March 18, 2012

Cowboy Spring Practice Outlook

Wyoming will enter the start of spring drills Wednesday looking to build on a successful season following a second bowl appearance in three years and a third place finish in the competitive Mountain West Conference with eight wins, the most in 12 seasons.

The Cowboys will return MW freshmen-of-the-year quarterback Brett Smith, who will be limited due to off-season surgery and it should help backup quarterback Colby Kirkegaard get repititions and more preparation.

Smith will participate though he won't be involved in contact. Wide receiver's Chris McNeill and Sam Stratton also won't participate in the spring because of injuries.

UW head coach Dave Christensen moved running back Ghaali Muhammad back to linebacker and cornerback James Caraway is moving to receiver and could be one to watch since he is one of the fastest Pokes.

They will see the return of defensive tackle Patrick Mertens who missed 2011 because of illness and linebacker Oliver Schober after he redshirted because of injury. The return of the productive Mertens and Schober to the lineup is good news for the program.

Cowboy Wide Recievers/Tight Ends

The Pokes lost two of their most productive receivers in Mazi Ogbonna to graduation and Josh Doctson transferring to TCU.

While McNeill will be out in the spring and Stratton's career in question, there will be an opportunity for a number of receivers to emerge in TJ Smith, Trey Norman, Caraway, and incoming freshmen Eric Nzeocha.

Christensen will look for Dominic Rufran, Spencer Bruce and Robert Herron to step up their games to another level, while awaiting the arrival this summer of two talented freshmen receivers in Trent Sewell and Nico Brown.

Running Back

With the surprising departure of Alvester Alexander in entering the NFL Draft, sophomore running back Kody Sutton will be a player to watch in the spring. Sutton will have an opportunity with his upside to make a mark on the offense in the near future.

The Cowboys will be a bit thin at the position this spring with Nehemie Kankolongo and Brandon Miller the only two other backs to lend compeition.

Like wide receiver, the UW staff will looking forward to the summer arrival of freshmen players DJ May and Shaun Wick. Miller plays both wide receiver and running back and Kankolongo could be counted to work himself into the mix this spring after two seasons of not making himself a factor.

Cowboy Run Defense

A weakness of the Wyoming defense in 2011 was consistency in stopping the run. The Pokes under new defensive coordinator Chris Tormey hopes to improve vastly in the area starting with the spring.

The return of Mertens, along with a bigger, stronger group of returnees in Mike Purcell, Ben Durbin, Kurt Taufa'asau, and BJ Sumter in the interior could make this the most improved area next season. Another player to watch is Miraldo Michel, a big, athletic player who could be ready to show his potential.

The Cowboys are also looking forward to seeing one of their top redshirt freshmen Eddie Yarbrough hit the field as a contributor in 2012.

Yarbrough, Mark Willis, Sonny Puletasi, and JUCO transfer Justin Bernthaler will have good opportunities to solidify themselves as contributors and will need to with the graduation of two very productive career players in Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns.

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