Uso Olive recorded a tackle for loss on a third-and-short run play in the red zone.
It was a play that many University of Wyoming football fans expect often this season.
However, the play occurred during one of the Cowboys’ spring practices last week.
Olive is only a redshirt freshman who has yet to play a down of college football. Nonetheless, that play by the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Olive is something not just UW fans, but also his coaches and teammates, hope to see a lot of.
Olive moved up to the No. 1 defense last week when senior Justin Bernthaler suffered an injury. Perhaps Olive’s play would have eventually vaulted him into the starting lineup.
Olive also knows that just because he is working with the starters now, he has to play and practice well to keep doing so.
But this is what Olive has been working toward since he arrived at UW last summer, and he plans to make the most of it.
“It is an opportunity to showcase my skills to the coaches,” he said. “All the hype that is surrounding me, I have to live up to it. But those are all expectations from other people.”
The hype began when he signed last year, even though he redshirted.
Olive was one of UW’s more highly touted recruits out of Federal Way, Wash. He was a First Team All-State selection as a senior in Washington’s largest high school classification. In his last three high school seasons, he combined to make 186 tackles, 24 quarterback sacks and 30 tackles for loss.
During UW’s winter weightlifting testing, he bench-pressed 465 pounds and benched 225 pounds 33 times — both team bests. He squatted 575 pounds, which is 125 pounds shy of the team record, but Olive said he will get there.
Olive’s life story is just as amazing as his football story. He sat at his mother’s bedside in the hospital and watched her die from complications from her fifth surgery for heart valve replacement. In fact, Olive, who was 17 at the time, was the one who pulled the life-support plug when doctors determined there was no hope for her recovery.
He didn’t have a strong male influence in his family, and he could have easily been another product of the streets instead of a person with a vibrant smile — and personality to match — with a chance to play Division I college football. But now it is all about football.
UW had one of the worst run defenses in the nation last season at 232 yards per game. To say one person will help improve that figure this season would not be fair. But many consider Olive a key piece in improving the run defense — especially in the middle of the defensive line.
“It puts a lot of pressure on me, and that is why I try to stay away from the media and stuff,” he said. “When I read stuff like ‘Uso is going to come in and help stop the run,’ what if I don’t? I try to get away from that and just play my game.”
But do not mistake that statement for a lack of appreciation for where Olive is now, or how highly regarded he is by those who follow UW football.
“I want to thank all the fans that support me,” he said.
Olive said it is a lot different playing with the starting defense than with the backups. He is working with three other linemen who played in games last season — and even before that.
Last season, Olive was on the scout team, getting pushed around by the No. 1 offense. But even then, the Cowboys had a hard time pushing Olive around.
Now he not only is vying to be a starter, but again is going against UW’s No. 1 offense and its faster tempo, which in itself has been a tough adjustment.
“That offense of (head coach Dave Christensen) is crazy,” he said. “I feel like I am not there yet. But with the way he is running the offense, there is not a team in the nation that will run a faster offense. It will make us a better defense.
“I won’t lie, guys are dead out there. It may not look like it, but we are dead out there. We are there physically, but not yet mentally. We will get there in the next two weeks of spring.”
Many have high expectations for Olive, but he has even higher ones for himself and the Cowboys.
“It is going to be a great season, I guarantee that,” he said. “We are going to do some great things. As for me, my main goal is to be a freshman All-American.”
Let the hype begin.
UW’s second major scrimmage of the spring will begin at about 8:40 a.m. today at the school’s indoor practice facility. The scrimmage will end a little after 10 a.m.
It will be similar to last Wednesday’s scrimmage in terms of number of plays. Personnel groupings also will be similar, as the No. 1 offense will go against the No. 1 defense, No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense, etc.