Oct. 11, 2000
CHEYENNE, Wyo. -
Heading into the season, redshirt freshman Ryan McGuffey wasexpected to be the go-to guy among Wyoming's young and inexperiencedreceiving corps.
That's a lot of responsibility for a guy who had never played in a collegegame.
But even though the Riverton product comes from a small town, he hasbig-time skills.
Through six games, McGuffey leads the Cowboys with 32 catches for 299 yardsand three touchdowns.
Nationally, McGuffey is tied for 40th place in receptions per game (5.33).
Among freshman receivers, McGuffey is third in that category.
Heading into last week's game with San Diego State, McGuffey was firstnationally among all freshman receivers in catches, yards and touchdowns.
"Things have gone about as well as I expected," McGuffey said. "I expectedto be winning a few more football games, but hopefully we can turn thataround this week."
UW (1-5 overall, 0-2 Mountain West Conference) hosts Air Force (4-1, 2-1) at1 p.m. Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
Despite UW's woes this season, McGuffey has been a definite bright spot.
"When I was hired, (UW tight ends coach) Justin Byleveld gave me a rundownon all the guys who were returning as receiver. Justin told me not to worryabout Ryan because he was going to be a big-time guy.
"You like to have a guy like that, because you can do so much more with him.You don't have to worry about the little things with him, because he takescare of them himself. You can really get into the finer details with him."
McGuffey's high school coach, Don Julian, said he knew McGuffey was going tobe a good football player prior to his freshman year in high school.
"We went down to the Utah State football camp, and were playing some hugeschool from Utah," Julian recalled. "We ran a route down the middle of thefield, and this huge free safety lit Ryan up like a light bulb - justblasted him.
"We came back two plays later, threw the same route at the same spot, andRyan goes up and catches the ball knowing he was going to get smacked again.At that point, we knew this kid was going to be special."
Julian also knew McGuffey would be a good college receiver.
"It is somewhat surprising he's been able to do what he has done at thispoint in his career," Julian said. "But the bottom line is that he has thework ethic and pure competitiveness to get the job done. I think he'll endup doing that at any level he goes to."
McGuffey said getting used to the speed of the college game and readingdifferent defensive coverages have been the hardest on-the-field adjustmentshe's had to make.
But there has been another area that has been an equally difficultadjustment - losing.
McGuffey has lost more football games this season (five) than he did in hisjunior and senior seasons combined at Riverton (two). McGuffey played onback-to-back Class 3A state championship teams as a junior and senior. Thoseteams were a combined 18-2.
"It's been tough, especially when you're not used to losing," McGuffey said.
"You just have to go out, practice harder, watch more film and betterprepare yourself.
"We haven't clicked on offense once this year. I think when we do, we'll beall right."
McGuffey has all the physical tools to be a great receiver, other thanburning speed. But Phenicie wouldn't trade any of McGuffey's qualities for alower 40-yard dash time.
"Keep him the way he is," Phenicie said. "It's really tough for a redshirtfreshman to be a leader no matter how good you are. But he has, to someextent, been a leader."
And if McGuffey remains healthy, this should be the start of many greatthings to come.
Phenicie is counting on it.
"Through winter conditioning and in the spring, I'm going to put the worldon his shoulders and make him force everybody else to be accountable," hesaid.