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The big 2015 Wyoming football guide: Patience is a virtue

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The 128-team countdown reaches a program that's got the right man in place, but he's still got a big task ahead.

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. This is going to take some time

What Craig Bohl built in Fargo was incredible. His Bison ranked 17th in the Sagarin rankings in 2013, ahead of Wisconsin, Arizona State and Louisville. They ranked 35th in 2012 and 37th in 2011. For each of the last four seasons, they ranked ahead of Wyoming. But he had taken NDSU as far as he could.

Wyoming has been a jumpoff point for a lot of successful coaches -- Joe Tiller, Dennis Erickson and Pat Dye, to name three. But the Cowboys have attended three bowls since Tiller left for Purdue in 1996. Bohl won't inherit a blank slate, but it might take him some time to put the pieces together.

It's hard not to be optimistic, though. NDSU is closer to decent recruits than Wyoming, but not THAT much closer. If Bohl can approximate his NDSU levels, he'll win eight to 10 games a year. No coach is a sure thing, but Bohl is as close as it gets.

-- The big 2014 Wyoming football guide

We knew heading into 2014 that Bohl wasn't a miracle worker. His tenure at North Dakota State was incredible -- three FCS national titles, five 10-win seasons, a 6-3 record against FBS teams, a 43-2 overall record from 2011-13 -- but we knew he wasn't going to find the pieces he needed to find right out of the gates at Wyoming.

Still, it was difficult not to be curious. What if he immediately brings defensive competence? Is a first-year bowl a possibility? As with Buffalo hiring UW-Whitewater god Lance Leipold, it was hard to picture a Bohl team actually losing. I predicted a 5-7 finish, but given that as an over-under, I'd have been tempted to take the over.

Early, the over looked like the smart bet. Wyoming survived FCS heavyweight Montana, won close games against Air Force and FAU and led eventual national title finalist Oregon by seven points after one quarter in Eugene. A loss to another top team, Michigan State, made the Cowboys 3-2, but there was reason to believe that this team could do enough damage in the MWC to finish bowl eligible.

After allowing under 4.5 yards per play against Montana, Air Force, and FAU, Wyoming allowed 6.8 or greater in six of their final eight games. When you don't have the horses, you can only hide it for so long. Wyoming managed to put together a nearly perfect performance against a bad Fresno State team in early November but otherwise lost seven of eight to finish 4-8.

From 2010-13, Bohl's Bison lost seven games. In 2014, Bohl's Cowboys lost eight. Bohl knew what he was getting himself into, but a year into his new life, he finds himself attempting to avoid shortcuts. He's recruiting 175-pound receivers, 265-pound offensive linemen, 185-pound defensive ends, and 195-pound linebackers. He's attempting to sculpt molds of clay. A schedule full of brutal road games will keep the over/under low again this year.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 2-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 113
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
31-Aug Montana N/A 17-12 W 23% -17.1 39%
7-Sep Air Force 48 17-13 W 69% 11.9 62%
14-Sep at Oregon 3 14-48 L 11% -28.6 0%
21-Sep Florida Atlantic 100 20-19 W 42% -4.9 51%
28-Sep at Michigan State 11 14-56 L 9% -30.9 0%
12-Oct at Hawaii 111 28-38 L 13% -26.5 6%
19-Oct San Jose State 116 20-27 L 22% -18.0 15%
26-Oct at Colorado State 49 31-45 L 10% -30.1 0%
2-Nov at Fresno State 102 45-17 W 89% 28.3 100%
8-Nov Utah State 52 3-20 L 38% -6.8 8%
23-Nov Boise State 21 14-63 L 11% -28.8 0%
30-Nov at New Mexico 94 30-36 L 13% -26.3 3%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 24.5 93 35.7 111
Points Per Game 21.1 110 32.8 102

2. Depth kills

Wyoming wasn't playing amazing ball even during the 3-1 start. The defense was living up to the Bohl billing, allowing 4.3 yards per play and 14.7 points per game in the three wins. But the offense wasn't lighting the world on fire, failing to break 21 points in September, and the defense didn't have much to offer against athletic offenses like Oregon's and Michigan State's.

But as the offense figured out how to create bigger plays, the defense fell apart.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 4 games): 36% (record: 3-1)
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 8 games): 26% (record: 1-7)

Going by percentiles, three of Wyoming's five best performances came in the first four weeks of the season. Then things got dicey. One of the Cowboys' two exciting running backs got hurt, the offensive line underwent constant shuffling, and the linebacking corps and secondary got walloped by injury. It was too much to handle for a team that didn't have any depth.

Worst of all, this was an experienced team. Wyoming will have to replace quite a few of last year's two-deep. Losing iffy players doesn't hurt, but losing iffy players that were better than others on the roster does.

That means that in Year 2, Bohl's still shuffling -- he moved three offensive players to defense before spring ball. While that's common in your first year, it's less common after that. And while recruiting mostly five-year players makes sense, it doesn't result in quick fixes.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.87 54 IsoPPP+ 85.5 102
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 36.1% 115 Succ. Rt. + 92.8 97
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 31.9 104 Def. FP+ 97.0 101
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.9 108 Redzone S&P+ 85.3 111
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.8 ACTUAL 18 +0.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 84 105 107 102
RUSHING 79 106 118 81
PASSING 68 95 66 105
Standard Downs 102 112 93
Passing Downs 94 83 102
Q1 Rk 110 1st Down Rk 104
Q2 Rk 96 2nd Down Rk 95
Q3 Rk 113 3rd Down Rk 120
Q4 Rk 64

3. The value of efficiency

There were 126 FBS running backs with at least 125 carries last season. Only six averaged at least 9 highlight yards per opportunity (second-level yards, basically), and two of them (Shaun Wick and Brian Hill) played for Wyoming. Only 32 had an opportunity rate (percentage of carries that go at least five yards) under 33 percent, and Wick and Hill were part of that group.

Wyoming might have had the most all-or-nothing run game in college football. The explosiveness numbers were spectacular, but if you're gaining zero yards four times for every nice gain, you're punting a lot.

For efficiency, Wyoming had to throw. Quarterback Colby Kirkegaard proved decent; he took too many sacks but was able to distribute to four different receivers with regularity. But now he's gone, as are the top two receivers. Wyoming's success, however you might define that, will come down to the running game's ability to more consistently gain four yards.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Colby Kirkegaard
206 359 2660 12 9 57.4% 40 10.0% 6.0
Tom Thornton 6'1, 205 Jr. 2 stars NR 4 10 50 0 1 40.0% 1 9.1% 3.9
Sam Stratton
2 5 23 0 0 40.0% 2 28.6% 2.3
Aaron Young 6'2, 201 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7785
Austin Fort 6'4, 218 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7738
Nick Smith 6'4, 215 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8138
Cameron Coffman
(Indiana)
6'2, 186 Sr. 3 stars NR
Josh Allen 6'5, 210 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8000

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Brian Hill RB 6'1, 204 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 145 796 7 5.5 10.8 24.1% 2 1
Shaun Wick RB 5'10, 212 Sr. NR 0.7500 127 753 6 5.9 9.1 32.3% 1 0
D.J. May RB
56 260 2 4.6 5.6 33.9% 1 0
Colby Kirkegaard QB
38 169 0 4.4 3.4 42.1% 6 5
Joshua Tapscott RB 5'9, 205 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8020 15 80 2 5.3 20.8 13.3% 0 0
Dominic Rufran WR
6 15 0 2.5 11.9 16.7% 1 1
Sam Stratton QB
4 28 0 7.0 3.5 75.0% 0 0
Nico Evans RB 5'9, 186 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593
Kellen Overstreet RB 5'11, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8214






Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jalen Claiborne WR-Z
77 41 576 53.2% 21.6% 54.5% 7.5 61 7.5 71.2
Dominic Rufran WR-X
76 45 596 59.2% 21.3% 56.6% 7.8 43 7.9 73.6
Tanner Gentry WR-X 6'2, 198 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7623 55 32 435 58.2% 15.4% 56.4% 7.9 40 7.9 53.8
Jake Maulhardt WR-Z 6'6, 215 Jr. NR NR 39 21 274 53.8% 10.9% 48.7% 7.0 11 7.3 33.9
Jacob Hollister TE 6'4, 230 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7759 28 17 244 60.7% 7.8% 42.9% 8.7 36 9.3 30.1
Brian Hill RB 6'1, 204 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7593 17 13 204 76.5% 4.8% 35.3% 12.0 52 11.1 25.2
Shaun Wick RB 5'10, 212 Sr. NR 0.7500 16 10 62 62.5% 4.5% 50.0% 3.9 -60 3.8 7.7
Eric Nzeocha TE
14 8 65 57.1% 3.9% 57.1% 4.6 -34 4.6 8.0
D.J. May RB
10 8 144 80.0% 2.8% 30.0% 14.4 51 16.2 17.8
J.D. Krill TE
10 7 48 70.0% 2.8% 60.0% 4.8 -35 4.8 5.9
Trey Norman WR
4 3 19 75.0% 1.1% 25.0% 4.8 -16 3.6 2.3
Keenan Montgomery WR
3 1 4 33.3% 0.8% 66.7% 1.3 -10 1.2 0.5
Jordan Ellis FB 6'2, 230 Jr. NR NR 2 2 28 100.0% 0.6% 100.0% 14.0 5 N/A 3.5
Tom Thornton WR 6'1, 205 Jr. 2 stars NR
Justice Murphy WR 6'0, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8423
C.J. Johnson WR 6'2, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8199
Dameko Doddles WR 6'2, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8050
Joseph Parker WR 5'10, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793

4. Youth taking over, part 1

Wyoming will not lack for running backs. Hill and Wick were incredibly dangerous. Plus, Hill was only a freshman, so some of his horrific efficiency numbers should improve. Joshua Tapscott saw action as a freshman, too, and incoming freshman Kellen Overstreet was a three-star recruit per the 247Sports Composite and was named a Parade All-American.

But offensive coordinator Brent Vigen's stab at a West Coast offense requires balance. That requires passing, and both Kirkegaard and top targets Jalen Claiborne and Dominic Rufran are gone.

All three were basically of a replacement level -- you could do better, and you could do worse. And there are certainly interesting replacement candidates. Backup quarterback Tom Thornton has moved to receiver, but any of up to five quarterbacks could end up contributing, from former JUCO transfers Aaron Young and Josh Allen, to redshirt freshmen Austin Fort and Nick Smith, to Indiana transfer Cameron Coffman (2,734 yards with a 61 percent completion rate and 11 picks in 2012). It appears Coffman is the betting favorite, and that makes sense from an experience standpoint.

Replacing Claiborne and Rufran is tricky but doable. Juniors Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt had nearly identical per-target averages, and tight end Jacob Hollister hinted at explosiveness (which is good if you're going to be a starting tight end at 230 pounds).

Beyond the first string, though, it's all newcomers. Tom Thornton will be in the rotation, and any of four exciting freshman receivers will see the field if they're ready. Justice Murphy, C.J. Johnson and Dameko Doddles were three of the Cowboys' most highly touted signees, and unlike a lot of the incoming freshmen, they seem closer to being physically ready.

Wyoming will be counting on underclassmen. That probably means great things for 2017, but it will likely mean more inconsistency in 2015, even if Coffman wins the job and plays well.

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 95.4 2.74 3.29 29.8% 68.3% 18.0% 68.6 6.9% 11.0%
Rank 90 92 62 126 60 47 119 103 113
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Jake Jones RG 31
Connor Rains RT
23
Rafe Kiely C 6'3, 306 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 17
Chase Roullier LG 6'4, 293 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7883 16
Ryan Cummings LT 6'5, 294 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7483 7
Nathan Leddige OT
6
Austin Traphagan LT
4
Sam Hardy RG
4
Charlie Renfree LG 6'3, 268 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7774 0
Jacob English C 6'5, 300 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7519 0
Taylor Knestis RT 6'5, 288 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7813 0
Cole Turner OL 6'4, 285 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7744
Richard Bettencourt OG 6'3, 284 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7685
Kaden Jackson OL 6'2, 265 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793

5. Youth taking over, part 2

For five straight weeks, from the Florida Atlantic game to Colorado State, Wyoming started a different combination at offensive line. That hindered the growth of an offense that was already challenged, but considering the shuffling, the run blocking numbers weren't bad. While not many Wyoming rushes reached the second level, very few ended in the backfield; the Cowboys ranked 47th in Stuff Rate and 60th in Power Success Rate. That's encouraging.

At least, it would be encouraging if five of the eight with starting experience didn't depart. Senior center Rafe Kiely and junior guard Chase Roullier each started for about a season and a half, and tackle Ryan Cummings got dunked in the pool as a freshman. Beyond them, though, Wyoming is looking at quite a few redshirt freshmen and sophomores to fill the rotation. If the Cowboys match last year's stuff rate and power numbers, that will be a victory.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.96 113 IsoPPP+ 89.2 105
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.8% 101 Succ. Rt. + 93.8 94
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 26.3 126 Off. FP+ 93.0 128
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 85 Redzone S&P+ 95.8 79
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 17.2 ACTUAL 16.0 -1.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 91 102 95 105
RUSHING 103 80 60 96
PASSING 62 98 114 85
Standard Downs 92 89 94
Passing Downs 108 107 104
Q1 Rk 110 1st Down Rk 101
Q2 Rk 96 2nd Down Rk 105
Q3 Rk 114 3rd Down Rk 116
Q4 Rk 62

6. That was the right adjective, Coach

'I thought we were woeful, if that’s the right adjective … we just couldn’t run well enough on defense,' Bohl said. 'We need more speed and athleticism on defense.'

Even when your coach is a phenomenal defensive mind, you need the talent. It showed everywhere.

Wyoming tried to attack the run, produced decent efficiency numbers, and killed in short-yardage situations, but if you got past the line, you were running a long way. The Cowboys tried to corral opponents' passing games and did a decent job of preventing big plays but allowed all the 10-yard completions you wanted to attempt. Woeful field position did the Cowboys no favors, either.

Iffy depth turned into nightmarish depth when injuries set in. While five of the top six linemen played in all 12 games, two key linebackers missed a combined seven games, and only two defensive backs played in all 12. Bohl couldn't play defense the way he wanted to, and considering the turnover in the back seven, he might not be able to in 2015 either.

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 95.6 3.19 3.26 40.1% 59.5% 18.8% 64.1 1.7% 6.4%
Rank 84 101 65 82 23 73 117 124 82
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Eddie Yarbrough DE 6'3, 251 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.7500 12 47.0 7.3% 10.5 4.0 0 1 1 0
Patrick Mertens DT
12 26.5 4.1% 5.0 2.0 0 1 0 0
Uso Olive NT 6'1, 301 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7200 12 17.0 2.6% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Siaosi Hala'api'api DE 6'2, 255 Sr. 2 stars 0.7000 12 16.5 2.6% 5.5 3.0 0 0 0 0
Riley Lange DE
10 13.0 2.0% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Chase Appleby NT 6'0, 260 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7500 12 9.5 1.5% 1.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Sonny Puletasi DE
8 7.5 1.2% 1.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Seth Edeen DE 6'3, 203 So. NR NR 4 5.0 0.8% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Troy Boyland DT 6'2, 297 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8400 8 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Dalton Fields DT 6'3, 272 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7719
Tavita Faaiu DE 6'3, 245 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7933
Carl Granderson DE 6'5, 185 Fr. NR 0.8200
Youhanna Ghaifan DT 6'4, 255 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726







7. The front is a (relative) strength

The line did not avoid turnover overall, losing leading tackler Patrick Mertens and reserve ends Riley Lange and Sonny Puletasi. But with ends Eddie Yarbrough and Siaosi Hala'api'api returning alongside big tackle Uso Olive, there's something to build around here. Yarbrough and Hala'api'api combined for seven sacks and nine non-sack tackles for loss and will be joined by JUCO transfer Tavita Faaiu.

Olive was key in Wyoming's short-yardage success, and while returning junior Chase Appleby is undersized for his position (and size will likely prevent two exciting freshmen -- end Carl Granderson and tackle Youhanna Ghaifan -- from contributing early), Olive and Troy Boyland could make sure Wyoming has some girth when it needs to.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Devyn Harris WILL
12 63.0 9.8% 5.5 0.0 0 2 2 1
Mark Nzeocha SAM
7 47.5 7.4% 3.0 2.0 0 5 2 0
Lucas Wacha SAM 6'1, 214 Jr. 2 stars 0.7000 12 41.5 6.5% 4.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Jordan Stanton MIKE
10 34.0 5.3% 2.0 1.0 0 0 1 0
Will Tutein LB 6'2, 210 Jr. NR NR 12 27.0 4.2% 2.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Jeff Lark SAM
9 6.0 0.9% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Oscar Nevermann SAM
11 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Malkaam Muhammad LB 6'0, 228 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7783 6 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Trent Sewell LB 6'2, 196 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8534
Eric Nzeocha LB 6'3, 211 Jr. NR 0.7100
Jaylon Watson LB 6'0, 215 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7726
Christian Irving LB 5'11, 195 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7856








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Blair Burns CB
12 50.5 7.9% 1.5 0 0 2 2 1
Tim Kamana FS 5'11, 196 So. 2 stars NR 12 35.5 5.5% 0 0 1 2 0 0
DeAndre Jones CB
8 34.5 5.4% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Robert Priester CB 5'9, 168 So. NR 0.7000 11 34.0 5.3% 0 0 0 2 2 0
Darrenn White FS
7 32.5 5.1% 1.5 0 0 1 0 0
Jesse Sampson SS
6 26.5 4.1% 0.5 0 0 4 0 0
Tyran Finley CB 5'9, 177 Sr. NR NR 11 15.5 2.4% 2 0 2 1 0 0
Luke Kellum FS
4 8.5 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tim Hayes CB
8 8.0 1.2% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Xavier Lewis SS 6'0, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7719 11 7.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ryon'e Winters CB 6'0, 180 So. NR 0.7333 9 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
D.J. May S 5'11, 205 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8100
Antonio Hull CB 5'10, 185 Fr. NR 0.7933
Kevin Jackson S 6'3, 185 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7793
Andrew Wingard S 6'0, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7759








8. Youth taking over, Part 3

Devyn Harris was a nice run defender, and before injury, Mark Nzeocha was a solid all-around linebacker. Cornerback Blair Burns was a solid tackler and help defender, and safeties Darrenn White and Jesse Sampson each hinted at play-making ability when they were able to stay on the field. They're all gone. Wyoming must replace five of its top six linebackers and six of its top nine defensive backs; that a lot of guys got playing time last year is good, but this is still a scary amount of turnover, which is why Bohl has done some shuffling.

Former running back D.J. May is now a safety, former receiver Trent Sewell and tight end Eric Nzeocha are now linebackers, and Will Tutein has moved from safety to LB. The level of athleticism won't be worse, but experience is lacking.

There are some exciting pieces here. Linebacker Lucas Wacha was certainly solid as a run-stuffer, sophomores Tim Kamana and Robert Priester saw quite a bit of time in the secondary, and in limited opportunities cornerback Tyran Finley managed to make two tackles for loss and deflect three passes. The first string should be athletic and interesting, but injuries could cause a larger level of regression than we saw last season.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ethan Wood 6'3, 173 Jr. 66 41.4 5 18 18 54.5%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Stuart Williams 55 56.9 15 2 27.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Stuart Williams 31-31 9-9 100.0% 3-8 37.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jalen Claiborne KR 13 17.4 0
D.J. May KR 5'11, 205 Jr. 10 24.2 0
Jalen Claiborne PR 14 9.9 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 125
Field Goal Efficiency 67
Punt Return Efficiency 115
Kick Return Efficiency 114
Punt Efficiency 122
Kickoff Efficiency 125
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 61

9. No depth = no coverage

Wyoming's special teams unit was abysmal last year. Punter Ethan Wood had a decent length-and-hangtime combination, and place-kicker Stuart Williams was automatic under 40 yards, but a lack of athleticism on the roster bled into special teams. Return man Jalen Claiborne was replaceable, but the biggest issue was a lack of depth at the speed positions. If you don't have big-play guys at receiver, and if you're struggling with massive depth issues at linebacker and defensive back, your coverage units are probably going to be terrible. Wyoming's were terrible. I assume they improve this year, but now the Cowboys have to replace Williams. A special teams ranking in the triple digits is likely.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
5-Sep North Dakota NR
12-Sep Eastern Michigan 128
19-Sep at Washington State 77
26-Sep New Mexico 94
3-Oct at Appalachian State 104
10-Oct at Air Force 48
17-Oct Nevada 64
24-Oct at Boise State 21
31-Oct at Utah State 52
7-Nov Colorado State 49
14-Nov at San Diego State 76
28-Nov UNLV 118
Five-Year F/+ Rk -28.7% (111)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 116 / 112
2014 TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -2 / -0.5
2014 TO Luck/Game -0.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (6, 6)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 2.8 (1.2)

10. Beware October

I still assume Craig Bohl gets this team where he wants it to be. That the Cowboys managed to win four games with few play-makers and no defensive depth was certainly a positive sign, and Wyoming should be loaded at running back (and, per the recruiting rankings, receiver) for years to come. With so many quarterbacks with potential, one should emerge to lead a decent offense overall. But that defense still needs bodies, and while the overall defensive speed should be as good or better than it was last year, experience and depth are still going to hold the Cowboys back quite a bit.

The 2015 schedule will do them few favors. The home slate -- North Dakota, Eastern Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado State, UNLV -- should assure that the Cowboys get back to four wins or so, but the road slate will likely prevent any serious run at bowl eligibility. Wyoming's first string should be pretty decent overall, and if the injury bug is kind, then the Cowboys could improve from 113th in the F/+ rankings to something closer to the 90s. But if or when injuries begin to occur, this team will go downhill quickly. Get your wins in early.

There is an interesting base of talent here, but it will be a lot more interesting a couple of years from now.