The Wyoming defense has taken it on the chin recently allowing more than 30 points per game 4 seasons in a row. With 8 starters from last year’s defense the Pokes will be looking to take a step forward in 2016. Here are three areas the Wyoming defense must improve on to play winning football in year three under coach Bohl.
Pass Rush: More Sacks
Even with Eddie Yarbrough on the team the Cowboys only had a meager 10 sacks in 2015. This ranked the Pokes 11th in the Mountain West and next to last in the country at 127th. Craig Bohl and Defensive Coordinator Steve Stanard will be looking for improved production in the pass rushing department from returning defensive ends Carl Granderson and Kevin Prosser who are now approaching the proper size to play Division I football. Additionally, Wyoming has brought in a few junior college products (Taniela Lolohea and Hunter Van Emmerik) along the line to add more size and experience and both will be looking to crack the defensive line rotation this fall.
A constant threat on the quarterback not only makes the opposing offense uncomfortable but helps out the secondary allowing the defensive backs to cover receivers for a shorter amount of time. The goal for Wyoming this season should be to double their output from 2015 and get to 20 sacks.
Improved Opponent Third Down Conversion Percentage
The Cowboy defense struggled mightily on third down last season giving up an average of 5.7 yards per play, which led to opponents converting 45.6% of their chances. These numbers saw the Pokes rank 11th in the Mountain West and 113th in the country in defensive third down efficiency. An improved pass rush as noted above will help improve these numbers so the defense can get off the field this fall. The goal for Wyoming this year should be to move to the middle of the pack at around 40 percent. Based on last year’s numbers this would be just an additional 8 stops on third down throughout the season because teams moved the ball well against Wyoming on first and second down avoiding third down situations. This improvement is certainly attainable and can be boosted even further allowing Wyoming to rank in the top half of the conference quite easily with a more stingy defense on third down.
Rushing Yards Allowed
The lack of a solid rush defense has been a problem for Wyoming some time now as the Pokes haven’t allowed under 200 yards rushing per game since the 2009 season. The Cowboys allowed 225.1 yards per game in 2015, ranking them 10th in the conference and 114th in the country. Some maturity and extra size on the defensive line and more experienced and better athleticism at linebacker should help improve the rush defense in 2016. Yet, I wouldn’t expect a dramatic change because the Mountain West is loaded with talented running backs. The goal for Wyoming this year should be to get under the 200 yard per game mark. That would be progress and progress is all we need in terms of improving the area that has been the Achilles Heel for the defense recently.