Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Wyoming Cowboys

Wyoming Cowboys
After a 7-2 start last season that included a win over Boise State (the Cowboys later also beat San Diego State), the wheels fell off of the wagon a bit, and Wyoming finished the season  by losing four of their final five. Still, the Cowboys had done just enough to get to the MWC title game, where they fell by a FG in their rematch against San Diego State. The Cowboys, like Boise State, lost a ton of talent off of their roster after last season, but expect Craig Bohl and his staff to keep the wheels churning in a tough, but winnable, Mountain West Mountain Division.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Josh Allen is back at QB as a junior, and will be the primary focus of the Cowboy offense this fall. He passed for  yards and 28 TDs, but he will have to find a way to decrease his mistakes (15 INTs) and increase his accuracy (56%). Still, Allen has the most potential of any QB in the league, and that could carry this team far.
Four starters return up front on the line, including LT Zach Wallace, C Gavin Rush, RG Kaden Jackson, and RT Ryan Cummings.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Brian Hill, one of the most productive backs in Mountain West and Wyoming history, as departed early, leaving a gaping hole at RB. Projected starter Milo Hall does not have a single carry in the program, and could end up sharing the load.
James Price and CJ Johnson are the new starting WRs, as both spots came open after last season. They combined for all of 27 receptions last fall, and sophomore Austin Conway added just 11.
The PK job is back in the hands of Cooper Rothe, but he was hardly dependable enough last fall, hitting on just 13/20 FG attempts.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Cowboys will be set at DE this fall, as both Carl Granderson and Kevin Prosser return. Prosser led the team with 11 TFLs last fall, while Granderson added another six.
The secondary looks like it should be the strength of the defense this fall, as three starters return. Marcus Epps and Andrew Wingard are back at SS and FS respectively, while Rico Gafford is back at CB. Wingard led the team last fall with a whopping 131 tackles, and Epps added another 111. They also combined for four forced fumbles. Gafford finished with five PBUs, and also added another two forced fumbles of his own. This group combined for seven INTs as well.
LB Logan Wilson is also back this fall at an outside spot, and tied for the team lead with three INTs last fall, while adding 94 tackles and 7.5 TFLs.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
While the ends are all set up front, the Cowboys get two new starters on the interior. Sydney Malauulu has the insdie crack at the DT spot, while Youhanna Ghaifan is slotted in at NT for now.
Wilson being back at LB is a great thing, but there will be two new starters working with him. Jalan Ortiz finished with just 15 tackles in seven games last fall, while Cassh Maluia finished with just 16 tackles in 13 games as a freshman last fall.
Rico Gafford is likely to be holding on tohis starting job at CB, but Robert Priester is in a dog fight to start at the other CB spot, as several Cowboys have starting experience at CB, and are making it difficult for any one candidate to hold onto the job.
Wyoming suffered many injuries on defense last season, and if the Cowboys are to make another run at the Mountain Division title in the MWC, they will have to stay on the field as individuals, and do better than allowing 34 points per game.
The Punting job is also open, with freshman Tim Zaleski to get first look in fall camp.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 at Iowa, 9/9 Gardner-Webb, 9/16 Oregon, 9/23 Hawaii, 9/30 Texas State, 10/14 at Utah State, 10/21 at Boise State, 10/28 New Mexico, 11/4 Colorado State, 11/11 at Air Force, 11/18 Fresno State, 11/25 at San Jose State
Final Overview
The Cowboys made an unexpected run to a share of the Mountain Division title, and played in the MWC title game last season, narrowly missing out on a conference championship. They will be playing with an unusual target on their backs this season, and the early schedule is fairly difficult, with games against Iowa and Boise State on the road, and Oregon and Hawaii at home. The Cowboys do get New Mexico and Colorado State at home, and the last two games should be wins. The roster has some questions, and some holes, so the Cowboys are anything but a sure bet, but luckily, the Mountain Division could be watered down from where it was last season.

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