The top 10 Wyoming football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. RB Brian Hill
One of the nation’s most productive backs, the 6-1, 219-pound semifinalist for the Doak Walker ripped up defenses as the team’s one big positive. Big, fast, and with the home run hitting ability to come up with big dash after big dash, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry with six touchdowns, running for 1,631 yards.
He rolled for over 200 yards three times, topping out with 242 yards and two scores against Eastern Michigan, and finishing up with 232 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries against UNLV. Also a decent receiver, he made 20 catches for 132 yards, but his job is to carry the attack. He might not have to do it as much this season with Shaun Wick back, but he’s too good not to keep feeding the rock.
2. OG Chase Roullier
The anchor of the line and the Second Team All-Mountain West blocker is back at his spot at left guard. The key pounder who opened things up for Brian Hill, when the Cowboys needed production on the inside, Roullier became the one to work behind. A leader and a captain, he’s one of the team’s most respected players and one of the keys to any sort of improvement. While he’s built like a 6-4, 315-pound tackle, Roullier is too good on the inside to move.
3. FS Andrew Winguard
One of the team’s brightest young stars, the 6-0, 207-pound Winguard came to Wyoming as a running back and he turned into a killer of a defensive back right out of the box. The team’s leading tackler, he’s not only a special athlete with high school track star athleticism, he can pop making 122 stops with an interception and seven tackles for loss at his free safety spot. Consistent, he came up with double-digit tackles seven times – for good and bad considering the leaky front seven – he had a great run of stops making 53 over a late four game span.
4. WR Tanner Gentry
Back after suffering a shoulder injury, the 6-2, 215-pound Gentry should be in for a huge season after catching 32 passes for 435 yards and two scores two years ago, and came up with 37 grabs last season for 678 yards and four scores, averaging over 18 yards per pop. He’s big, can get deep, and he’s shifty, with good quickness for a receiver of his size. When he was on, he was unstoppable hitting the 100-yard mark in three of the seven games he played in before getting hurt, and now he’s all back full.
5. RB Shaun Wick
Good as a freshman, he led the team in rushing as a sophomore with 979 yards and nine scores, and combined forces with Brian Hill as a junior rushing for 753 yards and six touchdowns. He got in a little work last year, but was knocked out for the season with a concussion, but on the plus side, he’s back and eligible for another year. At 5-10 and 210 pounds, he’s built well and he cuts on a dime with good power through the interior once he gets up a head of steam. Hill is the star of the running game, but Wick is good enough to carry the offense from time to time. If needed, he could be moved to receiver or have a role as a third down back – he has the hands to be a dangerous pass catcher.
6. LB Lucas Wacha
The team’s most experienced linebacker, he started out his career with 88 tackles as a freshman and followed it up with a 52-stop sophomore year. Last season he finished second on the team with 96 tackles with six tackles for loss, coming up with 13 stops against New Mexico and 12 against Colorado State. He bulked up over the last few years to get up to 230 pounds on his 6-1 frame – he can hold up a bit better in the middle.
7. LB/KR D.J. May
An interesting all-around player, May is built like a safety at 5-11 and 211 pounds, and he can hit. He started out as a linebacker, moved to defensive back, and moved back to linebacker, making 69 tackles last season after getting hurt early in his career and not doing too much. Last year, he not only became a good defender, he was a special kick returner averaging 26.25 yards per kickoff try – he’s got the shiftiness to go along with the hitting ability.
8. QB Nick Smith
Is it going to be Smith, or Nick Allen? Allen got hurt and was knocked out for the season, and Smith stepped in and struggled a bit, completing just 45% of his passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns, while running for 157 yards and two scores. An interesting prospect, he’s a 6-4, 233-pounder from Florida who’s built like a tight end and can move just fine. He’s almost like a Tim Tebow type as a bulldozer, and he could find a role in a different way if he doesn’t get the quarterback job.
9. WR Jake Maulhardt
The team’s leading receiver, mostly because Tanner Gentry got hurt, Maulhardt caught 57 passes for 653 yards and eight scores. More of a midrange target, he caught ten passes for 113 yards and a score but was good for about five grabs a game. At 6-6 and 239 pounds, and built like a smallish tight end, he’s a great all-around athlete who can muscle his way for the ball. While he’s not a blazer, he’s fine on the outside stretching the field.
10. SS Marcus Epps
Able to play either safety spot, the 6-0, 203-pound sophomore is coming off a great first season finishing third on the team with 83 tackles and four broken up passes with two picks. While he needs to do more when the ball is in the air, he was like another linebacker at times late in the season making 26 tackles in a two-game span and closing out with ten tackles against UNLV. It’ll be a shock if he’s not one of the Mountain West’s top tacklers.