Friday, May 16, 2008

First Look: Wyoming

I started my blog’s “First Look” series last week with a quick peek at New Mexico (scroll down to take a look at the Lobos).

I’m going to do these periodically throughout the offseason because there never should be a time when we’re not talking football. (Note: If my father is reading this, I know that’s a double-negative, but I thought it was more fun to write than “we always should be talking football”).

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a look at the Cowboys:

2007 Record: 5-7, 2-6
Off/Def Starters Back: 8/7
Last Year vs. AF: Air Force 20, Wyoming 12
This Year vs. AF: Sept. 6 at Wyoming

Roster Report: The Cowboys bring back eight offensive starters from their 2007 squad, including running back Devin Moore (965 yards, five TDs). Backup running back Wynel Seldon (554 yards, eight TDs) also is back along with – get this – all five starting offensive linemen from 2007: Center Tim Bond (6-foot-4, 300 pounds), guards Russ Arnold (6-4, 290) and Sam Sterner (6-4, 297) and tackles Kyle Howard (6-7, 312) and Ryan Otterson (6-5, 289). Expect Wyoming to make more of a commitment to the run.

The defense will be tough up front as well with three starters back – tackle John Fletcher (6-6, 280), nose guard Fred Givens (6-0, 301) and end Mitch Unrein (6-4, 270). Also back is senior inside linebacker Ward Dobbs, who led Wyoming and ranked seventh in the Mountain West Conference in 2007 with 8.2 tackles per game.

The big question for the Cowboys is who will play quarterback. Last year’s starter, Karsten Sween, is back, but he struggled at times in 2007 and he did not lock down the starting role in spring practices. The Cowboys also are struggling to find a replacement for kicker/punter Billy Vinnedge.

Fast Fact: Wyoming, which lost 12 fumbles and threw 19 interceptions in 2007, ranked last in the MWC and 112th in the NCAA in turnover margin (minus-1.0 per game). The Cowboys committed five turnovers in last season’s loss to Air Force including a fumble that Bobby Giannini returned 85 yards for a game-changing touchdown. Wyoming has to improve in this area if it wants to compete for the MWC crown.

What Caught My Eye: This is Year Six of the Joe Glenn Era. And I think that ol’ Cowboy Joe officially has to be considered on the hot seat.

Since the 2004 season when Wyoming beat UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Cowboys have struggled, going 15-20, including 9-15 in the MWC. And two of the last three seasons have been marked by disastrous collapses. In 2005 the Cowboys started 4-1 before losing six straight. Wyoming started 4-1 last season as well, but then lost six of its final seven, including a 50-0 loss to Utah (which was accompanied by Middle-Finger-Gate – Glenn giving Kyle Whittingham a one-fingered salute after the Utes kicked an onsides kick with the game well in hand).

So, you combine all the returning talent with recent disappointment and I think it equals this: Glenn has to win now.

Final Thought: If Wyoming can sort out its quarterback situation, it could be a surprise team in the conference. But the Cowboys will be tested with games on the road against BYU, New Mexico, TCU and Tennessee.

Way Early Line vs. AF: Wyoming -6. The Cowboys get Air Force in Laramie in the second week of the season when Air Force’s neophyte team still will be getting its collective feet wet. This game will be a big-time tone-setter for both teams.


Anonymous said...

This is AFA's real opener. Southern Utah is just a scrimmage.

Sounds like this game will be won or loss in the trenches, strength against strength.

jake.schaller said...

True, and it's going to be a tone-setter, one way or the other. If Air Force can come into Laramie (a tough place to play) and get a 'W,' I think it will be an enormous confidence-builder for a young and inexperienced team. Just like last year when AF went to Utah and beat the Utes in Week 2. Air Force had more talent and experience on that team, but those guys just didn't really know how to win and they questioned if they could win. Once they beat the Utes, their confidence skyrocketed.