July 21, 2006
LARAMIE, WYO. -
Fall camp is always an important and busy time in collegiate football. For Wyoming's Joe Glenn and his fourth Wyoming team this camp will be a little busier than normal.
There will be the usual honing and polishing associated with the preseason. But this camp will be all about answering a number of important questions. The number one question, which of the Pokes' four quarterbacks will be most effective? There are other question marks. Will the veteran continue to improve at center after converting from guard during spring ball? Will the receiving corps come together? Will the defense continue to find a comfort level with its new scheme? Will the Pokes find an effective punter and place-kicker?
A year ago, Wyoming's football team headed into fall camp still reveling in the euphoria of an unforgettable Las Vegas Bowl memory.
One year later, the Cowboys enter fall with memories not near as pleasant. In fact, the 2005 season was one to forget. Last season, filled with so much promise, went from a beautiful dream to a nightmare. Riding the crest of that bowl victory, the Pokes opened the year by posting a 4-1 record, including two conference victories, and a win on the road over Ole Miss. But a turnover epidemic, beginning at the schedule's midway point, haunted the team, and ruined the makings of a great season. Because of turnovers at critical times, and a defense that simply wore down, the Pokes closed out 2005 with six consecutive defeats.
Not only are the Cowboys rededicated and refocused for 2006, but they are reloading in some key areas.
The good news is that Glenn has 43 lettermen returning including six starters on offense and six on defense. The defense returns six of its top 10 tacklers. The offense features a veteran o-line that has combined to start 97 games. The concerns, inexperience in the secondary on defense and inexperience at quarterback on offense.
"We've lost six games in a row," says head coach Joe Glenn. "The focus of this team right now is to win a game. I think the winter workouts, spring training and our summer work have been sensational. There was great spirit in every area. This team knows what has to be done. These guys want to win in the worst way, and we are going to get it done together.
"It's a new team and a new season, but we have to shed those losses," Glenn continues. "We worked very hard this spring at protecting the ball. I think we have a good football team, but we will be playing a lot of good football teams, especially in our league. We have to improve in league play. We have to come out with passion and the eye of the tiger."
In order to "get it done", the coaching staff and team will have to work at replacing some key individuals. For the first time in five seasons, Wyoming does not have an experienced quarterback at the helm heading into the fall. The Cowboys have exhausted their supply of Bramlet brothers. Gone is Corey who directed the Cowboy attack for the past two seasons after replacing his brother Casey.
Also gone is one of the most exciting and prolific receivers in Cowboy history. Wide receiver Jovon Bouknight became as great a playmaker as any in school history, and he will be deeply missed. The offense also will miss center Drew Severn, tight end John Wadkowski and wide receivers Josh Barge and Jason Wallace.
Defensively, end John Flora, noseguard Dusty Hoffschneider, safety Ron Rockett and corners Derrick Martin (who left early for the NFL draft) and Terrance Butler are gone. All five played major roles on Wyoming's defense last season, and will be difficult to replace.
"The quarterback position was a battle royal during spring ball," Glenn says. "We have four guys on scholarship who really want a shot at the job. It was a total evaluation of each guy from their physical capabilities, to their ability to command, their poise and their ability to master the offense. You name it, we evaluated it. Jacob Doss (6-2, 210, Jr.) came out of the spring as the leader, but the competition will pick back up in the fall.
"Center also is a focal point for us," Glenn continues. Although four starters, including three seniors, are back in that offensive line, the key is the guy at the center position. We decided to move Jason Karcher (6-3, 291, Sr.), our outstanding right guard, to center. He really impressed us with his ability to make that transition. Tim Bond (6-4, 296, So.) moved into Karcher's right-guard spot. We feel like those moves puts our top five offensive linemen on the field at the same time."
Karcher and left tackle Chase Johnson (6-8, 325, Sr.) both earned Honorable Mention All-Conference honors in `05. They have both started every game of their Wyoming careers -- 35 consecutive games.
The running-back situation appears solid and deep, led by returning starter Wynel Seldon (6-0, 205, So.), who gained over 800 yards last year. A pair of veterans, Joseph Harris (5-7, 206, RSr.) and Ivan Harrison (5-7, 190, Sr.), return for the Pokes, as well as Devin Moore (5-9, 182, So.), who was impressive at times last season as a freshman.
There is talent returning in the receiving corps, but some circling of the wagons will be necessary. Not only are the Cowboys replacing one of the greatest receivers in the history of a receiving-rich school in Bouknight, but Barge and Wallace, as well.
Michael Ford (6-2, 203, Jr.) was second on the team in catches (29) and receiving yards (421) behind Bouknight, and he should be an outstanding weapon. Tyler Holden (6-0, 179, Sr.), Evan Weatherspoon (6-1, 183, RFr.,) and Derrick Levy (6-0, 178, Fr.) will have plenty of opportunity to catch passes from the outside receiving positions. At the slot positions, Hoost Marsh (5-9, 172, Jr.) and running back Moore, who also works at receiver, are expected to be key contributors.
Although the Cowboys lost an outstanding tight end in John Wadkowski, they have potentially a great one coming back in Wade Betschart (6-3, 255, Jr.) He is a strong, athletic performer who is as comfortable blocking as he is receiving. He made some big receptions last year.
On defense the Cowboys have a veteran front seven and a great safety. But there are concerns, as well.
John Wendling (6-1, 222, Sr.) will be one of the best safeties in the Mountain West, if not the country. He is the top returning tackler (75 total tackles in `05), finishing second last year to the graduated strong safety Ron Rockett. Wendling also was tied for the team lead in interceptions, with three. He can play centerfield and support the run with the best of them. Wendling trained at strong safety, as well as his familiar free-safety position, in the spring. He could be utilized at either or both spots in `06.
"Physically, John is perhaps the most talented athlete I've been around," says defensive coordinator Mike Breske. "He is a very special guy, and best of all a heck of a good guy. It is fun to be around him. He is our bell cow, and should have an All-American season."
At the other three secondary spots, the Cowboys will be somewhat green. Julius Stinson (5-10, 177, Jr.) has some experience at one corner. Last year's nickel back, Dorsey Golston (6-0, 194, Sr.), is projected to start at the other safety opposite Wendling, and Michael Medina (6-0, 181, Jr.) will get his opportunity to start at the other corner.
The front seven, keyed by the linebacking corps, is the strength of the defense. In fact, the strength at linebacker was one reason the Cowboy defensive staff decided to implement a 3-4 scheme after playing a 4-3 the previous three years at UW. Three veterans will be on patrol at linebacker, with Luke Chase (6-1, 240, Jr.), the starter at middle linebacker a year ago, returning at an inside spot. Ward Dobbs (6-0, 242, So.) will man the other inside-linebacking position after playing the weakside a year ago. Austin Hall (6-2, 225, Sr.), who has been the starter at strongside linebacker the last two seasons, will fill one of the outside-linebacking positions. Dobbs tied with Wendling for second on the team in tackles last year (75 total tackles), Chase was fourth (59) and Hall was sixth (47).
The other outside-linebacking position will be filled by Mike Juergens (6-4, 240, So.), who previously played the "Buck" position, which was a combination defensive end/outside linebacker.
There are veterans at every position along the front, with four seniors penciled in as starters. Jake Mayes (6-3, 292, Sr.) will be the starter at noseguard, while Mike Groover (6-3, 250, Sr.) is the projected starter at defensive tackle. Seniors Corey Mace (6-3, 287, Sr.) and Aaron Robbins (6-4, 256, RSr.), who was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing 2005 due to a knee injury, are listed as co-starters at defensive end.
"We really like the new defense," says Glenn. "It has made a big, big difference. We are a team that leans more toward mobility and athleticism rather than bulk. We really liked how everyone adapted to it during the spring. Now we want to fine tune it."
Coordinator Breske agrees. "As a staff we wanted to take baby steps with our installation process," he says. "We wanted our kids to have a good understanding. I feel after 15 practices we have a lot of work to do, but I also feel very positive about where we are in the process of this change. We became more athletic with our defense on the field, and that's the key, gaining more athleticism."
Prior to the opening of spring training, Wyoming added Syracuse as its 12th football game for the 2006 season. The game is scheduled for Sept. 30 at Syracuse's Carrier Dome. The Cowboys will open the season on Sept. 2, hosting Utah State. They will open Mountain West Conference play on Sept. 23, hosting Air Force. Half of the teams on the schedule were in bowl games a season ago. Due to the added 12th game, the Cowboys will not have an open date. "We're glad the opener is at home, especially for our new players," says Glenn. "I'm glad were not playing in front of 90,000 on the road in the heat (Wyoming opened at Florida last year). It's also good that three of our first four games are in front of the home fans. Hopefully that will help us get our legs under us."
Position by Position:
It's been five years since the Cowboys had to worry about who was the starting quarterback. Casey and Corey Bramlet took care of that. But it's a new game in 2006 at this all-important position. Four individuals battled through spring training to earn the job. When the dust had settled at the conclusion of spring ball, it appeared to be more of a two-horse race with junior Jacob Doss (6-2, 210, Jr.) in the lead with Karsten Sween (6-2, 204, RFr.) a close second.Doss, who was the backup to Corey Bramlet a season ago, has become much more solid while improving his leadership. He is more grounded and not near as tentative as he was as an understudy. He has developed tremendously. Sween has the tools to be extremely successful. When he performs on a regular basis, he is outstanding. He needs a little more time, a luxury he may not have under the circumstances. He will get better and better. He has an excellent arm, and is a good runner. Stinson Dean (6-2, 215, So.) seems to have the most game savvy. He probably knows the offense as good or better than any of the four QB's. An outstanding competitor, he is a tough football player. Ian Hetrick (6-2, 190, Jr.) made a lot of progress during spring training in learning the offense. He has two more years of game experience than the other three quarterbacks, due to him starting at the junior-college level. Doss, however, appears to be the top guy heading into camp.
The Cowboys are in much better shape at this position than last season, when the number one and number two candidates were out with injury and everyone else was inexperienced. This spring the same two, Joseph Harris (5-7, 206, RSr.) and Ivan Harrison (5-7, 190, Sr.), were held out for rehab purposes, however there is experience in the cupboard. That experience belongs to potentially one of the best backs in the league in Wynel Seldon (6-0, 205, So.) He has the entire package. He is big, quick and can run. He rushed for over 800 yards last season, while finishing second on the team in scoring and third in receiving. He is a quality back, but as with any young player, he needs to become more consistent, especially at protecting the football. He improved in that facet during spring training, and he improved in pass protection. He should become a top-level back before his eligibility is completed. Another young back improved his stock during the spring. Devin Moore (5-9, 182, So.) is the quickest of any of the running backs, and possesses game-breaking potential. He is an extremely hard worker who really wants to play. He needs to become more consistent at running north and south, rather than sideline to sideline. He is an extremely dangerous back. The two veterans, Harris and Harrison, should be healthy and ready to go. Both will miss some time at the beginning of the season as they complete suspensions for a violation of team rules. Both are proven backs. Harris ran for 409 yards two seasons ago while Harrison gained 587 yards. They were a very effective one-two punch before injuries sidelined them. Both run very hard. Montey Brunk (5-10, 221, Sr. ), Jimmy DeAndrea (6-0, 205, RFr.) and Jared Yannacito (5-9, 185, RFr.), along with true freshman Darius Terry (5-11, 180, Fr.) round out the running back corps. This has the potential to be a deep and talented area for the Pokes.
Talk about this season's receiving corps has to start with a couple of veterans, Michael Ford (6-2, 203, Jr.) and Tyler Holden (6-0, 179, Sr.). Ford is the Pokes' leading returning receiver having caught 29 balls for 421 yards in `05. He gained 225 yards as a sophomore. He is a tough, catch-the-ball-over-the-middle receiver. The coaching staff likes his consistency, toughness and football intelligence. He should be the Cowboys' top go-to guy from his outside-receiver position. Holden is a top-notch receiver who makes the tough catch. He is returning from a foot injury that hampered his `05 season. He was third on the team in receiving yards two seasons ago with 339 yards. He caught 115 yards worth of passes in the Las Vegas Bowl, including one for a touchdown. He and youngster Evan Weatherspoon (6-1, 183, RFr.) are in a battle for the starting spot. Holden and Ford are top-notch veterans on the outside. Transfer Darion Donnelly (6-2, 190, Jr.) and youngsters Derrick Levy (6-0, 178, Fr.) should afford able backup to the two veterans and Weatherspoon on the outside. At the "Z", or inside-receiver spot, Hoost Marsh (5-9, 172, Jr.) emerged, and produced an outstanding spring. Known for his punt and kick-return capabilities, Marsh worked very hard during the off-season and spring training to earn the starting inside-receiver spot. He already is one of the best punt returners in the country. He was an all-conference returner two seasons ago. The coaching staff was pleased with the progress of Kyle Jacobo (6-3, 192, So.) and Marcus Franklin (6-0, 163, RFr.) as supporting members of that inside position. It will be interesting to see which of the young receivers emerges to help the veterans.
The Cowboys have an emerging tight end who may be as good as any in the Mountain West. Wade Betschart (6-3, 255, Jr.) made some big plays last year in a limited role, but he had a great spring and should be a valuable part of the offense. A veteran who has played in all 23 games of his Wyoming career to date, Betschart is an excellent receiver and blocker. The staff loves his toughness. His biggest improvement during the spring came in his consistency. He is a good football player. Behind Betschart is a corps of young, but talented players. Chris Sundberg (6-5, 238, So.) is listed second on the depth chart. Hampered by injuries a year ago, Sundberg is a talented receiver who can run. Jesson Salyards (6-5, 228, RFr.), Greg Genho (6-3, 245, RFr.) and Scott Koch (6-3, 222, So.) also are capable, and will get better. Salyards is a big guy, who can run. While Betschart is the man, there could be some surprises on this depth chart.
Along with the defensive front, this is one of the most veteran areas on the team. There are a total of 97 starts from tackle to tackle among the starting five. With all of that experience, however, there is a huge key. That is the transition of Jason Karcher (6-3, 291, Sr.) from offensive guard to center. It marks the second consecutive season the Cowboys have moved a starting guard to center. The move worked very well last year as Drew Severn made the switch. Karcher did an excellent job in the spring of making the move. He still has some work to do, but feels comfortable, and should be effective. He is a very good offensive lineman. He has started 35 consecutive games at Wyoming. He was an Honorable Mention All-Conference pick last season at guard. Karcher's backup is a redshirt freshman, Russ Arnold (6-4, 278, RFr.) The o-line also boasts of one of the best tackles in the Mountain West in Chase Johnson (6-8, 325, Sr.). Johnson has started 35 consecutive games, all at left tackle. He has been an Honorable Mention All-Conference player two seasons in a row. This year marks his fourth as a starter. He is a big, strong, athletic player who should have success at the next level, as well. He has the ability to dominate. Johnson's backup is a youngster who has a bright future. Ryan Otterson (6-5, 250, RFr.) has the ability to be an outstanding offensive lineman. He has not been able to add the necessary weight as yet, but when he does he could have a great career with the Cowboys. Hunter Richards (6-7, 297, Sr.) at right tackle also is a seasoned veteran. He has started at that spot for two consecutive seasons, starting 23 consecutive games. The Wyoming coaching staff is looking for him to have an exceptional senior season. He, too, is backed up by a youngster, redshirt freshman Jeff Zimmerman (6-6, 276, RFr.). There is not as much experience at guard. Kyle Howard (6-6, 299, So.) started the final four games for the Cowboys last year. He has demonstrated steady improvement, and is a good football player. He and Johnson form a big left side. On the right side, Tim Bond (6-4, 296, So.) moved into the starting lineup when Karcher was moved. Bond has not started a game for the Cowboys, but had a good spring. The depth at guard will come from Ben Smith (6-2, 269, RFr.), and Ryan McKinley (6-6, 275, RFr.). Since each backup is a redshirt freshman, adding weight and strength is the key. There are some talented youngsters there, but development is the priority.
The fact that Derrick Martin left the program early to enter the NFL draft changed the complexion of this area. The Cowboys are suddenly thin and inexperienced at corner. The most experienced of the lot plays at the "field corner". Julius Stinson (5-10, 177, Jr.) had an excellent season in `05 until he suffered a left knee sprain. He did see action in 10 of the 11 games. He also produced a great spring. He may be one of the best tacklers on the team. He is very motivated, and the staff is expecting great things from him. He is supported by Marcell Gipson (5-10, 164, Fr.), who came to Wyoming as a grayshirt in January. He is the most physical corner the Cowboys have, but is in a learning curve having never played the position. He was a quarterback and running back in high school. Gipson made some memorable hits during spring training. Incoming freshman Tyree Carter (5-10, 185, Fr.) will begin his Wyoming career at this position behind Stinson and Gipson. At "boundary corner," the Cowboys will start a junior who has been a key special teams player, but has not started at corner. Michael Medina (6-0, 181, Jr.) is a talented player who has a great grasp of the defense. He is the biggest of the corners, and an outstanding cover guy. He is working hard to improve his tackling. T.J. Atwater (5-9, 181, RFr.) backs up Medina, and is coming off of a redshirt year. He was hot and cold in spring training, but demonstrated a knack for making big plays. He, too, is in a learning curve. Another true freshman, Lamonta Ward (5-11, 175, Fr.), is listed No. 3 at boundary corner. The corners need game experience, and will be learning on the fly.
At safety, the Cowboys have a "special" player in strong safety John Wendling (6-1, 222, Sr.). An All-America candidate, he is a three-year starter. He began his career as a free safety, but has added 13 pounds to his frame making him more suited for the strong safety position. He posted 75 tackles last season. An outstanding leader, coordinator Mike Breske not only believes Wendling is one of the best football players he's ever coached, but also one of the best people. Wendling can do it all. He is physical, with great athleticism. He could be one of the best the Cowboys have ever had at safety. His backup is Michael Ray (6-1, 206, So.), who made excellent strides during the spring. He is working on being less mechanical and becoming more fluid. He is an excellent tackler, and a physical player. As he becomes more consistent, he will be an excellent football player. Junior-college transfer Darryl Gober (6-0, 210, Jr.) and freshman Alex Toney (6-2, 200, Fr.) will also get a good look at strong safety. Dorsey Golston (6-0, 194, Sr.) had a great spring at free safety. He is an outstanding cover safety, and has really improved his tackling. He can cover a lot of ground. According to Breske, when Golston is in the game, the Cowboys are a better football team. Behind him is sophomore Quincy Rogers (6-1, 202, So.), who had an excellent spring. Coaches like his maturity. His issue has been avoiding injury. If he can do that, he will be a solid contributor. Freshman Chris Prosinski (6-2, 190, Fr.) also will receive a look at the free safety position.
This is probably the most athletic group of linebackers the Cowboys have had since Joe Glenn arrived in Laramie. There is an excellent mix of veterans and youth. On the strong side, the Cowboys will have veteran Austin Hall (6-2, 225, Sr.). While he played inside at times last season, he will remain on the outside. He is a physical player, especially at the line of scrimmage. He is someone who can be physical with a tight end, which is his strength. He has demonstrated maturity, and must be one of the leaders. Hall was sixth on the team in tackles with 47 in `05 Listed number two at "SAM" is Sean Claffey (6-3, 240, Jr.). He is a very smart football player with outstanding ability. He can play either inside or outside, and has a great command of the system. He is a playmaker, who has great football awareness. Danny Dutmer (6-4, 237, So.) and Jake Edmunds (6-2, 227, So.) also are listed on the strongside. Dutmer had an excellent spring. He is a physical player, who is in the learning curve. Dutmer has good size, and demonstrated an impressive knack of rushing the passer. He also is the team's long snapper for punts. Luke Chase (6-1, 240, Jr.) will start in the middle, or "MIKE" for the Pokes. That position is perfect for him. He is a "downhill" player, who is very physical. He is a veteran of the wars, and the staff is expecting big things from him. He was fourth on the team in tackles a year ago. He had a solid spring. John Prater (6-0, 234, RJr.) is listed as number two, but he is a bit of an unknown. He has been hampered by injuries since he came to Wyoming. He was held out of spring training to make sure he is ready for the season. When he's healthy, and he heads into the fall in good shape, he is capable of very good things. Remaining healthy will be his issue. Mike Neuhaus (6-3, 236, So.) and Zeb Whipp (6-1, 228, RFr.) also are listed in the middle. Neuhaus missed much of the spring with a hamstring injury, but has the size coaches look for at the position. He must stay healthy to become more consistent. Whipp had a great spring. He is a very physical player and an outstanding competitor. The Cowboys have moved Ward Dobbs (6-0, 242, So.) to the inside backer or "WILL", position. Playing on the outside a year ago, he ranked second on the team in tackles with 75. He did all that despite not starting until the seventh game of the season. He is considered the most talented linebacker on the team, with outstanding speed, change of direction and tenacity. He also can play the outside. The staff is expecting great things from him. Brandon Haugen (6-1, 233, Jr.) is a talented player who has had injury issues, but will play behind Dobbs. He had an outstanding spring, and the staff is expecting a breakout season. Veteran Adam Diehl (6-3, 227, Sr.) moved to the WILL during spring training after playing in the defensive line for three seasons. He had an up-and-down spring trying to learn the position. When he learns it, he will be a solid performer because his size and ability make him perfect for the position. The newcomer to the post will be freshman Lawrence Alexander (6-1, 216, Fr.). At the "BUCK" backer (the other outside linebacker and the new position in the "three-four"), Mike Juergens (6-4, 240, So.) earned the starting nod during spring training. A defensive lineman last season, he was moved to the two-point-stance position and really improved. He is probably the team's best pass rusher. He has worked hard on his pass drops, and when he puts the mental and physical aspects together, he could make an impact on this defense. He is a big-play oriented football player. Juergens' backup, Weston Johnson (6-3, 221, RFr.) had a tremendous spring. A safety in high school, Johnson has adjusted very well to his new position. He brings something a little bit different to the table than Juergens. His strength is pass coverage. During spring training, he demonstrated that he can cover receivers. He and Juergens complement each other giving the defense flexibility at the position. Marcial Rosales (6-1, 234, Sr.) missed spring training because of injury. A talented player, Rosales has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons. He was moved from a safety position to linebacker. If he can stay healthy, he can be an asset. Matt Barella (6-2, 233, RFr.) was a walk-on who earned a scholarship. He is still learning the position, but gives the Pokes flexibility because he can play inside, as well. Barella has good size, and will get a good look. As a group, the linebacking corps possesses athleticism throughout its depth chart. It is the strength of the defense.
With the new defense scheme, things are somewhat different for this area with just three down linemen. Jake Mayes (6-3, 292 Sr.) anchored the middle of the defensive line last year at a tackle, but is now a noseguard. He also is the snapper on field goals and extra points. A couple of biscuits under 300 pounds, Mayes is coming off of a good year. He was the most consistent up-front guy the Cowboys had last season. His strength is the running game. Coming off of a redshirt year, Fred Givens (6-1, 298, RFr.), is Mayes' understudy. He had a very good spring, and has earned playing time. He is still learning the position. Also listed at noseguard is Erick Pauley (6-4, 337, So.). Too much weight has been his issue. He is athletic, but must become more physical which will come with maturity. He played last season as a true freshman, so he does not have benefit of that redshirt year, which is helpful to so many young players. At the tackle position, Mike Groover (6-3, 250, Sr.) led the team in sacks a year ago with 6.5, which also ranked him second in the conference. He is very mobile, and because of his size will be moved around a great deal. He is a very effective player. His backup is John Fletcher (6-6, 238, RFr.), who was a grayshirt and then a redshirt. He played very well in the spring, and has earned playing time. He's gotten bigger, and the summer program will really help him. Another redshirt freshman, Brien Sonzogni (6-4, 258, RFr.), also is listed at tackle. He must overcome the injury bug, and then he can get cranking. At the defensive end spot, Corey Mace (6-3, 287, Sr.) and veteran Aaron Robbins (6-4, 256, RSr.) are neck and neck in the race for the starting spot. Mace was a transfer last year who has worked extremely hard. He was not as effective last year because he was not in shape after transferring. But he made a commitment to the weight room this year, and has changed the look of his body. He had an outstanding spring. He can play all three down positions. He is ready to have a productive senior season. Robbins is an experienced veteran who is coming back from knee surgery. A dynamic player two years ago, Robbins damaged his knee in the second game of the 2005 season, and received a medical hardship ruling from the NCAA. He was held out of this year's spring training, and will be full go in the fall. Not a large player, Robbins is very physical and very athletic. The coaching staff is anxious for him to return to his `04 form. A redshirt freshman and a sophomore also are listed at the end spot. Mitch Unrein (6-4, 247, RFr.) came to Wyoming as a walk-on, but earned a scholarship. A tough, hard-nosed football player he will see playing time. The coaching staff believes he will fit into the system very well. Rob Hollway (6-4, 269, So.) had a good spring, and is expected to see some more playing time as a sophomore. He is capable of doing some very good things. Overall, the defensive front possesses outstanding experience with a good group of seniors. There are some talented young players who are going to gain experience behind those veterans. There is athleticism and decent size. As a unit, if there is one area where it must improve it's in the pass rush.
A year ago, the Cowboys were in as good a shape in this area as they could be with three returning all-conference performers. Heading into the fall of `06, however, there are some question marks. Those questions are directed toward the kickers more than the returners or the coverage teams. The Pokes still have Hoost Marsh (5-9, 172, Jr.) returning punts and kickoffs. He is one of the most exciting returners in the league, especially in the punt-return area. Two seasons ago, he was an All-Mountain West Conference First Team selection. Jovon Bouknight is gone from the kickoff-return game, but John Wendling (6-1, 222, Sr.) is moving into that slot beside Marsh. Devin Moore (5-9, 182, So.) also will receive an opportunity to return kicks. The backup to Marsh in the punt-return game will be T.J. Atwater (5-9, 181, RFr.). That area appears solid. Kicking is the question. While Jake Scott (5-8, 157, RFr.) did the place-kicking in the spring, he was inconsistent. The Cowboy staff is counting on a freshman, Aric Goodman (5-11, 170, Fr.), to come in and challenge Scott for the starting place-kicking duties, but neither has played a down for Wyoming entering the 2006 season. Punter Billy Vinnedge (6-1, 188, Jr.) will come to Wyoming in the fall after two strong seasons as the starting punter at Allan Hancock Community College in California. The holders will be Tyler Holden (6-0, 179, Sr.), who did a good job last year in that spot, and quarterback Jacob Doss (6-2, 210, Jr.). The snapper for field goals and PAT's will be noseguard Jake Mayes (6-3, 292, Sr.). Linebacker Danny Dutmer (6-4, 237, So.) will do the long snapping for punts for the second consecutive year, while backing up Mayes on field goals. The backup long snapper for punts will be tight end Chris Sundberg (6-5, 238, So.).