The Cowboys are looking to build upon their overtime thrilling win over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl this spring and in to the fall. It is quite amazing that Wyoming got to a bowl and won their game. Their offense and defense were below average in the Mountain West which should have pointed to a losing season. However, their turn around can be attributed to a great increase in turnover margin. In 2008 the Pokes were minus 22 and plus eight in 2009.
Spring practice begins for Wyoming on March 6th with plenty of goals in mind. This spring will be much different from last year since Dave Christensen will have had his offense for a full year, and the team will not be learning the offense like last year. This time around the offense will be able to expand the playbook and to fine tune stuff with a much less learning curve.
However, the defense will move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 due to the loss of several key players especially defensive tackle John Fletcher. The expected replacements on the line will be Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns who are making the move to play defensive end to anchor the new defensive scheme. Knapton ranked second on the team in tackles and Biezuns was third on the team in sacks and tackles for loss. The Pokes will use the 4-3 but will show multiple looks out of their base defense. Ghaali Muhammad and Ben Durbin will get the chance to start and contribute big time at linebackers due to the move of Knapton and Biezuns at end.
Perhaps the defensive switch will help improve the Cowboys defense as they were in the bottom third in the major categories in the Mountain West. They do return seven starters whom all reside in the linbacker and secondary. The linebackers should be the best unit for the Cowboys.
Back to the offense, they return eight starters from the 2009 team which should make the offense better, and that includes QB Austyn Carta-Samuels who was a true frosh last year. Carta-Samules still has room to grow he did play in every game last year but it was not until the UNLV game where he became the full time starter. In the Christensen offense he is a good fit with his ability to run the ball when needed.
The biggest need this spring is to rebuild the offensive line that has to replace three seniors from a group that was not very good. Getting a good offensive line could set the tone for the 2010 season. The reason the offense was able to score points was because the defense was able to create turnovers and give the Pokes a short field.
They did nothing great on offense, but with all the skill players back and a year under their belt their should be significant progress this spring and into next season. Austyn Carta-Samuels is the player to build this program around for the future, and if the line can mold to go along with an average running game Wyoming will be more competitive with the top four.
We will see if these 15 practices can bring the Pokes closer to the top and try to make it to back to back bowl games since their Holiday Bowl appearances in 1987-88. Their spring game is April 17th.