Wyoming working former of defensive players at fullback
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Jaylon Watson had the luxury of watching and learning behind Drew Van Maanen last season. Now, he’s leading the charge.
Watson converted from defensive end/linebacker and fullback last spring and served as Wyoming’s backup to Van Maanen last year. With the team captain graduated, however, Watson now has to be the example for a new crew of fullbacks. Luckily, he’s been in their shoes before. Defensive end Austin Lopez and linebacker Jahmari Moore both moved over to fullback before camp to add depth to the position.
“That’s been good, having Jaylon already having gone through that and stuff, he can maybe correlate some things,” tight ends/fullbacks coach Mike Bath said. “Because, I’ve always felt this way, probably the best fullbacks are athletic middle linebackers or defensive ends. Jordan Ellis was a defensive end when he first got here. We moved him over to fullback. I like it, because we have a defensive mentality.
“They understand some certain things, because they’ve seen it so much, and they’ve been coached up on it from a defensive perspective in fall camp, and in spring ball over the last couple years. It’s a unique transition, but it’s a transition that probably isn’t as hard as it would be to go from defensive end to tackle, or something like that.”
Head coach Craig Bohl approached the two players to see if they would be interested in the switch, and both were.
“Before he brought up the change, he asked about how I was doing personally, and then he asked me about school and he asked me what did I think about the idea,” Moore told the Casper Star-Tribune. “And he gave me time to actually think about it. He wanted to make sure that I was OK with it, and that I saw the vision that they had for me. So, it was kind of like he came up to me, but he wanted to make sure that I was OK with it. So he didn’t just throw me into it.”
Said Lopez: “I just thought about it, and pretty much it was just kind of a no-brainer for me.”
Bohl said Thursday that Lopez has been a pleasant surprise at the position.
“You look and go, ‘Wow,’” Bohl said. “He made the transition, and he’s been on point. He’s blocked the right guys, and when he hasn’t blocked the right guys, he’s blocking somebody. We chuckle about that, but there’s merit to that, too. Everybody loves the fullback, but nobody wants to commit to have fullbacks, and we have done that. So we’re pleased with his progress. He exceeded our expectations.”
Also factoring into the position battle are Jeff Burroughs and Garrett Shipman. Watson is the seasoned veteran at this point, but even he is relatively new to the position.
“Just mimic what I do,” he said of his advice for the new fullbacks, “because I was in there, I mimicked what Drew did. Learn off what I did wrong. There’s always room for improvement. Keep your head in the playbook. Because I’m still learning new stuff as of now. It’s never too late to learn anything new, so just keep doing that, stay on top of everything.”
The Cowboys also lost fullback Matt List, who chose to call it a career after last season, but List is still around helping with the team.
“He even pulled me aside the other day and asked why I did this wrong,” Watson said. “I remember after practice last Saturday I think, I called Drew up and asked him about a play. Boom, had an answer right on the spot. He’ll still answer my calls and tell me whatever needs to be done.”
Even with their help, though, Watson has had to step forward as a leader in the group.
“If I have any questions, I can talk to him immediately,” Lopez said. “And he’ll be like, ‘This is what you do.’ So he’s helped me out personally a bunch with that. And I think he’s a lot more vocal than he was last year just with the offense period.”
Said Moore: “I think us being new and him being able to teach us helps him learn as well. I feel like teaching for him is a great refresher for him and keeps him fresh, because we’re always asking him questions. We’re always picking at his brain before plays when he comes in.
“Sometimes, before a play, he would come in the huddle with me and just make sure that I was set. And I feel like because he’s always consciously paying attention a lot more in practice, it helps him become more sharp in practice.”
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com