LARAMIE – Patrick Arnold has trained to be a center for a long time.
When he signed to play football at the University of Wyoming in 2017, he was projected to play center. Arnold started the first four games last season as a redshirt freshman at center before he suffered an ankle injury. Arnold took snaps at center before a knee injury shut him down near the end of spring drills in April.
But when UW released its post-spring depth chart, Arnold was listed as a left guard with sophomore Eric Abojei. That hasn’t changed in the early stages of fall camp.
“That left guard spot is up for competition,” first-year UW offensive line coach Bart Miller said. “Nothing is set in stone right now. I have an idea of where I want guys to be, but we have some competition at a couple of spots, and Pat and Eric is definitely one of them. Pat’s versatility to play guard and center really helps us.”
UW likes versatility at the center and guard positions. The projected starter at center, sophomore Keegan Cryder, started the first four games last season at guard (three at left guard, one at right guard), then replaced Arnold at center and earned freshman All-American honors by the Football Writers Association of America.
Junior Logan Harris of Torrington, the projected starter at right guard, started all 13 games at center as a true freshman in 2017. Harris was moved to guard last season and played in 12 games, including one start.
“Those three inside guys a lot of times are interchangeable,” sixth-year UW coach Craig Bohl said. “To have more guys to play multiple positions is a big deal for us.”
After three fall camp practices, Arnold likes the move to guard.
“There’s a lot less responsibility at guard than at center,” he said. “You don’t have to make line calls or snap the ball, and I’m looking forward to that. But, there is more stuff on my plate. I’m pulling a lot more now and that can be really fun.
“I am an interior guy. I may bounce back to center and I still take reps there. I am fine with the move to guard, and I’m looking forward to seeing myself on film at a different position. I haven’t seen myself play guard since high school.
“It is about however I can help the team. It is always team over self. If they need me to play guard or whereever, I will play it. I just like playing football.”
Arnold looks forward to showing off his athleticism at guard in terms of pulling and executing open-field blocks. In fact, he is confident he is one of the best among his offensive line mates to do those things.
“I pride myself in being the most athletic offensive lineman,” Arnold said with a wry smile. “That may stir some feathers up in the room. It should be a fun move, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
The Cowboys worked out in shoulder pads and shorts Monday morning, its third of five acclimatization practices required by the NCAA.
“(Redshirt freshman starting quarterback) Sean Chambers continues to improve with his accuracy and this throwing motion,” Bohl said. “Our first offensive line group did a nice job in our pass protection. We installed some more physical run plays, and from that standpoint I thought our defensive line held its own.”
Bohl said there have been no injuries through the first three practices.
Bohl said a good competition is brewing at punter between junior Tim Zaleski and senior walk-on Ryan Galovich.
Zaleski tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the fifth game last season. He missed all of spring drills, but is cleared for fall camp. Bohl said Zaleski “punted the ball well” Monday.
Galovich specialized in pinning opponents inside their 20-yard line last season, and seven of his 13 punts were downed inside the 20. He averaged 45.6 yards on five punts with a long of 67 and two downed inside the 20 in UW’s spring game.
“We chart and film everything, but Ryan made some great progress over the summer, and that has really shown so far as his hang time and distance have improved,” Bohl said.
Bohl was asked if any of the true freshmen have caught his eye so far in camp.
“Some of them don’t know if they’re on foot or horseback right now,” he said. “Ask me that in probably two more days, but I think we have some guys who have the potential to play.”
An NFL scout from the Detroit Lions was at Monday’s practice.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.