Wyoming football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Cowboys, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About Wyoming’s Offense
The Cowboys ran Brian Hill, and then ran Brian Hill some more. He returns along with running mate Shaun Wick, who lost most of last season to a concussion. The ground attack should be devastating behind a good line that gets four starters back. The receiving corps could be deadly at times, too, with the key parts back who can stretch the field. Now it comes down to quarterback play, needing one of the young options to take control right away. If the quarterback is great, this could be one of the Mountain West’s breakthrough offenses.
Key To The Wyoming Offense
Can the passing game take advantage of everyone loading up to stop the run? The ground attack was one of the big positives in the games the Cowboys were able to keep it close – with two of their three biggest rushing days of the year coming in wins – but it wasn’t totally dominant all the time. Even with a good group of receivers returning, UW’s passing game isn’t going to get too much attention from opposing defenses early on – it’ll be Brian Hill and more Brian Hill on the ground. With a sketchy quarterback situation, teams are going to dare the Cowboys to throw, Wyoming must take advantage.
What You Need To Know About Wyoming’s Defense
The defense was a disaster at times, allowing too many big plays down the field and being totally unable to slow down a good running game. There’s hope, though, starting in a secondary that underwent a youth movement, and now gets back four starters who were all underclassmen last season. There’s no pass rush, and the two starting ends are gone, but the tackles are back along with all three linebackers. The experience is there, the depth is strong, and there’s reason for optimism – things started getting better as last season went on.
Key To The Wyoming Defense
The secondary has the potential to be outstanding. The pass rush wasn’t there when Eddie Yarbrough wasn’t making something happen, and now he’s gone after accounting for seven of the team’s 10 sacks. Even with the lack of pressure, the Cowboys did okay at times, allowing fewer than 200 passing yards six times and only melting down against Washington State, Boise State, and – gulp – Eastern Michigan.
With just five picks all year, it was tough to turn games around, but now the defensive backfield is loaded with all four starters returning led by the safety tandem of Andrew Winguard and Marcus Epps. These two big hitters are great against the run, but they had to help out a porous line way too often. If the front seven does its job, the defensive backfield should gradually grow into one of the best in the Mountain West.
Wyoming Football Will Be Far Better If …
It takes advantage of all its scoring chances. There weren’t too many tight games – with all ten losses coming by double-digits – but as a start to turn things around, the offense can’t blow its good opportunities. Dead last in college football in red zone scoring, placekicker Tristan Bailey only hit 2-of-8 field goals while the offense as a whole scored on a pathetic 24-of-39 times inside the 20.
Best Offensive Player
RB Brian Hill – It’s amazing what he did considering the Cowboys went through stretches when nothing else worked. He was shut down cold from time to time, but when he got into a lather he was unstoppable with four 200-yard games on the way to a 1,631-yard season. Running mate Shaun Wick is back after missing most of the year with a concussion, but Hill will still be the star of the attack.
Best Defensive Player
FS Andrew Winguard – Linebacker Lucas Wacha is an undersized playmaker in the middle, and strong safety Marcus Epps is a rising star with speed and quickness to go along with his hitting ability, but Winguard is the biggest playmaker on the defense. He led the team in tackles in his freshman season while showing terrific range. The Cowboys are set at safety for the next three seasons.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Nick Smith – Or fellow sophomore Josh Allen. Smith turned out to get more work when Cam Coffman struggled, while Allen went down early with a broken collarbone. Whoever takes over for Coffman has to turn into a steady producer for the attack and needs to be a difference-maker. At the very least, the 6-5, 230-pound Allen and the 6-4, 233-pound Smith among the biggest quarterback tandems in college football.
The Season Will Be A Success If …
It wins five games. That might not seem like a lot considering the Cowboys won four contests in Bohl’s first season, but other than a home game against UC Davis and a road trip to Eastern Michigan, they’re almost a mortal lock to be underdogs against everyone else. With Northern Illinois and Nebraska being the two other non-conference games, and having winnable games against UNLV and New Mexico on the road, five victories would be an accomplishment.
Sept. 3 vs. Northern Illinois. The Huskies might be a MAC powerhouse, and they might be among the favorites to win the conference, but it’s a home date for Wyoming to open the season meaning it’s a big moment to make a statement. NIU has undergone a bit of an overhaul, while Wyoming is full of experience and should come out jacked – at least that’s the hope. Win this, and with UC Davis and Eastern Michigan coming up after a trip to Nebraska, it should be a 3-1 start.
Fun Stats From 2015
– First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 125 – Wyoming 28
– Turnovers: Wyoming 21 – Opponents 10
– Sacks: Opponents 31 for 234 yards – Wyoming 10 for 69 yards