowboy quarterbacks competing in spring, including sophomore Evan Svoboda, junior Jayden Clemons and sophomore Hank Gibbs.

“I think Evan Svoboda is making some real progress at the quarterback position,” Bohl said. “Andrew Peasley continues to do well. Jayden Clemons has been out there competing. We’re staggering our repetitions and a lot of that had to do with the number of repetitions Jayden had last year. Evan is a guy who we feel has a real strong arm but his refinement to play the quarterback position wasn’t there last year. We’re giving him ample opportunity to grow this spring. There’s going to be competition there, but right now we’re giving quite a bit of work to Andrew. Evan is getting some and Jayden is getting the rest and he’s been the ultimate team player along with Hank Gibbs.”

At wide receiver, Wyoming fans got a glimpse of what current junior Alex Brown was capable of when he caught the winning touchdown pass from Clemons in the Cowboys’ thrilling 14–13 road win at Colorado State last season. Bohl said Brown has been limited this spring, but he is hoping for big things from him next season.

“Right now he’s not been able to practice a lot. I don’t think it’s anything major with his foot, but he’s only been able to go through some drills,” Bohl said. “I think it’s his time to shine. He can really stretch the field. He’s also a guy where confidence is important. Certainly that play against CSU last year was a big play and I think it’s going to add to his confidence. He’s a big, tall target out there with a great catch radius.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Bohl said he’s seen progress at the linebacker position, where junior Connor Shay has stood out. The Cowboys return both starters from last season, Easton Gibbs and Shae Suiaunoa, but developing depth is something that Bohl has stressed this spring.

Gibbs was named an All-Mountain West first team member last season, leading the Cowboys and ranking 22nd in the nation in tackles, averaging 9.3 per game. He tallied 121 total tackles. Suiaunoa ranked second for the Cowboys with 73 total tackles. Both, however, are out this spring due to offseason surgeries.

“Connor is continuing to improve and that is a complex position he plays,” Bohl said. “He’s changed his body composition. He’s running much better and along with that he’s playing with much more confidence. I think he’s a guy who will challenge for a starting spot this fall. The other guys who aren’t out there, it’s not their fault that they can’t be out there this spring. But I know this, a guy who is out there practicing and getting better — we have to take a hard look at that.”

At the safety and nickel positions, Wyoming returns all three of its starters: junior free safety Isaac White, junior strong safety Wyett Ekeler and sophomore nickel back Wrook Brown. Fellow sophomore nickel back Buck Coors is also back after missing the first eight games of the 2022 season due to injury. Bohl likes the returners at those three positions.

The Cowboy defense has traditionally been one of the team’s strengths throughout Bohl’s tenure as head coach, but the coach recognizes that there is a need for improved tackling from last season. He said his plan to improve that area of his defense is to incorporate more live tackling in practice throughout spring practice.

“The approach this spring is we’re going to do more live work,” he said. “There’s always a balance you strike — how much exposure do you have with injuries, how much live work do you do. The NCAA has mandated X number of days that you can tackle guys to the ground. We’ll go by those rules. We’ve done one day where we worked live tackling.”