The 2014 college football season starts on Aug. 27 and continues into mid-January with the first edition of the four-team playoff. Athlon Sports is counting down until kickoff with projections and previews for all 128 FBS teams. Here is our team preview for No. 94 Wyoming.
Previewing Wyoming’s Offense for 2014
There are several changes in store as first-year coach Craig Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen will go with a pro-style attack instead of the spread offense the team ran the previous five seasons with coach Dave Christensen.
The first step is to find a quarterback, and redshirt senior Colby Kirkegaard is the leading candidate. He is the most experienced option on the roster, but he has played in only seven games (with one start) since he arrived in 2011.
“I feel comfortable. It’s just about going out there and executing,” Kirkegaard says.
The competition will continue through fall camp, with sophomore Tom Thornton and senior Sam Stratton on Kirkegaard’s heels.
Bohl wants a power run game, and Wyoming could have the right pieces. Junior Shaun Wick led the team last season with 979 yards and nine touchdowns. Sophomore D.J. May returns after missing last season with a torn pectoral muscle, but he led the team in rushing as a true freshman in 2012 with 374 yards. The offensive line is experienced — all five projected first-teamers have starting experience. That group is anchored by junior right guard Jake Jones, who has started every game of his career.
The Cowboys also have a deep and experienced receiving corps, led by senior Dominic Rufran, who led the team last season with 75 catches for 960 yards and was second with eight touchdowns. Three of the top four wide receivers from last season return.
Wyoming will use tight ends and fullbacks for the first time in five seasons. Expect those positions to have more of an emphasis in the run game.
Previewing Wyoming’s Defense for 2014
Wyoming returns eight starters from a unit that gave up 220.2 rushing yards, 261.8 passing yards and 36.7 points per game last season. The Cowboys were mostly a 3-4 team the last five seasons but will make the transition to a 4-3 squad under Bohl.
The starting group along the line has impressed Bohl, led by junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough. He was a first-team All-Mountain West selection last season with 89 tackles and team-best marks with 12 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.
Senior middle linebacker Jordan Stanton was among the nation’s leaders in tackles last season (134), but part of that was a product of the defense being on the field for so many snaps. Senior outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha was all over the field during the spring, and he could thrive in the 4-3.
In the secondary, senior cornerback Blair Burns looks to regain his form after being named a Freshman All-American in 2011. Senior Darrenn White provides experience at free safety.
Previewing Wyoming’s Specialists for 2014
The Cowboys’ kicking game is in decent shape thanks to the return of senior placekicker Stuart Williams and sophomore punter Ethan Wood. Wyoming attempted only seven field goals in 2013, the fewest in the nation. The Pokes ranked in the bottom third of the league in both kickoff returns (last) and punt returns (ninth).
Wyoming hired a proven winner in Bohl, who led North Dakota State to three consecutive FCS national titles. But the transition in all phases of the game will take time. The Cowboys lost to five teams that finished above them in the conference standings by nearly 30 points per contest last season. This season’s schedule does them no favors, with road games at Oregon and Michigan State in September. Anything close to a .500 record should be considered a success.
“We made good progress during the course of the spring, but we are not anything to where we are a finished product,” Bohl says.