Spring ball is over, summer classes are underway and fall camp is right around the corner. Naturally we are all curious as to how the Pokes will look when they take the field to take on Nebraska on August 31st. The Cowboys face more questions than they do answers. I was able to narrow it down to what I think are the 3 biggest questions facing the Pokes before fall camp starts
Kicking Game: The departure of Tim Gleeson has been well documented and it was announced during the second semester that Daniel Sullivan’s career at UW is over. With Gleeson gone, the Pokes are left without a punter. Coach Christensen said that the Cowboys will bring in a JUCO punter over the summer, but there is still yet to be an announcement. With Sullivan not coming back it looks like the Pokes will have to lean on Junior Stuart Williams to handle the kicking duties, who last year went 7-12. Williams also handled the bulk of the punting duties in the spring after Gleeson left and as of right now he seems to be the back up plan. If Christensen doesn’t bring someone in and Williams doesn’t show major improvement our kicking game could be a major pain all fall.
Offensive Line: The offensive line for the Cowboys is a well-known issue. The departures of Josh Leonard and Kyle Magnuson are big losses, but neither is bigger than the loss of center Nick Carlson. During the spring the coaching staff tried numerous guys at center but all that tried had trouble snapping the ball to the quarterback in a shotgun formation. The Cowboys signed junior college center Albert Perez and it appears the coaches are counting on him to get the ball to Smith. Perez wasn’t on campus for the spring semester but is penciled in as the starting center after spring ball. If Perez isn’t the answer to this question, Smith may not be able to show his talent, and his health may become a concern again this season if he isn’t protected.
Defense– Wyoming’s biggest problem last year was far and away their defense. They ranked 106th in total defense, allowing 470 yards a game and 99th in scoring defense allowing 33 points a game. They allowed 232.33 rushing yards a game, putting them in a tie for 117th of 120 teams in FBS football and they ranked 67th in pass defense. The defense lost playmakers in Mike Purcell, Ghaali Muhammad and Korey Jones, but return promising players such as Chad Reese, Blair Burns, and Eddie Yarbrough. The coaching staff made it clear they wanted to get guys that contribute right away and they went the route of junior college players, none of whom are listed with the ones at the conclusion of spring ball. The secondary brings back a lot of experience, as does the entire defense. If the Cowboys don’t show a huge amount of improvement it will be a long season again.
Other questions to serve as discussion on the forum:
Can Brett Smith start all 12 games?
Smith missed 2 full games and wasn’t on the field at the end for 2 others. Wyoming lost those 4 games by a combined 13 points. If Smith was healthy, and used better judgment in the Nevada game, it is easy to find your self-asking, what if? In order for the Cowboys to have a chance at postseason play Brett Smith must be the guy under center at the end of the game.
Will the offense be better with Dave Christensen calling the plays?
Greg Brandon bolted for New Mexico State and Jim Harding (O-Line) and Pete Kaligis (RB’s) were promoted to co-offensive coordinators, but from what players have told me DC is for all intents and purposes the OC. DC wants to push the tempo, which means the line, and running games need to be better, if the offense spins out and the Pokes don’t have a punter they are in deep trouble.
Will the running backs be able to take some of the offensive burden away from Brett Smith?
Wyoming ranked 96th in rushing offense with 125.2 yards a game. Now sophomore’s Shaun Wick and DJ May combined for 724 yards and 5 TDs, Brandon Miller ran for 352 yards and a TD, and Brett Smith ran netted 248 yards on the ground (gained 500 and lost 252) to go along with 6 scores. Currently the depth chart has:
2. Omar Stover (Incoming Freshman)
3. Shaun Wick
4. DJ May
5. Tedder Easton
Easton is the 5th guy and he showed some promise as a short yardage back and I expect him to be the go to guy when it is ¾ and short. Our running backs are talented, but can the line protect them and allow them to get 4 yards a pop? If they can, it would go a long way in keeping Brett Smith on the field, and more importantly in the pocket. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller moved to WR, Wick started, May and Stover get some touches and then for short downs Easton gets his name called.
Is this year do or die for Dave Christensen?
The Cowboys are 22-28 since DC came to Laramie and they are 1-1 in bowl games. It’s DC’s 5th year, often times the most important season. What DC has going for him is that he has never lost to CSU and he has proved his offense is amongst the best in the conference. But let’s be honest you need to win games and you need to win them consistently, and in order to win you have to stop the other team from scoring. If DC doesn’t get the Cowboys to a bowl game this year, I think once again we will be searching for a new head coach.
Thoughts? Opinions? I would love to hear what you think the answer might be to some of these questions.