#91 Wyoming Football 2013 Preview

Wyoming Cowboys

Overall Rank: #91
#9 Mountain West

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The Cowboys did not have a very productive 2012 campaign. Wyoming got off to a very slow start, losing seven of their first eight contests. The schedule was not very easy, but that also includes a loss to FCS member Cal Poly. However, Coach Dave Christensen found much better play on both sides of the ball towards the end of the season. The Cowboys managed to beat Colorado State, New Mexico and UNLV in consecutive weeks before falling to San Diego State to close out the season. At the least, Wyoming does have some momentum heading into 2013.

2012 Record: (4-8, 3-5)
2012 Bowl: None
Coach: Dave Christensen (22-28 at Wyoming, 22-28 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jim Harding and Pete Kaligis
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Tormey

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: D.J. May, RB, 374 yards
Passing: Brett Smith, QB, 2,837 yards
Receiving: Robert Herron, WR, 657 yards
Tackles: Blair Burns, CB, 60
Sacks: Eddie Yarbrough, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Chad Reese, S, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Jalen Claiborne, LB Siaosi Hala’api’api, CB Marqueston Huff, G Jake Jones, DT Patrick Mertens, RB Brandon Miller, DE Sonny Puletasi, WR Dominic Rufran, G Tyler Strong, S Darrenn White

Key Losses: C Nick Carlson, P Tim Gleeson, LB Korey Jones, OT Josh Leonard, OT Kyle Magnuson, WR Chris McNeill, LB Ghaali Muhammad, DT Mike Purcell, DT Kurt Taufa’asau

Brett Smith is going to have to carry Wyoming. The quarterback threw for 2,837 yards and 27 touchdowns during his sophomore season and he will be one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West. Smith is an amazingly efficient passer. He completed 62.1 percent of his pass attempts and was intercepted just six times. Smith will not have Chris McNeil around to be his favorite target anymore, but the Cowboys have plenty of potential at wide receiver. Robert Herron will be the big play receiver and Dominic Rufran and Jalen Claiborne caught five touchdowns apiece last season. There are also a handful of younger receivers who have plenty of potential and could emerge as impact receivers. Wyoming did not do a great job of balancing the offense with their ground game, but they do return their top three rushers. Brandon Miller, D.J. May and Shaun Wick are all back and true freshman Omar Stover had a very strong spring. None of those backs will likely have an all-conference caliber season, but the unit as a whole should be able to rush for 125 yards per game.

The Cowboys are mixing things up a bit on defense to help replace their losses and attempt to improve a unit that allowed over 232 yards per game on the ground. Eddie Yarbrough and Justin Bernthaler are moving to the inside of the line to join Patrick Mertens. Siaosi Hala’api’api was the starting middle linebacker a year ago and now will play in Wyoming’s hybrid pass rushing spot. Hala’api’api will join Sonny Puletasi as the team’s main pass rushing threats. However, none of that will likely improve the defensive effort put forth on the ground. The line is generally undersized and will be too easily pushed around. The news at linebacker is not much better. Devyn Harris is back after missing nearly the entire 2012 campaign, but Ghaali Muhammad and Korey Jones, the top two tacklers last season, are gone. Mark Nzeocha and Lucas Wacha are expected to step into a starting role and a lot will be asked of them. Blair Burns and Marqueston Huff are talented players and Coach Christensen moved Huff to free safety in the spring in part to free him up to help out more in the run defense.

The Bottom Line:
With Smith leading the way, Wyoming has the potential to reach a bowl game after what was a disappointing 4-8 season. There are concerns on both lines and that is not a good way to start any campaign. The offense has to have time to operate. Smith is a mobile quarterback, but he needs some time for Herron to get down the field. The defense can rely on the talent and experience in the secondary, but their job would be much, much easier if the Cowboys found any pass rushing threats. And if they cannot stop the run, nobody will need to even test the secondary on a regular basis. In the end, both lines will probably not be able to fill the gaps or improve quite enough to seriously compete in the Mountain West.

Projected Bowl: None

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 125.17 (99th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 265.42 (38, 2)
Total Offense: 390.58 (70, 6)
Scoring Offense: 26.83 (72, 6)
Rushing Defense: 232.33 (117, 10)
Pass Defense: 237.92 (67, 8)
Total Defense: 470.25 (106, 10)
Scoring Defense: 33.42 (97, 8)
Turnover Margin: 0.58 (30, 4)
Sacks: 1.17 (109, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (75, 6)


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