Happy Wednesday everyone, we are now 3 days away from kicking off our 2016 season in Laramie, WY. The Cowboys will take on a tough Northern Illinois football team in the friendly confines of War Memorial Stadium. This year I am going to do a weekly column on 5 things I think, in regards to the football team. This year I feel like the Cowboys have a lot of unknown’s, more than years past. Here are 5 things I think as we gear up for another season:
1. The Cowboys will be much improved in 2016.
How improved? Well, that remains to be seen. Quite honestly, they couldn’t be much worse, after only winning 2 games last season. But, UW brings back more than 20 players that have starting experience and that is always a positive thing. There is no question that the Cowboys will still be one of the younger teams in 2016, having only 18 seniors on the roster, 25th fewest in the country, of that 25 8 are listed as starters on this week’s depth chart. The Cowboys will be young, but they are in a much better position right now than they were this time last year. I would be surprised if Wyoming didn’t at least double their win total from a season ago.
2. Wyoming’s offensive skill players are the best they have been since Craig Bohl arrived in Laramie.
It all starts with the QB Josh Allen. Bohl has been quoted saying that Josh Allen is the teams most improved player since last season, and on a team that had a lot of room to improve, that is saying something. Allen started one game last year against Eastern Michigan and looked great in that game until he broke his collar bone, which ended his season. Allen will have great weapons around him. Jacob Hollister has been reliable since he got to Laramie, and has proven to be a very good pass catcher from the TE position, and at WR the Pokes bring back 2 of the most experienced WR’s in the conference in Jake Maulhardt and Tanner Gentry. Throw in 2 of the best RB’s Wyoming has ever had, Brian Hill and Shaun Wick, and you have a very talented group of players with the potential to score a lot of points.
3. Brian Hill will pick up where he left off.
Brian Hill is as talented of a player as I have ever seen at Wyoming. Assuming Shaun Wick can stay healthy, that will only make Hill better and keep him more fresh. Hill is coming off a season where he ran for 1,631 yards and 6 scores. With the addition of Wick, Hill may not gain as many yards, but his production per carry should improve. NIU struggled against the run late last season and UW’s 1-2 punch of Hill and Wick should be able to get things rolling for the UW offense.
4. UW’s defense will create more turnovers.
Wyoming’s defense only caused 10 turnovers last season, 5 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries. The secondary returns almost everyone from last year along with the additions of transfers Rico Gafford and Jalen Ortiz. This experience and addition of talent should equate to more turnovers caused. At linebacker, UW returns everyone from a year ago. Last season Lucas Wacha was the only LB with experience at the position. DJ May and Eric Nzeocha moved over from offense and Tim Kamana moved down from safety. A year later all 4 return and will join redshirt freshman Logan Wilson, who will start at WILL. This group should be more comfortable with their scheme and position, which should mean more production,
5. The football program is still 1 year from being serious bowl contenders.
As noted earlier, this year’s team will be much improved, but we don’t know how much. The roster is still very young, nearly 2/3’s of it is freshman and sophomores and they are still thin at certain areas. I think that will see progression, but the Cowboys are still 1 year away. I hope I am wrong and this year’s team becomes a bowl threat, but with the young talent they have and are starting to bring in to better fit Bohl’s system they are on the right track for future seasons to come. This team should be a lot more competitive and fun to watch. I can’t wait to see what Coach Bohl puts on the field. Is it Saturday night yet?