Pair of true freshmen fill in on Wyoming’s defensive line

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — The injury bug has bitten Wyoming’s defensive interior line so badly, even Pete Kaligis hasn’t escaped unscathed. The Cowboys’ defensive tackles coach is on crutches and will have to have a hip replacement.

“He’s a tough guy, so he’s just toughing it out right now,” defensive tackle Javaree Jackson said. “No matter if it hurts bad or if he can walk on it a little bit, he’ll still be the same coach.”

At the moment, though, Kaligis’s bigger concern is the injuries on the Wyoming defensive line. Nose tackle Conner Cain broke his right ankle at Boise State and will miss the rest of the season.

“That’s a young man that’s never missed a practice,” Kaligis said. “That’s the first thing he told me when I saw him after the game. He apologized to me. He said, ‘Coach, I’ve never missed a practice. Never missed a day.’ And a young man that prides himself on that, and a young man that comes to work every day and is consistent, it’s hard. But things occur in life, and we’ve got to deal with it.”

Starting defensive tackle Youhanna Ghaifan was also sidelined that game with a foot injury, though he did dress.

“We kind of figured throughout warmups, because (Ghaifan) was moving kind of slow, slower than normal,” Jackson told the Casper Star-Tribune . “So coach was like, ‘Just keep me up to date if you can play. If not, just sit out and take time to rest up.’ So after Conner got injured, coach Bohl asked him if he was ready to go. Of course, he would say, ‘Yeah,’ and he got in his three-point stance, and it wasn’t the best picture to see.”

That meant it was all up to Jackson and Ravontae Holt, two true freshmen.

“It was kind of shocking, because I was in the moment, and at that moment I had to get thrown in, because we didn’t have any more depth on the depth chart,” Jackson said. “So it was a pretty intense moment, because at the time, two true freshmen playing at actually one of the biggest games that I feel we will have this year.”

Holt got his first career start in place of Ghaifan.

Cain was already starting in place of starting nose tackle Sidney Malauulu, who is not expected to return from a knee injury until the end of the year. Four defensive tackles who might have added depth have left the program since last season: Ja’Chai Baker, Hunter Van Emmerik, Kendall Dickson and Brent Gilliland.

Dalton Fields moved from defensive tackle to offensive line in the spring, but is back at defensive line this week in practice.

“Dalton’s going to go where he’s best needed and where he’s best going to be served,” Kaligis said. “He is one of the most non-selfish young men I’ve been around. Great young man. Team player.”

Ghaifan was able to practice Monday.

“We need everything from Youhanna,” Kaligis said. “That’s just how it is. … That’s just part of a man stepping up. That’s just what it comes down to, where you’re needed.”

Still, much will be asked of the freshmen.

“I kind of figured I was at least going to play a little bit in the Boise game, but not as much (as I did),” Jackson said. “But it’s just going to be a different point of view for me, playing the whole game than just playing bits and pieces of the game.”

Said Kaligis: “It’s amazing what your mind and what your body can do when you don’t have a choice. When you don’t have a choice, and you have to get something done, you’re going to get it done. And that’s what it comes down to. They don’t have a choice, and now it’s our job and my job to make sure they continue to get better.”


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune,


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