Saturday saw the Wyoming Cowboy football team put on full pads for the first time this spring.
In the two and one-half hour practice in Wyoming's Indoor Practice Facility, the Pokes displayed the type of competitiveness that new head coach Dave Christensen has been emphasizing since he arrived on the Laramie campus.
"I thought the first practice in pads was real positive," said Christensen. "The kids competed well. In fact, I felt the competition level in practice was better than I expected. The enthusiasm was good, the physicalness was good. We still have a lot of work to do, but I felt we improved again today. We've improved every single day of practice this first week. I've been really pleased with our practices thus far."
The first hour of practice included special teams work along with fundamental sessions by position.
It was in the second hour of practice that the Cowboys started thudding -- hitting but not taking ball carriers to the ground -- for the first time this spring. That second hour featured a two-back running drill, pitting the No. 1 and No. 2 offense going up against the No. 1 and No. 2 defense.
One-on-one passing drills were next, with receivers and backs going up against defensive backs. Work on the inside running game in a second thud session followed. The offense and defense then faced off in seven-on-seven passing drills, with the Cowboy backs and receivers challenging the defensive backs and linebackers.
The last part of that second hour was filled with some more special teams and concluded with work on Wyoming's option running game out of its new spread offense. That led up to the highlight of the day when the final 24 minutes of practice was devoted to full 11-on-11 offense versus defense in thud work.
Seeing the players in pads for the first time this spring allowed Christensen and his staff to begin a more in-depth evaluation of each player's abilities.
"With the kids in pads, you can begin to evaluate who your physical players are and which athletes are capable of performing at the level you need them to carrying their full pads," said Christensen. "It was the first test of the physicalness of our football team, and I believe they were up to the challenge."
To measure the competitiveness of practices, Christensen and his staff have instilled a point-soring system during practices. Scores were kept in each drill that pitted the offense and defense against one another on Saturday. At the end of the day an overall score was tallied, and the Cowboy defense won the first day of contact drills.
"We had seven periods during Saturday's practice that were scored on a point system," said Christensen. "We keep track of those scores throughout practice, and at the end of practice we announce a winner and loser. The defense won four and one-half points to three today. The winners get to wear the brown jerseys the next practice, and the losers do a some up-downs at the end of practice."
Christensen said he didn't have enough information to report on any injuries after Saturday's practice, but he would have more information on Tuesday about the few players who were taken to the sidelines due to injury on Saturday.
Wyoming's next practice will be Tuesday, March 31 at 3:30 p.m.