LARAMIE, Wyo. — Gavin Rush and Patrick Arnold faced one another in high school. As a senior at Aurora High School and a junior at Gretna High School, respectively, the Nebraska offensive linemen met in the high school playoffs.

Rush’s team won that battle to move onto the state semifinals. But now the sophomore finds himself in another competition against Arnold, a true freshman, as the two fight for Wyoming’s starting spot at center.

In the first week of fall camp, the two split time playing center with the first-team offensive line. To start the second week, Rush played with the first team, and Arnold played with the second team to give each player more repetitions — though Arnold said that was a temporary change.

So far, neither has cemented the spot.

“(It’s) A little bit of a mixed bag,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said. “Probably haven’t made as much progress there as we’d like. Sometimes our snaps in the shotgun are off a little bit. Sometimes our movement up front (is off). We’ll continue to evaluate that position, but that’s probably an unsettled position right now.”

The Cowboys are looking to replace all-conference center Chase Roullier, who moved to the position for his senior season and is now impressing in camp with the Washington Redskins.

This fall is similar to the last for Wyoming, as the Cowboys entered the 2016 camp planning to start senior Du’Ryan Ebbesen at the position. But ultimately the decision was made to move Roullier over from left guard, and Rush started in Roullier’s old position as a true freshman.

Rush spent spring camp at center for the Cowboys, though he missed some time with an illness.

“I think I got way better (at snapping) from spring into summer, spring to fall now,” Rush told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2wInApC). “It’s improved a lot.”

Cole Turner also spent time at center in the spring, especially when Rush was sick. And this week, true freshman Logan Harris of Torrington has gotten snaps at the position.

“We’re taking a look at a lot of guys, and Logan’s a strong, physical guy that’s got a presence,” Bohl said. “So we’re going to give him an opportunity to take a look at him at the center position.”

Both players knew the competition was coming.

“Over winter break, they told me, … ‘We’re going to try you at center for spring, and then we’re going to bring in a guy that’s going to play it,'” Rush said. “‘And then we can figure out where you can play, left guard or center.'”

Said Arnold: “As soon as I started talking to them it was kind of implied that I would play center. When I got offered, they offered me as a center.”

Neither lineman played center in high school. Arnold said he has worked on the position every offseason since his sophomore year. He practiced with family friend Aaron Graham, a onetime NFL lineman and all-American at Nebraska.

“He helped mentor me through the last through years and helped me develop some good habits,” Arnold said. “Stuff that I could come into college and be prepared for.”

Rush will likely start at left guard if he does not secure the center role. He said redshirt freshman Jace Webb has played left guard when he has been the first-team center.

Arnold still doesn’t know whether or not he’ll be playing this year, though his goal is to start the opening game at Iowa.

“There’s no indication, no solid word yet, but I have not yet been told that I’ve been redshirted,” he said.

Like Rush, Arnold had the physicality to come in and play right away.

“Dude, he’s extremely strong,” Rush said of Arnold. “He moves really well. So I think it’s a Nebraska thing.”

Both agreed that the challenges of center are more on the mental side.

“I’ve been a weight room warrior all my life, so that’s helped a lot,” Patrick said. “It’s mostly in between the ears where I need to get everything done, keeping my head. There’s a lot of pressure on a true freshman center, so just keeping my head, getting my snaps down and all that and just being able to deal with the mental side of the game.”

Rush added: “I would say, for me, sometimes I get too far ahead in my thinking. … Like, I think too far ahead of what I need to do. I don’t focus on what I need to do now. So sometimes I might short-arm the snap, because I’m thinking too far ahead of what I’m trying to do in terms of blocking. So I would say there’s stuff like that that I still need to focus on more.”


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com