The big 2014 Wyoming football preview: Craig Bohl takes his chances

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Craig Bohl had nothing left to prove at North Dakota State so he moved on to Wyoming, where he inherits an offense without its leader and a defense that struggled with efficiency in 2013. How quickly might he get things turned around in Laramie?

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

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1. It's been a while since Craig Bohl lost

On Oct. 13, 2012, Craig Bohl's North Dakota State Bison lost at home to Indiana State, 17-14. On Nov. 12, 2011, they lost to Youngstown State, 27-24.

These are the only two losses Craig Bohl has suffered in the last 41 months.

North Dakota State went 43-2 from 2011 to 2013, suffering those two losses and rolling through the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) the rest of the way. The Bison won three consecutive FCS championships. They whipped Minnesota, 37-24, in 2011. They thumped Colorado State, 22-7, in 2012. And as you probably remember, they took down defending Big 12 champion Kansas State, 24-21, to start the 2013 season.

While we're at it, NDSU also beat Kansas in 2010 (6-3), Central Michigan and Minnesota in 2007, and Ball State in 2006. In total, NDSU went 6-3 against FBS teams under Bohl.

Wyoming pulled off an absolute coup landing Bohl as its new head coach. He is in no way a young up-and-comer -- then again, he's only 55; it's not like he's 70 or something -- but coaches this proven, this successful, usually don't land in Laramie. A defensive back for Tom Osborne's Nebraska Cornhuskers in the late-1970s, Bohl was an FBS defensive coordinator for nine years before taking over in Fargo in 2003. In his first year, NDSU improved from 2-8 to 8-3. They went 20-2 from 2006 through 2007 while transitioning to the FCS level from Division II. After a brief slump (9-13 in 2008-09), the Bison went 9-5 and reached the FCS quarterfinals in just their third year eligible for the postseason. And then they won three straight titles.

What Bohl built in Fargo was incredible. His Bison ranked 17th in the Sagarin rankings in 2013, ahead of Wisconsin, Arizona State and Louisville. They also ranked 35th in 2012 and 37th in 2011. For each of the last four seasons, they ranked ahead of Wyoming. But with no promotion-and-relegation system at play, he had taken NDSU as far as he could. One can understand why he felt it might be time for a new challenge.

Bohl is definitely inheriting a challenge. Wyoming has been a jump-off point for a lot of successful coaches through the years -- Joe Tiller, Dennis Erickson and Pat Dye, to name three. But the Cowboys have attended only three bowls since Tiller left for Purdue in 1996. They went 27-35 in five seasons under Dave Christensen. Their offense was pretty good over the last couple of years, but the main reason for that, quarterback Brett Smith, has left for the pros. Bohl won't inherit a blank slate, but it might take him some time to put the pieces together.

2. Wyoming needs a defense

Before he was one of the most successful head coaches in football, Bohl was a stout defensive coordinator. In 1989, he took over a Rice defense that had allowed 32.5 points per game the previous season, and in five years, his Owls allowed 28.5, 23.5, 26.1, 23.7, and 26.7. In 1994, he took over a Duke defense that had allowed 31.7 points per game the previous year, and he immediately lopped 8.3 points per game off of that average. Duke improved from 3-8 to 8-4 that season.

In 1995, Bohl returned to his alma mater, Nebraska, to serve as linebackers coach. In 2000, he took over as Frank Solich's defensive coordinator. Granted, his last defense (2002) slumped ("slumped") to 23.9 points per game, but he was successful enough in Lincoln to snare the NDSU head coaching job in 2003.

Photo credit: Cooper Neill

Here's one thing we know for sure: Wyoming needs help on defense. While Christensen was able to generate some offensive success at the end of his tenure in Laramie -- the Cowboys ranked 62nd and 77th, respectively, in Off. F/+ in 2012-13 -- the defense never came around. After ranking 84th in Def. F/+ in his first season (2009), Christensen's defenses never ranked higher than 98th from 2010 on.

Bohl's first defense will be quite experienced, and he will have a wealth of options for attacking from the edge of the front seven. But there is plenty of reason to question the depth and up-the-middle talent of this roster, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes Bohl and defensive coordinator Steve Stanard (Bohl's linebackers coach at NDSU and a former defensive coordinator at Tulane and Colorado State) to craft a quality unit.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 102
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug at Nebraska 39 34-37 L 48.6 - 34.7 W
7-Sep Idaho 116 42-10 W 28.8 - 25.6 W
14-Sep Northern Colorado N/A 35-7 W 18.7 - 31.8 L
21-Sep at Air Force 113 28-17 W 34.3 - 33.2 W
28-Sep at Texas State 107 21-42 L 21.9 - 44.2 L -3.4
12-Oct New Mexico 110 38-31 W 21.5 - 22.6 L -6.5
19-Oct Colorado State 66 22-52 L 26.3 - 33.3 L -8.5
26-Oct at San Jose State 74 44-51 L 35.1 - 39.9 L -6.8
9-Nov Fresno State 49 10-48 L 18.8 - 33.4 L -10.0
16-Nov at Boise State 45 7-48 L 16.1 - 26.8 L -7.6
23-Nov Hawaii 82 59-56 W 40.0 - 42.6 L -7.9
30-Nov at Utah State 32 7-35 L 13.1 - 21.8 L -8.3
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -4.0% 77 -10.3% 101 -5.6% 122
Points Per Game 28.9 68 36.2 110
Adj. Points Per Game 26.9 73 32.5 102

3. The offense fell apart

For all five of his seasons, Christensen put basically the same team on the field. Granted, both the offense and defense waxed and waned from year to year, but overall the Cowboys ranked 101st, 108th, 104th, 100th and 102nd in the F/+ rankings under Christensen. When the bounces went their way (in 2009 and 2011), they won enough close games to go bowling. When the breaks didn't happen, neither did the wins.

The 2013 season started in rather promising fashion. Wyoming nearly beat Nebraska and started the season 4-2. But despite a lack of significant injuries, the offensive production trailed off by the end of September. After averaging 7.2 or greater yards per play in three of their first four games, the Cowboys did so just twice in the final eight games. After scoring 34 points against Nebraska, they scored 24 against Fresno State, Boise State and Utah State, combined.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Wyoming 32.6, Opponent 31.3 (plus-1.3)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 8 games): Opponent 33.1, Wyoming 24.1 (minus-9.0)

The defense made quite a few plays but allowed far more. Wyoming allowed at least 6.1 yards per play in seven games and at least 31 points in each of its last eight games (and at least 42 in six of the eight). It was up to the offense to carry the load, and that barely happened after Week 4.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.22 31 IsoPPP+ 103.0 46
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.2% 63 Succ. Rt. + 91.6 86
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 32.1 106 Def. FP+ 95.4 103
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.0 6 Redzone S&P+ 99.2 66
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.8 ACTUAL 24 +0.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 22 82 87 78
RUSHING 41 52 99 59
PASSING 24 99 82 73
Standard Downs 78 91 43
Passing Downs 86 85 70
Q1 Rk 79 1st Down Rk 93
Q2 Rk 86 2nd Down Rk 86
Q3 Rk 99 3rd Down Rk 44
Q4 Rk 39

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Brett Smith


293 468 3375 29 11 62.6% 25 5.1% 6.5
Colby Kirkegaard (2012) 6'3, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 16 26 123 0 1 61.5% 0 0.0% 4.7
Tommy Thornton 6'1, 205 So. 2 stars 3 4 15 0 0 75.0% 1 20.0% 1.2
Sam Stratton 5'11, 186 Sr. 2 stars (5.4)
Aaron Young 6'2, 208 So. 2 stars (5.3)
Austin Fort 6'4, 210 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Nick Smith 6'4, 212 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)

4. Brett Smith and Craig Bohl? This is going to be great! Oh.

Photo credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

In three seasons as Wyoming's starting quarterback, Brett Smith threw for 8,829 yards with a 62 percent completion rate and 76 touchdowns to 28 interceptions. He rushed for 1,529 yards (including sacks) and 20 touchdowns. He was a dynamic threat, someone capable of escaping pressure and making plays out of the pocket, both with his arms and legs. He never completed under 61 percent of his passes, his runs downfield were beautifully timed, and for a mobile quarterback his 5.1 percent sack rate was relatively low. He would have been the perfect quarterback to usher in the Bohl era, but he declared for the NFL Draft instead.

Smith is a potential late-round pick, so perhaps that ends up being the right decision. Regardless, it leaves Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen (Bohl's OC at NDSU) with a grab bag at quarterback. Seniors Colby Kirkegaard (Smith's backup in 2012 before redshirting in 2013) and Sam Stratton appear to be the most likely bets to start, but this could be a fluid situation well into the fall.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Shaun Wick RB 5'10, 204 Jr. NR 166 979 9 5.9 5.8 41.0%
Brett Smith QB

99 742 4 7.5 10.3 45.5%
Brandon Miller RB 83 385 3 4.6 3.3 36.1%
D.J. May (2012) RB 5'11, 196 So. 2 stars (5.3) 77 369 1 4.8 3.5 N/A
Tedder Easton RB 45 311 5 6.9 9.9 35.6%
Omar Stover RB 5'11, 198 So. 2 stars (5.4) 10 37 0 3.7 2.0 30.0%
Tommy Thornton QB 6'1, 205 So. 2 stars 5 17 0 3.4 2.5 40.0%
Oscar Nevermann RB 6'1, 210 So. NR
Joshua Tapscott RB 5'9, 200 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Nico Evans RB 5'9, 177 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Brian Hill RB 6'1, 210 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Robert Herron WR 111 72 927 64.9% 24.3% 56.2% 8.4 58 9.0 93.8
Dominic Rufran WR 6'0, 188 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 105 75 970 71.4% 23.0% 56.5% 9.2 107 8.1 98.2
Tanner Gentry WR 6'2, 190 So. 2 stars (5.3) 70 39 376 55.7% 15.3% 56.9% 5.4 -133 4.8 38.1
Jalen Claiborne WR 5'9, 175 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 58 33 452 56.9% 12.7% 65.2% 7.8 26 7.9 45.7
Brandon Miller RB 28 23 193 82.1% 6.1% 48.0% 6.9 -55 7.5 19.5
Shaun Wick RB 5'10, 204 Jr. NR 27 21 118 77.8% 5.9% 70.8% 4.4 -114 4.7 11.9
Jake Maulhardt WR 6'6, 215 So. NR 12 9 76 75.0% 2.6% 66.7% 6.3 -25 5.4 7.7
Trey Norman WR 6'1, 175 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 5 81 41.7% 2.6% 100.0% 6.8 4 5.4 8.2
Jarrod Darden WR 11 6 49 54.5% 2.4% 45.5% 4.5 -30 4.3 5.0
Keenan Montgomery WR 6'1, 180 Sr. NR 7 5 102 71.4% 1.5% 100.0% 14.6 44 9.5 10.3
Tedder Easton RB 6 3 4 50.0% 1.3% 100.0% 0.7 -38 0.6 0.4
Spencer Bruce TE 5 3 23 60.0% 1.1% 80.0% 4.6 -15 4.7 2.3
Justin Berger WR 6'2, 209 Sr. NR 4 2 19 50.0% 0.9% 100.0% 4.8 -9 2.2 1.9
J.D. Krill TE 6'6, 246 Sr. 3 stars (5.5)
Eric Nzeocha TE 6'3, 208 So. NR
Jacob Hollister TE 6'4, 230 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Tyree Mayfield TE 6'3, 212 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)








5. Wick and Rufran are keepers

Wyoming's offense wasn't particularly efficient in 2013, but the big plays were pretty big. Of the three players (not named Brett Smith) most responsible for those big plays -- running back Shaun Wick and receivers Robert Herron and Dominic Rufran -- Wick and Rufran return.

Shaun Wick/Photo credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

A two-year starting running back, Wick didn't necessarily prove a lot as a freshman beyond "He's better than anyone else we've got," but he broke out in 2013, especially early on (when the offense was actually viable). He rushed for 101 yards against Nebraska and another 197 combined against Idaho and Northern Colorado. He carried 17 times for 116 yards in a tight win over New Mexico and 17 times for 234 yards in a tight loss at San Jose State. Like Wyoming's production as a whole, Wick faded down the stretch, but he's a keeper.

We know the general style of play Bohl wants: a run-heavy, ball-control offense that sets the table for a dominating defense. If he stays healthy, Wick will have more than enough opportunities to cross the 1,000-yard mark that he approached in 2013. It's hard to say who else might get carries this fall -- sophomore D.J. May is next in line, followed by ... ? -- but he should be a strong No. 1, and he will be running behind a line that ranked in the top 50 in most line stats below and returns six players with starting experience (47 total starts).

Meanwhile, Rufran could excel in play-action situations. He combined fantastic efficiency (a 71 percent catch rate) with occasional explosiveness -- he caught eight passes for 117 yards against Air Force, seven for 135 against Colorado State, seven for 121 against Hawaii and four for 92 against Utah State -- last season. The rest of the receiving corps hasn't proven much, but there is decent experience.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 104.4 3.18 3.45 40.1% 70.7% 16.6% 119.3 3.0% 7.1%
Rank 48 27 44 60 52 23 48 25 69
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Tyler Strong LG 33
Jake Jones RG 6'3, 295 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 24
Connor Rains RT 6'7, 318 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 12
Walker Madden LT 10
Albert Perez C 6
Chase Roullier LG 6'4, 293 So. 2 stars (5.3) 4
Rafe Kiely C 6'3, 299 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 4
Nathan Leddige LT 6'5, 289 So. 2 stars 2
Austin Traphagan OT 6'5, 308 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 1
Josh Teeter LG

Jacob English LG 6'5, 292 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Sam Hardy RG 6'3, 299 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0
Taylor Knestis OL 6'5, 278 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Kurtis Stirneman RT 6'5, 270 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.13 54 IsoPPP+ 98.9 65
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 47.0% 103 Succ. Rt. + 87.5 106
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 26.0 120 Off. FP+ 89.7 125
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 97 Redzone S&P+ 82.9 111
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.0 ACTUAL 20.0 0.0
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 113 103 106 107
RUSHING 109 81 73 100
PASSING 106 111 121 107
Standard Downs 108 109 90
Passing Downs 77 79 45
Q1 Rk 70 1st Down Rk 101
Q2 Rk 89 2nd Down Rk 84
Q3 Rk 113 3rd Down Rk 112
Q4 Rk 118

6. Experience? Check

North Dakota State became the Alabama of FCS, not only because of its overall success, but because of its defensive style. Like the Crimson Tide, the Bison didn't attack you so much as suffocate you. They logged 81 tackles for loss and defensed (intercepted or broke up) 72 passes in 2013. Those figures are above average, but considering NDSU played 15 games, they are not spectacular. The Bison still allowed only 256 yards and 11.3 points per game because they played smart and swarmed to the ball effectively.

If experience is key to playing smart, then that's a good sign for Bohl's first defense. Wyoming has all sorts of question marks, especially along the backbone of the defense (tackle, middle linebacker and safety), but the Cowboys do return four of their top six tacklers on the line, seven of nine in the secondary, and basically every linebacker. One figures Bohl will know what to do with a strong set of linebackers.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 90.5 3.33 3.44 43.5% 70.2% 14.8% 93.7 4.2% 7.0%
Rank 102 109 78 107 84 114 71 70 59
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Eddie Yarbrough DE 6'3, 257 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 12 65.0 8.1% 12.0 6.5 0 1 2 2
Justin Bernthaler DT 12 33.0 4.1% 7.5 4.5 0 0 1 0
Sonny Puletasi DE 6'3, 251 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 33.0 4.1% 10.0 4.5 0 3 0 0
Patrick Mertens NT 6'5, 295 Sr. NR 12 22.0 2.7% 5.0 2.0 0 0 1 0
Uso Olive NT 6'1, 293 So. 2 stars (5.4) 11 19.0 2.4% 4.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
Siaosi Hala'api'api DE 6'2, 248 Jr. 2 stars 10 8.5 1.1% 1.5 0.0 0 1 1 0
Troy Boyland NT 6'2, 302 Sr. 2 stars (5.4)
Chase Appleby DT 6'0, 289 So. 2 stars (5.4)
James Diamanti DT 6'4, 296 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Dalton Fields NT 6'3, 265 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)
Du'Ryan Ebbesen NT 6'2, 288 RSFr. NR
Daniel Vega DT 6'4, 260 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Sidney Malauulu DT 6'3, 280 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jordan Stanton MLB 6'0, 246 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 101.5 12.7% 10.0 2.0 2 0 0 0
Mark Nzeocha SLB 6'3, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 12 82.5 10.3% 10.0 1.0 0 2 2 0
Lucas Wacha WLB 6'1, 214 So. 2 stars 12 64.5 8.0% 2.0 1.0 0 1 1 0
Devyn Harris WLB 6'3, 240 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 38.5 4.8% 3.5 1.0 0 1 0 1
Malkaam Muhammad SLB 6'0, 228 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 11 4.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nehemie Kankolongo SLB 5'11, 212 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 10 2.5 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Alex Borgs LB 6'2, 232 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 2.0 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Lark LB 6'2, 213 Jr. 2 stars (5.4)
Lucas Wacha LB 6'1, 214 So. 2 stars
Brandon Lukenbill MLB 6'2, 224 So. NR
Alex Bush LB 6'2, 220 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)







7. Ends and linebackers? Check

Sometimes the team and individual don't match up logically. The Five Factors box above paints a picture of a team pretty decent at preventing big plays but far too prone to allowing efficient, five- to seven-yard gains. Defenses like these tend to follow the bend-don't-break route, racking up few big plays of their own.

Jordan Stanton/Photo credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Wyoming, on the other hand, made plenty of big plays, at least near the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys logged 75 tackles for loss in 12 games -- on a per-game basis, a healthy 48th in the country (and more than NDSU) -- mostly from four players: ends Eddie Yarbrough and Sonny Puletasi, and linebackers Jordan Stanton and Mark Nzeocha. All four of those players, three of who line up on the edge in the front seven, return, forming the basis for both a strong pass rush and decent run defense.

But even with an occasionally explosive front seven, Wyoming was terribly inefficient, especially against the pass. If the Cowboys weren't getting to the quarterback, they were allowing an easy completion. For the season, they allowed a ridiculous 68.9 percent completion rate, second-worst in the country. Wyoming basically turned every opposing quarterback into Fresno State's Derek Carr.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Marqueston Huff FS 12 100.5 12.5% 3 0 2 6 1 0
Blair Burns CB 5'10, 186 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 49.5 6.2% 1 0 1 7 0 0
Tim Hayes CB 5'9, 185 So. 2 stars (5.3) 11 33.5 4.2% 2 0 1 6 0 0
Chad Reese FS 7 32.0 4.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
DeAndre Jones CB 6'0, 186 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 32.0 4.0% 1 0 1 1 1 0
Darrenn White SS 6'0, 192 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 6 24.0 3.0% 0.5 0 0 1 2 0
Xavier Lewis SS 6'0, 190 So. 2 stars (5.3) 12 13.5 1.7% 1 0 0 3 0 0
Jesse Sampson FS 6'1, 196 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 4 9.5 1.2% 1 0 1 1 0 0
Cortland Fort CB 6'0, 185 So. 2 stars (5.2) 11 7.0 0.9% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Tyran Finley CB 5'9, 177 Sr. NR 1 3.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Schiffner SS 5'10, 181 Sr. NR
Tim Kamana FS 5'11, 190 RSFr. 2 stars
Cooper Wise CB 5'9, 170 RSFr. NR






8. Healthy backbone? Check back later

With the departure of the top two safeties, one has to worry about Wyoming's ability to continue preventing big plays. Any improvement in efficiency could be matched by regression in that regard. In addition, the top defensive tackle is gone, which leaves obvious questions about Wyoming's ability to keep blockers off of Stanton, Nzeocha and the other linebackers. Bohl inherited some strong play-makers on defense, but the questions still outweigh the answers for now, especially in pass defense.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ethan Wood 6'3, 165 So. 69 42.0 8 4 17 30.4%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Ethan Wood 6'3, 165 So. 40 61.3 21 2 52.5%
Justin Martin 5'11, 178 Jr. 25 60.2 12 2 48.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Stuart Williams 5'11, 180 Sr. 47-48 3-5 60.0% 1-2 50.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jalen Claiborne KR 5'9, 175 Sr. 16 18.3 0
Trey Norman KR 6'1, 175 Sr. 6 17.5 0
Jalen Claiborne PR 5'9, 175 Sr. 13 3.9 0
Dominic Rufran PR 6'0, 188 Sr. 3 17.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 122
Field Goal Efficiency 83
Punt Return Efficiency 125
Kick Return Efficiency 112
Punt Efficiency 93
Kickoff Efficiency 69
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 1

9. Just dreadful in the field position game

In terms of pure yards per play, Wyoming held its own in 2013. The Cowboys averaged 6.2 on offense and allowed 6.0 on defense, giving them a plus-0.2 that margin ranked 63rd in the country, right in the middle of the FBS landscape. However, they also ranked a horrendous 115th in field position margin. Their average possession began at their 26.0 (120th) while opponents began at the 32.1 (106th). Why the difference? Because Wyoming's special teams were a nightmare.

Ethan Wood's kickoffs and punts (and their coverage) weren't awful -- they weren't good, either, but they weren't the biggest liability in the unit. No, that belonged to the return game. Be it blocking or needing to find a return man better than Jalen Claiborne, Bohl has needs to address on special teams.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug Montana NR
6-Sep Air Force 105
13-Sep at Oregon 3
20-Sep Florida Atlantic 103
27-Sep at Michigan State 13
11-Oct at Hawaii 93
18-Oct San Jose State 82
25-Oct at Colorado State 85
1-Nov at Fresno State 46
8-Nov Utah State 69
22-Nov Boise State 18
29-Nov at New Mexico 116
Five-Year F/+ Rk -19.1% (113)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 102
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -4 / -3.8
TO Luck/Game -0.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (5, 7)

10. How long will it take?

Craig Bohl is one of the best defensive coaches in college football. He inherits a squad that was pretty good on offense and quite poor on defense. The optimist looks at that and decides that he'll turn around the defense pretty quickly, maintain a decent offense, and win some games. The pessimist decides that it will take him a little while with the defense, and the offense probably won't maintain last year's pace.

I'd say the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but that's a blind hedge. We don't really know how this will work out in 2014, but even with improvement, the Cowboys probably won't win a ton of games in 2014, not with three projected top-50 opponents and only four opponents projected worse than 100th. Set the bar at six to seven wins and expect five, I guess.

Long-term, one has to figure that Bohl will get the defense straightened out within a couple of years, but how well he will do with Wyoming's recruiting limitations remains to be seen.

It's hard not to be optimistic, though. NDSU is perhaps closer to decent recruits than Wyoming, but not THAT much closer. If Bohl can simply approximate his NDSU talent and execution levels in Laramie, without improving on them at all, he'll quickly have Wyoming winning eight to 10 games a year. No coach is a sure thing, but Bohl is as close as it gets for a program like this.

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