Oct. 22, 2002
CHEYENNE, Wyo. -
University of Wyoming football coach Vic Koenning signed fourjunior college defensive backs as part of his 2002 recruiting class.
His hopes: that they would bring some much-needed speed, athleticism andplay-making abilities.
Free safety Nate Young Jr. was one of those signees, and for the most part hehasn't disappointed.
The junior from Jackson, Miss., is second on the team with 55 tackles. Heleads the Cowboys with two interceptions and three passes broken up. Youngalso has two tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
The only thing that hasn't gone well for Young is wins. UW has lost six oftheir first seven games and are 0-2 in Mountain West Conference play.
"Individually, things are going very well," he said. "You always want to bebetter, but it has gone OK.
"What I have brought to this defense is the ability to make tackles, makeplays, break up passes and show good coverage. It's all on me to stop thedeep ball, and I have brought that."
All four of UW's junior college defensive backs have played or started atsome point this season.
Sophomore safety Jay McNeal is third in tackles with 53; junior cornerbackChris Dixon is fifth with 34; and junior safety Armand Woodson is tied foreighth with 24, but he has been hampered with a knee injury.
Despite their efforts - and a five-defensive back look on defense to get theteam's best athletes on the field, and six DB against pass-happy San DiegoState last week - UW has struggled to stop the pass.
The Cowboys rank 115th nationally against the pass (307.7 ypg). Overall, UWis 113th nationally in total defense (490.3 ypg) out of 117 Division Iteams.
But that hasn't discouraged Young.
"That's what you live for," he said. "As a secondary you always want to playagainst a team that passes. That's your chance to get your stats up."
Before spring drills started, Koenning announced he would also coach UW'ssafeties. And he said he expects a lot from Young.
"I'm pretty hard on him," Koenning said. "I was a little disappointed in himthe way he's played the last couple of games, but he's made some really niceplays for us this season.
"I expect a lot out of Nate. I expect 90 percent production."
Young said he doesn't mind Koenning's scrutiny.
"That's what you want is your coach staying on you, letting you know whatmistakes you are making," he said. "When your coach stops saying stuff toyou, it's a bad thing.
"It does make you a better player, and it has made me a better player and abetter athlete."