2011 Wyoming Preview
Wyoming RB Alvester Alexander
Wyoming RB Alvester Alexander
Posted Jul 21, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Wyoming Cowboys

Wyoming Cowboys

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Dave Christensen
3rd year: 10-15
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 18, Def. 18, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best Wyoming Players
1. DE Josh Biezuns, Sr.
2. CB Tashaun Gipson, Sr.
3. DE Gabe Knapton, Sr.
4. DT Patrick Mertens, Soph.
5. P Austin McCoy, Sr.
6. LB Brian Hendricks, Sr.
7. RB Alvester Alexander, Jr.
8. C Nick Carlson, Jr.
9. WR Chris McNeill, Jr.
10. LB Oliver Schober, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 Weber State
Sep. 10 Texas State
Sep. 17 at Bowling Green
Sep. 24 Nebraska
Oct. 8 at Utah State
Oct. 15 UNLV
Oct. 29 at San Diego State
Nov. 5 TCU
Nov. 12 at Air Force
Nov. 19 New Mexico
Nov. 26 at Boise State
Dec. 3 at Colorado State

Wyoming doesn't have a real recruiting base to draw from, the school isn't huge, and while the fan base is rabid, it isn't exactly Ohio State when it comes to filling the house. So for the Cowboys to come up with a great year, everything has to go the right way.

The key wins have to come at the right time, the schedule has to be light enough to provide a few wins, and there can't be any mistakes. Even in the big years over the last decade, it took a few mega-breaks for everything to come together.

In 2009, UW was able to come up with six wins over teams that didn't finish with winning records, won five of those games by five points or fewer, and came up with its best performance of the year against Fresno State – who doesn't seem to care unless it's playing a BCS squad - in the New Mexico Bowl.

In 2004, the Cowboys beat the weak and the sad before shocking the world with a 24-21 win over UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. In 2006, the only other non-losing season other than 2004 and 2009 since 1999, Wyoming went 6-6 with only one good win coming in a huge upset over Utah. There needs to be a perfect storm to avoid the normal 3-9 season like last year, and it's going to take a few miracles for every positive break to come this year.

It's going to take a few breaks to get every positive break this year, even though the schedule isn't that bad.

It's going to take a special upset for the Cowboys to beat one of the bigger, better teams, and they can't miss against the weaker ones. The problem is that the pool of sad teams is diminishing, and some of the games against the lesser teams – like Bowling Green, Utah State, and Colorado State – are on the road. Oh sure, beating Weber State and Texas State to start the year shouldn't be a problem, and taking care of UNLV and New Mexico at home is a must, but that would only provide a base of four wins, and that's assuming a sweep.

The offense was the third worst in the nation, the defense finished 92nd in total D and 86th in scoring defense, and while there was an explosion in the final game of the season against a lifeless Colorado State, the consistency wasn't there. The Cowboys scored 38 against San Diego State and 31 against New Mexico, losing both games, and then came up with just 16 against UNLV. That can't happen.

The offense has to find a quarterback after Austyn Carta-Samuels left the team and possible starter Emory Miller took off this summer after being in the mix for the starting job. The line gets four starters back, but it needs to be far, far better in pass protection and the passing game needs receivers to step up and produce to make up for the inexperience under center. Alevester Alexander is a talented running back, but he only gained 792 yards last year and he needs more room to move.

The defense gave up fewer than 30 points just five times, and considering the offense struggled to come up with points on a regular basis, that's a problem. However, it's hardly all doom and gloom.

Seven starters return on both sides of the ball, and the lines have the potential to be the strongest they've been in years. Yes, the defensive back seven is way too small, but it's ultra-athletic and should swarm all around the field.

The offense should be able to run the ball, and even though the coaching staff spent the spring trying to shake things up, the pieces are there for a good year from the veterans. If the quarterback situation can be settled early, and with two warm-up games – Weber State and Texas State – to get everything in place, the breaks might be there for the Cowboys to get back to a bowl game.

What to watch for on offense: What will new offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon do for the offense? As the former head coach at Bowling Green from 2003 to 2008, his teams were loaded with high-octane attacks with good passing games and tremendous production from the quarterbacks. He's one of the better spread coaches in the game and he knows how to get everyone in the right spot and in places to spread out the field, but he first needs to find the right quarterback to lead the way. The pressure will be on Brett Smith to be a star right away and to make the program his, but he also has to mesh with Brandon.

What to watch for on defense: The improvement of the defensive front. The Cowboys struggled last year to get into the backfield finishing with just 20 sacks and a mere 58 tackles for loss, compared to the 31 sacks allowed and the 104 tackles for loss given up. It's not like the pass rush with lights-out two years ago when UW came up with a winning season, but it was better. Now the defensive front, for the first time in years, has to be stronger and has to be far, far better against the run with all four starters returning up front, led by ends Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns. The experience is there for a big season, and the line has to shine.

The team will be far better if … it can win all the close games. In 2009, Wyoming went 6-0 in games decided by seven points or fewer. In 2008, the Cowboys went 3-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less and went 3-1 in those games in 2007. Last year, UW went 1-3 in the tight battles, and if that number was reversed, it would've finished a respectable 5-7 instead of a painful 3-9. That means the team has to do all the little things right, and that means the penalties have to be kept to a minimum (they were last year), the third down plays have to be converted (they weren't), and the time of possession has to swing the team's way (losing 32:14 to 27:46).

The schedule: Last year's schedule was rough and the final record reflected it. This year, the slate couldn't be nicer helped by two scrimmages against Weber State and Texas State before going to Bowling Green. There's one brutal non-conference game to deal with, Nebraska, but that's at home. The Cowboys don't have to start conference play until mid-October, and it starts with a winnable game against UNLV before getting a week off. And then the payback comes with road games at San Diego State and Air Force wrapped around a home game against TCU. However, forget about any pie-in-the-sky dreams of a Mountain West title with road games against the Aztecs, Falcons, and Boise State and Colorado State to close.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Alvester Alexander. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Alexander got a little bit of room to move. The 5-11, 204-pounder has decent enough size to pound away, and he has the speed and the wheels to be a gamebreaker for an attack that desperately needs to come up with big plays on a regular basis. He wasn't steady last year, but he was great when he was on with 123 yards against Air Force and 151 yards against New Mexico. His five touchdowns in the regular season finale against Colorado State showed what he could do when everything is working.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Josh Biezuns. While Gabe Knapton is a former linebacker who might turn out to be the best all-around lineman, Biezuns should be the best pass rusher. The 6-2, 260-pound former fullback led the way with 6.5 sacks and has been solid against the run over the last two seasons with 126 stops, and he brings the motor and the energy on every play. If he's an All-Mountain West star, the defense should take a huge step forward.

Key player to a successful season: Freshman QB Brett Smith. The hope was for Austyn Carta-Samuels to grow into his experience and talent, but he's gone. Emory Miller is an ultra-quick playmaker who would've been a perfect fit for the offense, but he's gone. That means Adam Pittser will get his chance after being brought in to challenge for the job right away, but it's Smith's gig to lose at this point. The 6-3, 195-pound Smith, a true freshman, is a terrific runner who's built like a pure passer, and he has the ability and upside to make the hob his. However, he has to be consistent and he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

The season will be a success if … the Cowboys get to a bowl game. However, with two FCS games, there will need to be several upsets. It'll take a shockingly good year from the new starting quarterback and the passing game, and the defense will have to start coming up with more big plays, but with Weber State and Texas State to start, coming up with five more wins to get a 13th game is do able. UW should be good enough to at least split home games against UNLV and New Mexico and come up with a few wins on the road against average teams like Bowling Green, Utah State, and Colorado State. Six wins would be nice, but seven would make for a good year.

Key game: Oct. 15 vs. UNLV. The Cowboys were losing, but the offense was rolling better than it had all season long with 38 points against San Diego State and 31 against New Mexico. And then everything fell flat in a 42-16 loss to UNLV. UW has won five of the last seven games against the Rebels, and in the Mountain West opener, this is a must win game at home going into an off-week. With at San Diego State, TCU, and at Air Force to follow, the Cowboys will probably by 0-4 in conference play if they lose to UNLV.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Punt Returns: Opponents 26 for 346 yards – Wyoming 6 for 46 yards
- Fourth Quarter Scoring: Opponents 115 – Wyoming 44
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:14 – Wyoming 27:46

- 2011 Wyoming Preview | 2011 Wyoming Offense
- 2011 Wyoming Defense | 2011 Wyoming Depth Chart