Patrick Arnold knew what he wanted last year when he wasn’t playing — to be the starting center for the University of Wyoming football team in 2018.
Arnold competed for the starting job last season in fall camp as a true freshman. UW went with another true freshman in Logan Harris of Torrington, who started all 13 games.
But due to injuries to some of UW’s guards, Arnold looks to be the guy who will start for the Cowboys in their season-opener two weeks from today at New Mexico State.
“You never want to earn a starting spot by people in front of you getting hurt, but when you are in a good spot and work hard, sometimes that’s the way it happens,” Arnold said. “I’m looking forward to playing in the first game.”
Here is a rundown of UW’s injuries at guard that have led to where we are today:
— Redshirt freshman Eric Abojei has been out with a concussion and hasn’t been at practice for about a week.
— Junior Gavin Rush, who has 22 career starts and has played in 27 games, is likely lost for the season with a biceps injury.
UW offensive line coach Scott Fuchs moved redshirt freshman Keegan Cryder from center to left guard. Cryder was originally a guard, but was moved to center in the spring and was the projected starter. Harris has been taking more reps at guard, and also some at center.
“Musical chairs,” fifth-year coach Craig Bohl said with a wry smile about all of the shuffling along the offensive line during fall camp.
Fuchs said Arnold has “answered the bell pretty well” in getting more reps with the No. 1 offense. Bohl agreed, but said a starter has yet to be solidified.
Arnold said his mindset or attitude hasn’t changed since he’s been getting more snaps with the No. 1 offense.
“I have to prove myself out there every day,” he said. “I just keep working. My goal is to start. I haven’t played a football game since the Shrine Bowl after my senior year (more than 14 months ago). I am looking forward to getting back and hitting some people.”
Although Fuchs likes to have many of his inside linemen able to play both guard and center, Arnold said he is sticking to center.
“My height at 6-foot-2, and it is a legitimate 6-2 (he is listed at 6-3 in UW’s media guide). That kind of limits (my ability) to move around,” Arnold said. “Coach Fuchs likes me at center. My wrestling background from high school helps me get low and get leverage on guys to dig people out.”
Arnold is from Omaha, Nebraska, and played offensive tackle at Gretna High School. However, since graduating from high school, he’s been working on being a center, including working with former Nebraska All-America center Aaron Graham, who is a family friend.
Bohl described Friday’s 13th practice of camp as “hard,” as the Cowboys worked out in full pads for 24 periods.
Part of the practice included some two-minute work, and Bohl said the defense got the better of the offense. Bohl also said redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, who is competing with fifth-year senior Nick Smith for the starting job, needs to work on protecting the football.
“He threw some good balls, but there were some I wish he had not thrown,” Bohl said. “I would say it has been a mixed bag in terms of him protecting the ball during camp. He will learn that there are times when he can’t make certain throws.”
Bohl said redshirt freshman cornerback C.J. Coldon, a projected starter, has had an “excellent camp.” Bohl also said redshirt freshman tight end Nate Weinman, who is 6-7, 260, could get into the mix this season despite three experienced seniors in Austin Fort, Josh Harshman and Tyree Mayfield in the fold.
True freshman running back Jevon Bigelow (illness) didn’t practice Friday.
UW’s top two right tackles remain out in sophomore Alonzo Velasquez (knee) and junior Pahl Schwab (concussion). Redshirt freshman Rudy Stofer is getting first-team reps. Bohl said finding another offensive tackle to provide depth will be important before the first game.
Junior wide receiver John Okwoli (hand) and junior defensive end Josiah Hall (blood clot) remain limited.
Bohl said true freshman defensive tackle Cole Godbout has been out with mononucleosis.