Today, we’re 91 days away from the kickoff of the 2012 college football season. As such, we’ll preview the No. 91 team in our Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football previews, the Wyoming Cowboys.
Coming off an 8-5 finish in 2011– that concluded with a 37-15 loss to the Temple Owls in the New Mexico Bowl– the Cowboys return 14 total starters, including 8 on the defensive side of the ball, and should again be a force to be reckoned with in what could be another successful season in Laramie.
Head coach Dave Christensen enters his fourth season with the Cowboys with the most experienced and talented bunch he’s had since arriving on campus in 2008.
Sophomore Brett Smith will arguably be the most experienced signal caller in Coach Christensen’s tenure, given that freshman have been at the reins for each of his first three seasons. Smith threw for 2,622 yards and 20 touchdowns, posting a 124.64 efficiency rating.
The former Oregon Gatorade High School Player of the Year also led the Cowboys in rushing yards in 2011, carrying the ball 139 times for 850 yards and 1o touchdowns.
With the loss of 2011’s workhorse running back Alvester Alexander, Wyoming will likely turn to a three-headed running game in the form of junior Brandon Miller, sophomore Kody Sutton, and sophomore Nehemie Kankolongo to make up for the lost yardage. The running game won’t be a focus this fall in Laramie, but if any of these three guys can step up to replace the lost yardage from 2011, it’ll be a huge plus for the Cowboys.
Chris McNeill will lead an experienced receiving corps that should help Brett Smith take his game to the next level, and help Wyoming be an adequate, if not solid offensive unit throughout the 2012 season.
With eight starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Chris Tomey will certainly not have to worry about inexperience. While the Cowboys promise to continue to work out of a base 4-3 set, there are hints that things could be much more dynamic this fall than in seasons’ past.
In simplest terms, the Cowboys have one of the deepest and most experienced returning defenses in the Mountain West Conference, if not all of college football.
Tackle Patrick Murtens promises to anchor the tough defensive front, alongside seniors Mike Purcell, Kurt Taufa’asau and B.J. Sumter who are each thoroughly familiar with their respective roles and should help make the unit a very cohesive one.
Cornerbacks Marqueston Huff and Blair Burns will be the key members of a defensive secondary that should be ball-hawking and aggressive, looking to key on opportunities presented them by opposing offenses.
The linebacking corps led by Todd Wright may be the afterthought here among the talented defensive line and secondary, but will still play an important role in the Cowboys’ overall success in 2012.
Following a visit to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns in Week 1, the Cowboys welcome Toledo and Cal Poly to Laramie in consecutive weeks. A 2-1 start in these opening three games is a solid goal for a Wyoming team that should have nice momentum built up for Mountain West Conference play following a September 22nd road test against the Idaho Vandals.
It’s certainly not unreasonable for Wyoming to post another winning season in 2012 and return to a bowl game for the second straight season.