LARAMIE – Red is not a good color if you are a University of Wyoming football player.
Those who are hurt wear red jerseys at practice. They do not take part in contact drills. And depending on the severity of their injuries, some may not be involved in certain drills either.
A week into fall camp, there are about 15 players wearing red, mostly on defense.
On Monday juniors Blair Burns and DeAndre Jones – the projected starters at cornerback – joined that group. Their injuries occurred in Sunday’s first fall scrimmage and are not considered serious.
Junior-college transfer Tyran Finley and redshirt freshman Cortland Fort thus worked with the starters during Monday morning’s practice.
One of the more serious injuries is to junior defensive end Riley Lange. He suffered a stress fracture in his left foot during last Friday’s practice and is out four to six weeks.
He had been projected to back up sophomore Eddie Yarbrough.
After practice, coach Dave Christensen told his players to spend as much time as needed in the training room to take care of their bodies.
Fall camp amps up this week as the team had its first of four two-a-day practices. The final double session is next Monday.
“The bottom line is: We are going to play the guys who practice,” Christensen said. “I suggested to them they get their injuries taken care of and get back on the field.
“A lot of guys are sore. I would expect the entire team to have sore hamstrings and be tired, have a headache – that’s part of two-a-days and part of the grind of playing college football.
“We want to get some of those guys out of the red jerseys and back on the field.”
Burns, Jones and Lange are arguably the three most significant injuries for the defense. But other injuries to senior defensive tackle Justin Bernthaler, junior safety Jesse Sampson, sophomore linebacker Zack Berg and redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Awrabi have created depth issues.
That also has made assessing the defense harder in terms of finding the best 11 players – and backups – for the start of the season.
But it has opened the door for others to show what they can do.
True freshman Timmy Hayes, along with Finley and Fort, has played more at cornerback with the first two units as have linebacker Alex Borgs and true freshman safety Xavier Lewis.
“It’s teaching us a valuable lesson that anytime someone goes down, the next person has to step up,” senior free safety Marqueston Huff said. “It’s creating depth, which is good for this football team.”
Christensen noted the areas that stood out to him after watching the film of Sunday’s scrimmage:
n The play of Finley at cornerback, who had a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown, as well as at punt returner.
n How well all the quarterbacks managed the offense. Junior Brett Smith and sophomore backup Jason Thompson were the most productive. They were a combined 39-of-49 for 529 yard with eight touchdowns and one interception.
n The play of the starting offensive line unit. They are junior center Albert Perez, senior guard Tyler Strong, sophomore guard Jake Jones and junior tackles Connor Rains and Walker Madden.
n The defense needs to get more pressure on the quarterback. It recorded six sacks, but only one came from a starter – junior defensive end/outside linebacker Sonny Puletasi.
Christensen also said the defense needs to do a better job of getting off the field. There were only two three-and-outs during the scrimmage. UW allowed teams to convert 51 percent of their third-down conversions last season.
Christensen said the defense will continue to work on being more physical and on tackling drills and fundamentals.
Coming back soon
Senior Brandon Miller and true freshman Omar Stover, both running backs, have missed the past few days with minor injuries. Christensen said the goal is to have them back for the second scrimmage on Saturday.
“I can’t get faster, but I can work on getting bigger and stronger and be ready when I come back.” – Lange on the stress fracture in his right foot.
Monday afternoon’s practice was not as long as the morning session, and the latter workout emphasized special teams.
The players won’t practice today, but they return Wednesday for two practices at 8:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.