April 14, 2011
With the conclusion of 2011 spring football drills for the Wyoming Cowboys on Saturday, April 9, head coach Dave Christensen and his coaching staff released the team's post-spring depth chart on Thursday. Christensen emphasized that the depth chart would likely change several times once fall camp got underway in early August, and he emphasized that competition at every position would continue throughout fall camp.
Some of the players making moves on the defensive side of the depth chart this spring included:
- Two newcomers at outside linebacker Korey Jones and Mark Nzeocha concluded spring drills listed as the co-starters at the LEO linebacker position. Jones is a first-year, junior-college transfer from Garden City Community College in Kansas. Nzeocha joined the Cowboy Football team in January from Germany.
- Sophomore linebacker Devyn Harris, who was the starter at the LEO linebacker spot for the last nine games a year ago, was moved to the middle linebacker position to back up senior Oliver Schober at that spot.
- Senior linebacker Brian Hendricks was also moved this spring from the middle linebacker position, where he played in 2010. to the WILL (outside) linebacker position. Hendricks will be entering his third year as a starter in 2011. He is backed up by sophomore Todd Knight, who had the best spring of his career.
- The two-deep for the Cowboy secondary remained the same from the beginning of spring drills, with senior Tashaun Gipson being the one returning starter in the group. Sophomore Marqueston Huff, who played as a nickel back as a true freshman in 2010, is slotted to start at the other corner. Juniors Kenny Browder and Luke Ruff are the projected starters at free safety and strong safety, respectively. Behind them are senior Eric Mitchell at free safety and first-year, junior-college transfer Luke Anderson at strong safety. Junior James Caraway impressed coaches in the spring and is slated to backup Huff, while redshirt freshman Darrenn White is listed as the backup to Gipson.
- All four starters return on the Cowboy defensive line. Seniors Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton will again hold down the defensive end positions, with junior Mike Purcell at one defensive tackle spot and sophomore Patrick Mertens at the other defensive tackle. Juniors Mat Birkeness and Ben Durbin will provide a lot of experience at defensive end and defensive tackle, respectively. Redshirt junior Kurt Taufa'asau also impressed coaches enough to earn a backup spot at tackle behind Purcell. A young tackle, redshirt freshman Riley Lange, was named the most improved defensive lineman of spring. Three other defensive ends, redshirt freshman Sonny Puletasi, sophomore Mark Willis and first-year, junior-college transfer Miraldo Michel are also expected to compete for playing time. Willis and Michel both missed spring drills due to injuries.
On offense, the depth chart to conclude spring was highlighted by the competition at quarterback:
- Redshirt freshman Emory Miller Jr. and true freshman Brett Smith were named co-starters coming out of spring practice. Both impressed Christensen and his staff with their work ethic, ability to run the offense effectively and growth in their leadership skills over the 15 practices of spring.
- At running back, sophomore Brandon Miller was elevated to No. 1 on the depth chart after being named the team's most improved offensive back of the spring. Returning starter Alvester Alexander and former starting linebacker Ghaali Muhammad, who moved to running back this spring, both missed virtually all of spring drills due to injuries. Juniors Alexander and Muhammad are listed No. 2 and No. 3 at running back.
- The receiver positions include a blend of four experienced players as the projected starters. Those four are two-year starter Chris McNeill and part-time starters Mazi Ogbonna (senior) and T.J. Smith (sophomore). The individual who had the most impressive Spring Game was sophomore Robert Herron, who played running back and wide receiver as a true freshman in 2010. Seniors Jonathan Aiken and DeJay Lester are two of the backups. The other two backups are sophomore Spencer Bruce and redshirt freshman Sam Stratton, who is a converted quarterback.
- At the H-Back position, senior Bryson Studnicka returns after starting six games at that position a year ago. His backup is redshirt freshman Shane Sullivan. Junior Greg Saydjari, who backed up Studnicka last season, decided to leave the team in the spring due to his Army ROTC commitments.
- At offensive line, a number of players were shifted between positions during spring drills to try and find the best combination. That experimentation could continue on into fall camp. Only one offensive linemen who began the spring No. 1 at his position finished there. That was junior center Nick Carlson. At left tackle, senior John Hutchins ended the spring listed No. 1. Hutchins started 10 games in 2010 -- three at left tackle and the last seven at right guard. He is backed up by senior Clayton Kirven, who started 11 games in 2010 -- nine at left tackle and two at right tackle. Right tackle has a couple of juniors battling for the starting spot. Kyle Magnuson was named the team's most improved offensive lineman of spring. Magnuson started one game a year ago at Toledo as the Cowboys began the game in a heavy set with six offensive linemen. He is listed atop the right tackle position. Fellow junior Josh Leonard, who started 10 games at right tackle in 2010 is listed No. 2. The guard positions have a number of new faces competing for starting positions. Senior Brandon Self is the projected starter at right guard after enjoying his best spring. Behind him is Zach Rushing, who will be transferring to UW from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. At left guard, sophomore Tyler Strong gained the No. 1 spot heading into fall. Strong was converted to offensive line after playing defensive tackle for the Pokes as a true freshman last season. Redshirt freshman Skyler Hinton is listed No. 2 at left guard.
Special teams is led by four-year starter Austin McCoy at punter. McCoy enters his senior season with 35 consecutive starts to his credit. The place-kicking position includes incoming freshman Daniel Sullivan atop the depth chart. Sullivan will join the Cowboys in the fall after being named 2010 First Team All-State Class 4A in the state of Washington by the Associated Press. Class 4A is the largest classification in the state of Washington. Backing up Sullivan is redshirt freshman Stuart Williams and senior linebacker/place-kicker Oliver Schober.