Preview 2017: Wyoming Cowboys
Previewing and looking ahead at the Wyoming season – and what you need to know.
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What You Need To Know About The Wyoming Offense
Josh Allen, Josh Allen, Josh Allen. Wyoming has a special quarterback who grew into a top pro prospect last year with size, rushing ability, and a big arm, but he’ll have to do even more to carry the attack that has to replace some other key parts.
1,860-yard rusher Brian Hill is gone, along with backup Shaun Wick, and the top three pass catchers are done from an offense that cranked up 434 yards per game with an almost perfect balance to go along with the explosion.
The playmakers will come around as long as Allen is being Allen, and as long as the line does its job. All-star center Chase Roullier is done, but the other four starters are back to a group that should be devastating for the running game. Job One, though, is to keep No. 17 in one piece.
Biggest Key To The Wyoming Offense
The receivers have to rise up. Replacing the lost running back production will come from a good-looking committee – at least that’s the hope. But the big play targets from last season will be even tougher to find, with just four of the 29 touchdown catches from last year returning – and one of those scores was from Allen.
It’s a young group of receivers replacing a longtime crew of veterans. Even with Allen under center, it might take a little while. The pressure in the backfield was fine, and there were plenty of takeaways – the talent just wasn’t there to make stops.
What You Need To Know About The Wyoming Defense
It was never a rock, but at least there’s experience returning.
The Cowboys allowed 453 yards per game, having equal problems against the run and the pass, taking turns on what they had a hard time dealing with.
The stars are in the secondary, where Andrew Winged and Marcus Epps form one of the Mountain West’s most productive safety tandems, while Antonio Hull and Rico Gafford need to be bigger playmakers at corner.
Kevin Prosser is the team’s top pass rusher, and he’ll have help on the other side, but the tackle situation has to be stronger against the power-running teams. Logan Wilson came on as a freshman – leading all returning linebackers with 94 stops – but he needs the help around him to fill in.
Biggest Key To The Wyoming Defense
The tackles have to step up and shine. A problem going into last season, lots of work and a major focused turned the end situation into a positive going into this year.
Now the effort is at defensive tackle, hoping for a few moves – like taking offensive guard Dalton Fields and sticking him on the defensive side – will help solve the problem. There are options who saw time last season on the nose, but again, everyone has to be better.
Wyoming Will Be Far Better If …
The run defense shows up. A nightmare down the stretch last season, the front seven got gouged by everyone’s running game, allowing 401 yards to UNLV 568 to New Mexico, and hit hard for well over 200 yards by San Diego State and BYU – all losses.
The Cowboys were 7-1 when allowing fewer than 200 rushing yards – with the one loss to Nebraska because Josh Allen couldn’t stop throwing picks – and 0-5 when giving up more. Going back to 2013, the Cowboys are 0-22 against teams that rush for two bills.
Best Wyoming Offensive Player
QB Josh Allen, Jr. – He probably would’ve been the No. 1 pick in the draft had he come out this season. But now, the 6-5, 233-pounder will be under the microscope all season long as a possible franchise passer who can’t regress. It won’t be easy with new starting receivers and too many new backs needing to rock, but he’s good enough to make everyone around him better.
The former JUCO transfer was knocked out with a broken collarbone in 2015, but he came back roaring throwing for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns while running for 523 yards and seven scores. He needs to be more accurate – completing just 56% of his throws – and the 15 picks were too many, but the tools are there to be a pro star for a decade. Now he has to look like it.
2. OT Zach Wallace, Jr.
3. WR C.J. Johnson, Soph.
4. RB Nico Evans, Jr.
5. FB Drew Van Maanen, Sr.
Best Wyoming Defensive Player
S Andrew Wingard, Jr. – A star immediately out of the box, he led the team with 122 tackles as a freshman, and followed it up with 131 stops and two picks last season. The 6-0, 209-pound hitting machine needs to do more as a playmaker when the ball is in the air, but he’s quick, attacks the run, and doesn’t miss many stops. It would be nice, though, if the front seven did its job and he didn’t have to make as many plays.
2. LB Logan Wilson, Soph.
3. S Marcus Epps, Jr.
4. DE Kevin Prosser, Jr.
5. CB Antonio Hull, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Nico Evans, Jr. Or Kellen Overstreet, or Milo Hall, or all of them. Evans looked like the likely No. 1 guy coming out of spring ball, but it’s not a lock – expect a rotation. With Overstreet returning from a knee injury, and several other backs trying to fight for time, it’ll be a fight to figure out who’ll replace the 1,860 yards of Brian Hill and how. The wealth will be spread around with the group having to combine to take the heat off of Allen.
The Wyoming Season Will Be A Success If …
There’s another run to a bowl game. Wyoming hasn’t been to back-to-back bowl games since 1987-1988 – don’t just blow off how big a deal it would be to get back to the post-season.
Beat Gardner-Webb, Texas State, Hawaii, Fresno State, and win at San Jose State, and there’s a five-game start. Of course, after last season the Cowboys will be shooting for more, but get to six wins and go from there.
Key Game To The Wyoming Season
Oct. 21 at Boise State. Want to repeat as the Mountain champs? You probably can’t do it without beating Boise State on the road. With the Air Force battle away from Laramie, too, don’t pull off the upset on the blue turf in Boise, and pretty much forget about going back to the conference title game.
2016 Wyoming Fun Stats
– Fumbles: Opponents 30 (lost 12) – Wyoming 18 (lost 9)
– Penalties: Opponents 84 for 770 yards – Wyoming 66 for 615 yards
– 1st Quarter Scoring: 74 – 2nd Quarter Scoring: 160