Spring football is here and hope is abound in the Wyoming program. The winter did not drag this year, a manifestation of a good basketball program and a football team that made it to bowl season, but once again it is time to return to the gridiron and a get some insight into the 2012 version of Christensen’s Cowboys.
In Christensen’s third season the offense finally clicked and the Pokes improved their offensive output by over 100 yards a game from 2010. With Brett Smith returning and with the other offensive pieces the Cowboys have put together, 2012 could see another per-game yardage spike. The rock steady Brett Smith will be slinging the ball to mostly familiar faces this spring with Chris McNeill and Robert Herron being the two biggest returning contributors. McNeill was steadily putting together a great season before suffering a season ending injury at Air Force and Herron showed flashes of brilliance and speed to burn in 2011. Overall the Cowboys return a talented receiving corps, but they will be missing the big play ability of Josh Doctson who transferred to TCU. Sam Stratton who came on late last season will also likely be out for 2012 after suffering a leg injury this offseason.
One of the major reasons for Wyoming’s offensive improvement last season came from the backfield. The three headed monster of Miller, Muhammad and Alexander worked better than anyone could have imagined in the beginning, but by the end of the season Miller had been moved to receiver and Muhammad was lost to injury. Things never got too bleak though, as steady Alvester Alexander was always there. Now Alexander is gone, leaving the Cowboy backfield situation is a bit murky. There have been whispers that Muhammad may return to the defense and rumors to counter suggesting he may stay in the backfield, Miller – well he will probably continue to line up all over the field. That leaves Kody Sutton who burned his redshirt last season after the injury to Muhammad. The talented sophomore from Texas will have the opportunity to shine for the Pokes this spring and if he does so he can solidify the Cowboy backfield moving into the fall.
Maybe the biggest surprise of 2011, minus Brett Smith who was without a doubt the biggest and best surprise Wyo Nation has seen in some time, was the emergence of a solid offensive line. The Cowboys played 8 men up front and while they lose 3 starters to graduation they still return 5 lineman that contributed a great deal last season. If the Cowboys can stay healthy up front then once again they should have a solid first line of protection for Brett Smith.
Spring football (for the fans) is all about learning new names and seeing if there are any diamonds in the rough that haven’t popped up on the radar yet. In 2012, much of the production will come from familiar faces, but the progression and development of these players will certainly be worth watching. With the pieces coming back and with Brett Smith and Gregg Brandon teaming up for a second season the Pokes will have a legitimate shot at improving their offensive numbers once again, placing them in an excellent position to make a run in the wide open Mountain West.