To no one’s surprise, junior Nela Lolohea will start at one defensive end spot for the Wyoming football team this week in place of the injured sophomore Carl Granderson.
Who plays behind Lolohea, however, remains somewhat uncertain.
Senior Adam Kinder was listed as the backup Monday when Wyoming released its depth chart for Saturday’s game at Nevada. Kinder has played in one game in his Wyoming career, which was in 2014 as a sophomore.
Third-year coach Craig Bohl said true freshman Shiloh Windsor “may play” this week, depending on how practice goes.
There also is a chance one of Wyoming’s defensive ends on the other side – sophomore Kevin Prosser and redshirt freshman walk-on Josiah Hall – could alternate sides this week and through the rest of the season.
Granderson, who undergoes season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee Wednesday, will be tough to replace. Through six games, he led all Wyoming defensive linemen with 19 tackles, six tackles for loss and four quarterback sacks.
Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Steve Stanard said replacing Granderson with just one player will be tough. One of the areas where Wyoming’s defense has improved this season is stopping the run (140.7 yards per game). Last season, it allowed 225.2 yards per contest.
However, Stanard told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (http://bit.ly/2e30MuY ) that it’s more difficult to replace the pass rush abilities of a defensive end like Granderson than his ability to stop the run.
“They all need to step up and put pressure on the quarterback,” Stanard said of all Wyoming defensive ends. “It’s not just about sacking the quarterback. It’s also about making the quarterback throw the ball early, getting him out of rhythm and putting him under duress.”
Wyoming has 13 quarterback sacks this season, compared to 10 all of last season. However, the Cowboys have allowed 291.5 passing yards per game. That’s not all based on the pass rush, but it’s a factor.
Lolohea played between 10 and 15 snaps in each of Wyoming’s first five games. He played 47 snaps in the Cowboys’ last game against Air Force after Granderson left in the first quarter. Lolohea has seven tackles, including two for loss and a sack, through the first six games.
Kinder has dealt with a lot of injuries in his career, but defensive ends coach AJ Cooper said Kinder’s experience in terms of being a fifth-year player in the program helps him. And it possibly could create a nice story if he’s called upon.
“Over the years I’ve been a coach, I’ve seen guys check out who have been older and not seeing the field,” Cooper said. “But Adam has always stayed engaged and mentally focused. It’s an opportunity for him to step up and help the team.
“Those are some of the best stories you can have. You can tell the freshmen why you stay engaged and focused because you never know when your opportunity will come.”