Position Preview: Offensive Line
Games are won and lost in the trenches. That could really explain why our beloved Cowboys ended with a record of 4-8. Our defensive line, to be brief, was not as good as advertised. Going into 2014, we had an All-Mountain West defensive end, several returning starters along with their production. This year, we get an opportunity to build on that.
Wyoming’s defensive line was slow to gel in 2014. In the first half of the season, the entire team amassed just 4 sacks. We have to take into account the quality of competition for a couple of the games. To be fair, Michigan State and Oregon had two of the best offenses in the nation coupled with good offensive lines. We were also playing from behind a good portion of the time.
The second half, however, the defensive line started to come together. In the last 6 games of the season, they more than doubled the production of the first half sack total. There could be a lot of factors. The competition wasn’t as good, it took us a few weeks to get into true “game shape” and the development of first year starters along the front four.
This year gives us a lot to look forward to. For the second consecutive year, Eddie Yarbrough is a preseason All-Mountain West Conference player. Even though he only had four sacks last year, he was second on the team in tackles and was spotted flying all over the field. Second year starters Siaosi Hala’api’api and Uso Olive bring a lot of Polynesian fire to the field and we should expect to see better production from each of them.
The toughest job anyone will have will be Chase Appleby, who has to fill the shoes of Patrick Mertens in the trenches. Appleby, who appeared in all 12 games last season, has to be able to find a way to have a bigger impact this season. The best thing about his game is that in limited time, he led all defensive lineman in pass break ups in the 2014 season. The four of these men working together should free up our linebacking core to fly around the field and make plays.
I’m not worried about our defensive line production. According to CFB Matrix, we are returning 49 starts. That number is good enough for number three in the MWC. I truly believe that one of our defensive tackles, either Appleby or Olive, will be an all-conference player. Bringing back three starters will be huge, particularly because it’ll be the second year in Coach Bohl’s system. Expect big things from our front four this year.