Aug. 4, 2007
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Joe Glenn is never not optimistic, so it's not surprising that he's very excited about his fifth edition Wyoming Cowboy team.
A total of 43 lettermen return from last year's outfit that finished 6-6 overall, and tied for third place in the Mountain West Conference with a 5-3 record. Of that returning total, there are seven starters on offense, five on defense and one on special teams.
"It's time for us to take another step forward," Glenn says about his Cowboys. "We made progress last year, but we are setting our sights higher this year. Our mission is to catch TCU and BYU, clearly the two best teams in our league. That's an energetic goal, but it's where we want to be."
The Cowboys closed out the 2006 season by winning five of their last seven games. The two losses came on the road to those top two teams.
For 2007, the two major areas of concern come in both lines of scrimmage. The offensive and defensive lines were hardest hit by senior departures where three starters on each side of the ball are gone. The defense also is missing one of Wyoming's all-time best in highly-decorated safety John Wendling. Obviously, there are a lot of important shoes to fill.
But unlike a year ago at this time, the Cowboys are beginning their season with experience at quarterback. Sophomore Karsten Sween (6-2, 204, So.) won five of his seven starts as a redshirt freshman in 2006, and finished among the MWC's top six in passing yards. Jacob Doss (6-2, 218, Sr.), who played in eight games last season, returns as well. A third party also entered the picture in a big way during the spring. While both Sween and Doss were sidelined with injuries at various stages of spring training, Ian Hetrick (6-2, 195, RJr.) stepped up and did a tremendous job. His performance in the spring game moved him to number two on the depth chart behind Sween.
"Having experience returning at this position is a huge plus for us, no question," Glenn says. "Karsten has the kind of experience that's not for sale. He has confidence, and he has the confidence of his teammates and coaches. He is ready to have an excellent year. We're also very pleased with the two guys waiting in the wings"
The Cowboys also return their top two running backs in Wynel Seldon (6-0, 214, Jr.) and Devin Moore (5-10, 182, Jr.). The two rushed for a total of 1,184 yards (Seldon, 610 and Moore, 574). Seldon was seventh in the Mountain West in rushing a year ago, and Moore was ninth.
Six of Wyoming's top seven receivers from last year are back. Leading the group is senior Michael Ford (6-2, 203, Sr.), who caught 60 passes in `06 for 674 yards and four touchdowns. He was ranked 39th nationally in receptions, and earned Honorable Mention All-Conference honors. Another senior, Hoost Marsh (5-9, 172, Sr.), finished third in catches last year with 23 receptions for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Moore and tight end Wade Betschart (6-3, 250, Sr.) were fourth and fifth on the team with 21 and 18 receptions respectively. Betschart was a Second- Team All-Mountain West Conference selection a year ago. To that veteran list, add a couple of talented youngsters in Greg Bolling (6-2, 180, So.) and Travis Burkhalter (6-1, 185, Fr.). Wyoming's quarterbacks should have plenty of quality targets in 2007.
The offensive line has two starters returning in Tim Bond (6-4, 296, Jr.), who has 12 straight starts under his belt, and Kyle Howard (6-7, 312, Jr.), who has started the last 16. Bond has moved from right guard, his starting position a year ago, to the center spot. Howard has moved from left guard to right tackle. After those two, there is very little experience, and that is a concern. The other three spots will be manned by inexperienced performers. A pair of redshirt freshmen and a pair of sophomores are the projected starters. Russ Arnold (6-4, 287, So.) and Jack Tennant (6-4, 304, RFr.) are listed as co-starters at right guard entering the fall. Sam Sterner (6-4, 288, RFr.) is the projected starter at left guard, and Ryan Otterson (6-5, 281, So.) is the projected starter at left tackle. Tennant missed a couple of weeks of spring training, while Arnold, Sterner and Otterson performed well. Otterson had a great spring, according to the head coach.
Defensively, the Cowboys should be talented and deep at linebacker and at cornerback. Three of Wyoming's four starting linebackers are returning, led by Second-Team All-MWC performer Ward Dobbs (6-0, 229, Jr.) at one of the two inside positions. He was second on the team in tackles in `06 with 69, and also produced three sacks.
Dobbs' inside mate, Luke Chase (6-1, 240, Sr.), also returns after posting 44 tackles and three tackles-for-losses last season. Outside linebacker Sean Claffey (6-3, 227, Sr.) is the third returning starter. He produced 37 tackles, eight tackles-for-losses and three-and-a-half sacks as a junior. The other outside linebacker position is expected to be manned by Mike Juergens (6-4, 235, Jr.), who has logged plenty of playing time, posting 18 tackles a year ago.
The strength of the secondary is on the corners where both 2006 starting cornerbacks return. The two are a pair of gifted seniors in Michael Medina (6-0, 190, Sr.) and Julius Stinson (5-10, 182, Sr.). Stinson made 57 tackles a year ago with a pair of interceptions, while Medina produced 31 tackles, and also had two interceptions. They could be the most talented starting pair in the league. Stinson was named Honorable Mention All-MWC as a junior.
A pair of juniors will receive their starting opportunity at the safety spots. Michael Ray (6-1, 206, Jr.), at strong, played in nine games a year ago. Quincy Rogers (6-1, 207, Jr.), at free, was seventh on the team in tackles last season with 40. He also had four pass breakups and two forced fumbles as Wyoming's nickel back. Both are very capable, and have a good deal of experience. Ray had an excellent spring.
Heading into fall camp, the depth chart shows three sophomores starting in the defensive front. John Fletcher (6-6, 274, So.), who missed most of spring training with a fractured finger, produced nine tackles, three tackles-for-losses and two sacks last season. He is the projected starter at defensive tackle. Mitch Unrein (6-4, 257, So.) is tabbed as the starter at defensive end. He produced an outstanding spring. He made 12 tackles last year with one tackle-for-loss. The starter at noseguard will be Fred Givens (6-0, 310, So.), who also had 12 tackles a year ago.
"Spring was very important for all of those young guys up front defensively," Glenn says. "They all have game experience, but they really used every spring-training day to improve themselves."
Wyoming's special teams area has an opportunity to be solid, if not special. Consistency is the focus. As a freshman last season, place-kicker Jake Scott (5-8, 158, So.) was in a battle with fellow freshman Aric Goodman for that starting spot. Scott made all 12 of his extra-point attempts, and was two for four on field-goal attempts. He will now take over the Cowboys' starting kicking duties full-time as Goodman decided to leave the program after the 2007 spring semester.
Blessed with a thunderous leg, punter Billy Vinnedge (6-1, 196, Sr.) was outstanding a season ago, finishing 21st in the country with an average of 43.2 yards per punt. A total of 18 of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. He was even better in the spring, and is a candidate for All-American in 2007. In the spring's final scrimmage, he averaged 50.1 yards per punt. A troublesome hamstring injury prevented him from working on many placements last year, although he did kickoff six times. He has a chance to be extra special as a punter, and, if healthy, could be a factor as a place-kicker.
Hoost Marsh is Wyoming's best return specialist. He will be joined by Devin Moore and backup corner Troy Lewis (5-7, 165, Sr.). Marsh returned 24 punts a year ago for an average of 8.5 yards per return. He led the team in kick-return average at 21.4 per return. Moore was the top kickoff man in yardage with 15 returns for 245 yards, an average of 16.3 per return. The new NCAA rule that moves the kicker back five yards on kickoffs, to the 30-yard line, should make Wyoming's returns very entertaining with that group of speedsters.
Glenn had the same focus points for spring training as he has had in each of his five springs. . . reintroduction of the Cowboy system and teaching fundamentals and techniques. He felt those things were successful.
"Spring is a chance to get better without beating teammates to a pulp," Glenn says. "There isn't a lot of heavy contact work, but a focus on Wyoming football and its fundamentals. It offers each player an opportunity. If you light it up, play hard and play well, you can improve your stock, get yourself in the mix. A lot of guys took advantage of that, and got themselves in the mix."
The head man is pleased with the 2007 schedule. It includes three teams that finished the 2006 season ranked in the Top 25 -- Boise State, Brigham Young and TCU -- and six bowl teams.
"I'm excited about our schedule, and I love opening the season at home," Glenn says. "I know our fans will be excited that we begin the season with a BCS conference school (Virginia) playing in War Memorial. It's nice to have an open week before we begin conference play against TCU here at home, and it's always exciting to have a rival like BYU coming to town. I've always loved the tradition of rivalries, and I think it's great to be playing our rival, Colorado State, the last game of the season.
"I totally believe this is the best team we've had since we've been at Wyoming," Glenn continues. "This is our fifth year, it should be our best. The carryover and retention by our veteran players is outstanding. It is time for us to make a move. Our confidence level is as high as it's ever been. We believe we can take the field with everyone on our schedule and represent the state well. We have a bunch of excited, enthusiastic Pokes who are looking forward to a great season."
Glenn's Position-by-Position Assessment:
"We are excited about all three of our quarterbacks. Karsten (Sween, 6-2, 204, So.) didn't go through any contact work in the spring as he recovered from minor knee surgery, but his passing in seven-on-seven was sensational. His throws are coming out in rhythm, his anticipation and understanding of the offense all give us every reason to believe that he will have a great year. Ian (Hetrick, 6-2, 195, RJr.) made huge strides during the last couple of weeks of spring training, and especially in the spring game. He ran the offense very well. He threw the ball with flair, and demonstrated his mobility. He really surfaced by making the most of his opportunity. We trust in Jake (Doss, 6-2, 218, Sr.), and believe he can get the job done when called upon."
"We have a `slash' going on at running back. We have Wynel Seldon (6-0, 214, Jr.) slash Devin Moore (5-10, 182, Jr.) at this position. We feel great about both of them. Both had outstanding spring camps. Wynel is a 208-pound back with strength. He runs downhill with a burst. I think Moore will be one of the quickest backs in the country. He is capable of making a lot of big plays out of the backfield, as well as in special teams. Jimmy DeAndrea (6-0, 205, So.) was healthy for the first time during spring training, and it showed in his play. He has great strength, and likes the contact. He also is an outstanding special teams' player. Darius Terry (5-11, 203, RFr.) gained strength and confidence during the spring, and we are looking forward to seeing him for fall practice."
"We have a very good mixture of veteran players who have made big catches, and young players who are capable of making very big plays. Michael Ford (6-2, 203, Sr.) is our most experienced player and a senior leader. He is an outstanding player. He is always there, and always making the big play. Knowing that he is at one of those outside spots certainly makes a coach sleep better at night. We look for Michael to have a great senior season. Hoost Marsh (5-9, 172, Sr.) is another veteran player who is as versatile as any player on the team. Not only is he an outstanding receiver, but he is so important to our kick and punt return teams. He is a dangerous receiver, and we are going to do everything we can to get him more opportunities downfield. Another solid receiver we can count on is Kyle Jacobo (6-2, 192, Jr.). He is a talented possession receiver who turned in a great spring training effort.
Those three older guys are great leaders and are excellent examples for our young guys. We think we have a couple of young receivers who can be very special. The first is Greg Bolling (6-2, 180, So.). He may be the most special receiver we have. He can be a huge deep threat for us, but he is capable of making all types of catches, especially those bordering on the spectacular. We're also very pleased with Travis Burkhalter (6-1, 185, Fr.), who came to us as a grayshirt. He played very well during spring training, and he has very definitely gotten himself in the mix. We have a couple of other receivers coming in for fall camp who should add excellent depth. All in all, we have talent, speed and athleticism among our receivers. We also have a group who should improve our yardage after the catch. There are a bunch of good targets for our quarterbacks."
"Our top two tight ends/h-backs were held out of spring training due to injury. That was a negative. A positive was that our other guys received an opportunity, and made the most of it. The two veterans --Wade Betschart (6-3, 250, Sr.) and Chris Sundberg (6-5, 238, Jr.) -- are healed and will be available for the start of fall camp. They are both impressive targets and outstanding blockers. Jesson Salyards (6-5, 235, So.) came along so well during spring ball that we are not at all hesitant about going with three tight ends. Both Greg Genho (6-3, 250, So.) and Joe Evers (6-5, 245, RFr.) took advantage of their chances, and benefitted greatly from spring training. This is a group that really excites a coach. They are big, physical and all good athletes. We feel very solid at the tight end position."
"We have a known commodity in Kyle Howard (6-7, 312, Jr.). Although he has been an offensive guard, we are very confident about moving him to right tackle. He did miss some of spring training with a finger injury, but he passed the test with flying colors. He is a very good football player. Ryan Otterson (6-5, 281, So.) really helped himself during spring ball, and is the starter on the left side. He had a great camp. He is an outstanding athlete who has great feet. Over the summer, he must improve his size and strength. We need to get him to 300 pounds, which will help him. He has a chance to be a tremendous tackle. Another player who helped himself during the spring was Greybull, Wyo., native Garrett King (6-6, 288, RFr.). When Howard injured his finger, Garrett stepped in and performed very well. He did a nice job, and really got himself in the mix. Until he was injured, Nick Brousseau (6-9, 284, RFr.) was continuing to improve. He did a lot of good things, and looks like he can help us. Like Otterson, he has to continue to gain size and strength. Eric Auflick (6-5, 276, So.) could be in the mix, as well, but must improve his size."
"This is the most competitive area of the offense and maybe of the team. There are three guys who look to be battling for the two spots. Among them are Sam Sterner (6-4, 288, RFr.), Jack Tennant (6-4, 304, RFr.) and Russ Arnold (6-4, 287, So.). Arnold can play both guard and center, and has made himself very valuable because of that. We went into the spring thinking that Tennant and Sterner were going to be our starters. Sterner had an excellent camp, and Tennant was playing very well until he was injured and missed two weeks of spring training. He will be ready for the fall, and we expect him or Arnold to be the starter at right guard. I thought Arnold really helped himself in spring training, and should be a very solid player for us. There is not a lot of experience here. Arnold played last year and filled in very well for injured veteran players. He is a solid football player. Sterner and Tennant are very green. Although talented -- maybe as talented as we have been at the guard spot -- they will need to gain valuable experience. It is a very competitive spot, and that's always a good thing."
"We feel very solid at this position. Tim Bond (6-4, 296, Jr.) has experience under his belt, and did an excellent job during the spring. He filled the center position very well last year when our starter, Jason Karcher, went down with an injury. Russ Arnold (6-4, 287, So.) and Eric Kottom (6-4, 281, RFr.) are young players but talented. Arnold saw lots of action last year as a guard, and he is a very able backup. We feel the same way about Kottom. Although he has not had game experience, Kottom is a good football player, and will receive his share of snaps this season. We're not as battle-tested as we would like to be. This is one position where experience is very important, but we have good football players here who are ready for the challenge."
"Of course I'm not real objective when it comes to this, but I think our two starting corners are the best tandem in the Mountain West Conference. Michael Medina (6-0, 190, Sr.) and Julius Stinson (5-10, 182, Sr.) are quality players who are battle tested. Both are outstanding cover guys and sure tacklers. They are bigger and more physical than most corners we have seen through the years. It is so important, especially in this league, to have veteran corners who can cover. We're happy to have them, and excited to watch them play. Troy Lewis (5-7, 165, Sr.) is a solid second guy behind Julius at the field corner position. He has excellent speed and experience. T.J. Atwater (5-9, 185, So.) is a guy who needs to step up at boundary corner behind Michael. He has excellent ability, but he needs to improve. He made progress during spring training. He needs to make similar strides during fall camp."
"We have a good mix of older guys with newer guys here. Of course we are missing our team leader, who was one of the finest safeties I've ever worked with, in John Wendling. We also lost another outstanding senior in Dorsey Golston. Those are big shoes to fill. But we have a couple of guys who have seen plenty of field time and who had great springs. Michael Ray (6-1, 206, Jr.) and Quincy Rogers (6-1, 207, Jr.), at strong and free respectively, both played a great deal last year and are ready to be starters. With our two senior starters graduated, it's time for Quincy and Michael to step up. While those two juniors are bell cows at safety, we have some younger players also in the mix. Chris Prosinski (6-1, 200, RFr.) is a Wyoming native (Buffalo) who had a very good spring. He has moved in behind Rogers at free. Alex Toney (6-1, 205, RFr.) is another young player who did very well during spring ball and finished behind Ray at strong. We also look for good things from a junior transfer, Derrick McMahen (5-10, 188, Jr.). We think we have a lot of good football players here who know about the challenge of replacing a couple of outstanding leaders."
"Without question the strength of our defense, and maybe one of the best areas of this football team is at linebacker. There are a lot of good football players who have a great deal of experience. They've spent two springs and a full season in the three-four defense, and they have a great concept of what needs to be done. On the outside, Sean Claffey (6-3, 227, Sr.), Weston Johnson (6-3, 221, So.) and Mike Juergens (6-4, 235, Jr.) can all play aggressively, tackle and cover well. They are good athletically and play the game intelligently. They also help us a great deal on special teams. On the inside, Luke Chase (6-1, 240, Sr.) and Ward Dobbs (6-0, 229, Jr.) will be as good as any two inside guys in the league. They have a great deal of savvy and are extremely aggressive. The two of them have seen a lot of things, and that experience is invaluable in the middle of our defense. We have some very good players right behind them, as well. John Prater (6-0, 234, Sr.), Brandon Haugen (6-1, 239, Sr.) and Jake Edmunds (6-2, 227, Jr.) have lots of experience. They understand what we are trying to get done with our scheme. There are lots of solid guys at linebacker."
"This area worked very hard during spring training, and needs to continue to do so during fall camp. There is a lot of youth and inexperience here. That being said, this is a group of excellent football players. At defensive tackle, John Fletcher (6-6, 274, So.) can be a very special player for us. He is big, strong and has a great defensive attitude. Both Danny Dutmer (6-3, 249, Jr.) and Anthony Wilson, (6-3, 263, Jr.), who is a transfer, will see plenty of playing time there, as well. Fred Givens (6-0, 310, So.) played a good deal of the time last year at noseguard, and followed that up with a very good spring. We moved Ben Smith (6-2, 272, So.) from offensive center to the nose during spring training, and he made an excellent transition. He will see a lot of the field for us. Like tackle, the end has three good players, all of whom will log plenty of time. Mitch Unrein (6-4, 257, So.) had as good a spring as any player on the team. He had a great spring game. Mike Neuhaus (6-3, 256, RSo.) and Rob Hollway (6-4, 276, Jr.) also have had grass stains on their game shirts, and they know how to play. At first, when you look at all the youth in this area, you might wonder about it. But despite their age, a lot of these guys have seen a lot of playing time. I think we have a group of outstanding competitors up front, and I think they will perform very well."
"Jake Scott (5-8, 158, So.) saw action for us as a redshirt freshman last season, and we're looking forward to seeing him take over the place-kicking duties full-time for us this year. Billy Vinnedge (6-1, 196, Sr.) is a special punter, and could be one of the best in the country. He is blessed with an exceptionally strong leg, and is a great weapon. Because of the strength of that leg, we also will utilize him to kick off, since they have moved the kickoffs back five more yards. That new rule should open up the return game more, and we think we have some guys who can take advantage of it. Hoost Marsh (5-9, 172, Sr.) and Devin Moore (5-10, 182, Jr.) should be very good. Both are dangerous in the open field. Troy Lewis (5-7, 165, Sr.) also will be involved in our return game, and is another break-away threat. All three of those guys will be involved in the punt-return game. Marsh will be our primary guy. Danny Dutmer (6-4, 249, Jr.) will be our long snapper for all phases of the kicking game, and he is a very good one. Jacob Doss (6-2, 218, Sr.) will be our primary holder and Ian Hetrick (6-2, 195, RJr.) will be his backup."