2014 Wyoming Preview: What You Need To Know
Wyoming WR Dominic Rufran
Wyoming WR Dominic Rufran
Posted Jul 15, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Wyoming (Getty Images)

2014 Wyoming Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Wyoming Preview  

What You Need To Know About The Offense: North Dakota State won a national championship with a balanced attack and a powerful, tough running game that helped out an explosive and efficient passing game. Wyoming’s offense wasn’t a problem last year, cranking up 473 yards and 31 points per game, but it’s going to undergo a scheme change utilizing more of a power game while slowing things down a bit. The running game should be terrific with a deep backfield, and the receivers are solid as long as Dominic Ruffran can get healthy after suffering a broken foot this offseason. The two big question marks are at quarterback – with Brett Smith leaving early for the NFL – and the line. The front five has experience among the starter, but it’s very, very thin in terms of depth. Several options are battling it out for the quarterback gig with senior Colby Kirkegaard leading the pack.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: Last year, North Dakota State led the FCS in scoring defense and gave up just 256 yards per game doing a phenomenal job getting better and better as the season went on. Wyoming’s defense? Not so much. The scheme is being changed up to a 4-3 under defensive coordinator Steve Stanard, and is should be far better after struggling against anyone who could throw a forward pass and giving up way too much on the ground. Nine starters are back led by a promising defensive front led by end Eddie Yarbrough and tough middle linebacker Jordan Stanton. Everyone has to get into the backfield more to pressure passers who were way too comfortable against a leaky secondary.
1. DE Eddie Yarbrough, Jr.
The pass rush didn’t do quite enough, and Yarbrough wasn’t consistent, but he led the team with 6.5 sacks with 12 tackles for loss. When the First Team All-Mountain West star wasn’t coming up with big plays in the backfield, he was doing what he could against the run finishing fourth on the team with 89 stops and always getting around the ball. At 6-3 and 257 pounds he’s built like a tall outside linebacker, but he’s a good end who holds up against the run making 13 tackles in the opener against Nebraska and 11 against Boise State. In the new 4-3 scheme, he’s going to be even more of a true end and should do more behind the line.

2. LB Jordan Stanton, Sr.
The hope was for the 6-0, 246-pound Stanton to be a quick fix coming in from Los Angeles CC, and he was almost exactly what the team needed earning all-star honors finishing with a team-leading 134 tackles with two picks and two sacks. Big and experienced, he’s a short, stout 6-0, 246-pound middle linebacker who has just enough quickness and good enough instincts to always be in on the play, and he holds up well coming up with double-digit stops in six games with a four game stretch of 14 tackles against New Mexico, 18 against Colorado State, and 17 against both San Jose State and Fresno State. He’s the team’s tone-setting popper.

3. CB Blair Burns, Sr.
It’s not a positive when a cornerback makes 61 tackles, but Burns can do it. He’s not a rock against the deep receivers, and he needs to be more of a lockdown defender, but he’s a feisty 5-10, 186-pound hitter who’s good in the open field. Now he has to be more of a pickoff artist with just one pick on the season in the opener against Nebraska, but with seven broken up passes after making ten in 2012. While he’s quick and athletic, he’s at his best making stops.

4. WR Dominic Rufran, Sr.
The team needed a No. 1 receiver to step up and take over, and Rufran did just that coming up with a team-leading 75 catches for 960 yards and eight scores. While Robert Herron was more dangerous and did just as much, Rufran came up with 11 catches for 120 yards against Nebraska to start the season, followed it up with three touchdowns against Idaho, and was a big play factor throughout the season. However, the 6-0, 188-pound veteran scored six of his eight touchdowns in the first four games. He has to come back from a broken foot suffered this offseason, but he should be ready to roll by the start of the season.

5. FS Darrenn White, Sr.
The 6-0, 192-pound senior has moved around a bit, but he’s going to settle in at free safety where he made 28 tackles with two forced fumbles before getting banged up and missing the second half of the season. Very physical and with great quickness, he has the talent and ability to be a statistical star if he can stay in one piece, and he has to be a key part to the turnaround in the secondary. While he’s great against the run, he has to be the type of player who’s accounted for on every pass play – he has to be dangerous when the ball is in the air.

6. RB Shaun Wick, Jr.
With D.J. May banged up, Wick stepped up and turned in a strong season as a true sophomore, leading the team with 979 yards and nine scores to go along with 21 catches for 118 yards and two scores. The 5-10, 204-pounder is extremely quick with nice hands, and he has the ability and potential to be used even more as a receiver or as a return man. While he’s not a workhorse, he’s good for around 15 carries a game and has the burst to finish off runs well, coming up with 234 against San Jose State and hitting the 100-yard mark four times on the season.

7. RB D.J. May, Soph.
Getting May back after a pectoral injury should add more flash to a backfield that already came up with big yards per carry. He led the team with 374 rushing yards as a true freshman with 84 coming against Air Force and 87 against San Diego State, and now he has to be steadier and do even more. One of the team’s best athletes, he has the home-run hitting potential to come up with several big plays, and while he’s not huge at 5-11 and a thin 196, he can become more of a receiver.

8. WR/KR Jalen Claiborne, Sr.
Known more as a kick returner early on, he struggled a bit last year averaging just 18.3 yards per try. However, the 5-9, 175-pounder did his job as a part of the passing game with 33 catches for 452 yards and five scores, coming up with seven catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against Nebraska. His production fell off the map after a good start, but he was still good for a big play here and there utilizing his deep speed. A dangerous inside target, he’ll be great when he gets the ball in his hands with the ball on the move.

9. OT Connor Rains, Sr.
While he might not be a dominant force, and while he might need to be stronger in pass protection, the 6-7, 318-pound senior has great size and a fantastic frame that’s tough to get around. A right tackle, he came in from the JUCO ranks two years ago after dominating at American River CC, and he should shine as a top run blocker.

10. QB Colby Kirkegaard, Sr.
Is he going to be able to take over for Brett Smith and keep the production going? The former transfer from Phoenix Community College is a sharp passer with a good enough arm to get by and a little bit of mobility. He might not be a star, and he’s not going to run like Smith, but at 6-3, 205 he has good size to go along with the poise and potential to be a steady starter for an offense that needs to keep the mistakes to a minimum and needs to spread the ball around. 

- 2014 Wyoming Preview