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Breaking Down Wyoming - ESPN Blog




Coach: Dave Christensen
Previous school and position: Missouri, offensive coordinator
Head coaching experience: None
Wyoming's 2008 record: 4-8, 1-7 MWC
Returning players: Offense 7, defense 8
What he brings: Christensen has been a hot coaching commodity the last couple years because of his spread offense. In his final two seasons at Missouri, the Tigers were among the top offenses in the country in both yardage and scoring. The Tigers' red zone numbers were among the best in the country. Similar to the other new coaches in the Mountain West, Christensen helped turn programs around at Toledo and Missouri. Both ended up being ranked contenders by the time of his departure.

Challenges he faces: Wyoming is a team that traditionally has been known as one of the tougher teams in the country and during the past two seasons that was lost. Former coach Joe Glenn did a nice job with the program early and made some major contributions toward state of the art facilities, which will help recruiting, but during his final two seasons he lost the players and they struggled to win games.

Christensen already has encountered huge hurdles in trying to make his team tough enough to compete in the Mountain West. He had so many players out because of injury this spring that he had to use alumni in the spring game.

The one thing Glenn did leave was a bevy of talent and some untapped potential. Many of the players that defeated Tennessee in Knoxville last season are still around and the defense, which has carried the Cowboys the past couple years, is mostly intact.

The biggest challenge for Wyoming is learning Christensen's complex offensive system that forces a quarterback to go through his progressions quicker than the Cowboys quarterbacks have ever had to before. The Wyoming receivers also will have to refine their route running and catching ability to keep up with this offense.

Christensen also will have to teach his players to stick together through tough times. Last season, the offense and the defense blamed each other for losses, which created a tough atmosphere for winning games.

Likelihood of pulling off a winning season: Christensen's hard-nosed style wasn't received well by a few of last year players and he's faced some defections. He finished camp with about 53 healthy players, so he'll have to find bodies just to give his first-teamers a breather in the fall. He brings in one of the best recruiting classes in Wyoming history, which might create a little bit of as rift between the players that are already there since the recruits were hand-picked to play in Christensen's system. Wyoming also has to settle on a quarterback. Senior Karsten Sween is the guy heading into fall camp, but recruits Austyn Carta-Samuels and Robert Benjamin are definitely going to be in the mix come fall.

Wyoming's nonconference schedule is a lot tougher than Christensen probably would have liked it to be in his first season, especially with a team that's more or less starting from scratch. Weber State should be a win to open the year, but then back-to-back Big 12 games against Texas and Colorado are going to be tough. The Cowboys have a conference game against UNLV, which is winnable, before traveling to play a tough Florida Atlantic squad. This could easily be a 2-3 start.

The Cowboys then play New Mexico, which will be interesting since Locksley and Christensen are familiar with each other from their days at rivals Illinois and Missouri and those games were offensive shootouts. The Cowboys have back-to-back road games at Air Force and Utah before hosting BYU. That's a really tough three-game stretch. The Cowboys can win at San Diego State before hosting TCU, which always an interesting game in Laramie, Wyo., and then the rivalry game against Colorado State to end the season.

Depending on how quickly Wyoming can learn its new system and how healthy the team can get, especially on defense, will determine whether the Cowboys are a bowl team because the potential to be one is there.

My prediction: 5-7, 4-4 WMC

All in all I think this is a pretty decent look at the Cowboys. I may have missed them, but I haven't been aware of a bunch of defections, just Stutz.

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