December Panel Of Pokes: 2011 Football Awards


With our final post for 2011 we wanted to do an article that wraps up the fooball season nicely. So a Panel of Pokes that dishes out awards for the 2011 football season is a perfect way to wrap up a great year of Cowboy football. With an 8-5 record and a ton of returning starters the future is very bright for this team. There were plenty of players that had outstanding performances and we wanted to recognize them.

To make the answers a little more varied I had to exclude Brett Smith from several categories. He had an amazing year and qualified for several awards so it would have been boring to write about him five times and for you to read as well.

Our panel this month includes the following:

Ian McMackin - GoWyoGo.com

Brad Reed - WyoNation

Matt Hargleroad "The Road" - Cowboy Altitude

Chad Smith - 7220 Report

Skyler Corcoran - Cowboy Altitude

Take a look after the jump to see who we picked. Agree or disagree on any picks? Let us know!

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Ian/GoWyoGo.com Picks:

Offensive MVP (Not Named Brett Smith)

RB Alvester Alexander - He was really the most second productive player behind Brett Smith and was the go-to guy in several of the running situations when RB Ghaali Muhammad and WR Chris McNeill went down with injuries.

Defensive MVP

LB Josh Biezuns - Beizuns played every snap with passion and made too many big plays not to be included as defensive MVP. I also like the efforts LB Brian Hendricks and DE Gabe Knapton this season, especially in the leadership categories.

Most Improved Over The Second Half

S Luke Anderson - I thought Anderson made marked strides, especially after Gipson moved to Safety and made the big pick for a touchdown against Kellen Moore and Boise State. It was a good looking play.

Biggest Surprise This Year (Not named Brett Smith) -

CB Blair Burns - Burns really stepped up as a freshmen in the secondary, very comparable to former Cowboy CB Derrick Martin's freshmen season back in 2003. Burns stood out on more plays in the secondary than even the veteran players.

Impact Freshmen (Not named Brett Smith)

CB Blair Burns slightly over WR Josh Doctson. Burns was steller as a true-freshmen cornerback and helped give the staff confidence to move Gipson from corner to safety. Doctson made some big plays in the reception game and was the Pokes best receiver late in the season.

Can't Wait To See In 2012

RB Kody Sutton - Sutton scored a late touchdown in the NM Bowl game and really has some shifty ability as a runner. I look forward seeing his progression since he'll be able to compete in spring ball. He could be a big time playmaker for the Pokes in the near future.

Senior You Will Miss Most

It's a close call between Biezuns, Hendricks, Knapton, and CB Tashuan Gipson, since four leadership will be missed and need to be replaced on defense. It's hard to single out one of them.

Freshmen QB of the Year (Ok, to give this one to Brett Smith)

QB Brett Smith - Smith made about as big impact as a freshmen player that I can remember at Wyoming. He was the difference in playing in a bowl game and adding to the optimism into the future. Quality leader, great attitude, and more promising potential. A shot in the arm for Wyoming, especially after the unsettling situation after ACS left Laramie.

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Brad Reed

Offensive MVP (Not Named Brett Smith)

Chris McNeill. Before his injury he was the Cowboys best deep play receiver and emerged as a terrific go-to guy for Brett Smith.

Defensive MVP

The Cowboy defense had a lot of players make a lot of big plays, pretty hard to pick just one. I'm going to go with Brian Hendricks on this, a great linebacker for the Cowboys from enemy territory. Second on the team in tackles and the leader of the defense.

Most Improved Over The Second Half

Josh Doctson. The freshman receiver stepped it up after McNeill's injury and came up big in the Border War, and made a terrific catch in the end zone in the New Mexico Bowl. He has a bright future at UW.

Biggest Surprise This Year (Not named Brett Smith)

Kody Sutton. The freshman running back showed glimpses of being a really good running back at times this season, even if it was in mop-up duty. The Cowboy backfield will be in good hands after Alvester Alexander and Ghaali Muhammad graduate after next season. Sutton displays some power and some speed in his runs, and generally plays pretty hard. I'll be excited to see him play the next three years.

Impact Freshmen (Not named Brett Smith)

Josh Doctson again, and let's throw in Dominic Rufran. Doctson showed at the end of the season why he's going to be a great receiver. Rufran showed a lot of glimpses of being good, but also signs of being a freshman. Also, let's throw in Blair Burns.. freshman all-American who led the Cowboy secondary in the 2nd half of the season.

Can't Wait To See In 2012

Kody Sutton, Josh Doctson, and Dominic Rufran.. for all of the reasons above.

Senior You Will Miss Most

Gabe Knapton. Epic beard, great player. Played with a lot of fire.

Freshmen QB of the Year (Ok, to give this one to Brett Smith)

Brett Smith! Freshman all-American, Mountain West Freshman of the Year, and the leader of the Cowboy offense. The team will be exciting to watch with him and the helm.

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Matt Hargleroad

Offensive MVP (Not Named Brett Smith)

Ghaali Muhammad only played in eight games and when he was injured against TCU the offense took a step back from that moment. With his size and power he gave the Cowboy running game a much more menacing look. In short yardage situations he was a great option and he averaged 6.32 yards per carry on season. With Muhammad healthy the Cowboy offense may have been to move the ball more effectively against TCU and may have been able to pull out the win. He didn't necessarily put up mind popping numbers in each but he was effective when he had the ball.

Losing Chris McNeill the following week was also huge as now the passing game couldn't pick up the slack for a weaker running game.

Defensive MVP

Gabe Knapton certainly made of his senior by leading the team with 6.5 sacks. On the season he finished fourth on the team with 81 tackles. Biezuns had more publicity coming into the season but Knapton really stepped up his game. His energy and personality gave the Cowboys some attitude on defense.

Most Improved Over The Second Half

This was a very close race for me between Luke Anderson and Josh Doctson and I have to give Doctson the slight edge. He led the team with five touchdown receptions and four of those came in the final three games. He already has a great combination of size, speed and hands. With an off season to work in the gym and increase his strength he'll become an even better receiver.

Impact Freshmen (Not named Brett Smith)

Burns just keep earning more and more playing time as the season wore on. To start the season he was the #3 cornerback and then after the Utah State game he was given the #1 spot which he held down the rest of the year. Burns led the team with four interceptions and they all came in key times when the Pokes needed it most.

Can't Wait To See In 2012

Even though he didn't play this year I can't wait to see DE Eddie Yarbrough hit the field next year. He certainly could have played in 2011 but he was able to redshirt due to the seniors Wyoming had at defensive end. For veterans I want to see what S Luke Ruff can do in his senior year. He had 102 tackles on the year which was second highest on the team.

Senior You Will Miss Most

Gabe Knapton was so fun to watch and I loved his energy and personality. The beard, the tats and the shaved head made him stand out in a good way. He was a four year starter and was willing to switch from linebacker where he 220 tackles in two years to defensive end which required him to pack on the pounds.

Freshmen QB of the Year (Ok, give this one to Brett Smith)

Adam Pittser..... I mean Brett Smith. He really did it all by rewriting the Wyoming and Mountain West record books this season. Cowboy fans can certainly sleep easier this off season knowing that #16 has another three years of eligibility. He had 20 touchdowns passing and averaged over 200 yards per game. He also led the team in rushing and rushing touchdowns with 710 yards and 10 scores. Don't forget he also caught a pass for a touchdown. So that is 31 total touchdowns in one season. Keep in mind that ACS only had 26 total touchdowns in two years.

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via a2.twimg.com

Chad Smith

Offensive MVP (Not Named Brett Smith)
Alvester Alexander
AA is the glue of the offense. I would like to see him get more carries in his senior year.

Defensive MVP
Brian Hendricks
Leadership, production and toughness. Lead the team in solo tackles.

Most Improved Over The Second Half
Josh Doctson
Really stepped up when McNeil went down with injury.

Biggest Surprise This Year (Not named Brett Smith)
Blair Burns
Nobody predicted the rise of the freshman corner. He is a playmaker and has a bright future.

Impact Freshmen (Not named Brett Smith)
Josh Doctson
You can't teach his speed and long stride. The sky is the limit for him.

Can't Wait To See In 2012
Kody Sutton
Wyoming lacks play makers not named Brett Smith and Sutton has gotten his feet wet now. He is very similar to Alexander and should make plays in 2012.

Senior You Will Miss Most
Josh Biezuns
I am truly scared to death what our defensive line is going to be like next year without the Minnesota product.

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Skyler Corcoran - Cowboy Altitude

Offensive MVP (Not Named Brett Smith)

Tie - Chris McNeill and Alvester Alexander

WR Chris McNeill stepped up as QB Brett Smith's go-to receiver midway through the season. The sure-handed McNeill had great production through 9 games, and no-doubt would have continued his big game efforts had he not been hampered by a season ending injury. McNeill knew the offense inside and out, and his precise route running and football IQ proved vital to his freshman QB.
RB Alvester Alexander saw his yardage production decrease from last season, but the Junior running back was an all important facet of the Wyoming offense. While his numbers may have been down on the stat sheet, Alexander stepped up as a veteran leader for the offense in many other ways. I saw the 3 year starter improve his pass blocking, which helped keep Smith's jersey clean, and improve his route running ability in the offense. Every time the Houston, TX product stepped on the field he gave a full effort, regardless whether he was getting the ball, blocking for teammates, or running a defender off with a deep route. Alvester also aided in teaching backfield mates Ghaali Muhammad and Kody Sutton the intricacies of being a running back in the spread system.

Defensive MVP

Josh Biezuns

DE Josh Biezuns provided a spark for the Cowboy defense all season long. The Senior pass rusher constantly drew extra blockers to his side, and harassed opposing quarterbacks every play. Biezuns had 11 tackles for loss on the year, and sacked the quarterback 5 times. With a constant high motor, Biezuns made plays all over the field. The Minnesota native also tallied 3 pass break-ups and 63 tackles, in addition to forcing 5 fumbles and recovering 2.

Honorable Mention Defensive MVP's: LB Brian Hendricks, DE Gabe Knapton, DB Tashaun Gipson

Most Improved Over The Second Half

Luke Anderson

Saftey/Linebacker hybrid Luke Anderson improved greatly throughout the entire season. The native Texan picked up the defense as the year went on, and improved over every single game. As a constant presence in the run defense, Anderson tallied an impressive 75 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. As a perimeter defender, Luke intercepted 2 passes and forced 2 fumbles in solo situations. Arguably one of the most memorable plays of the season came when Anderson picked off Boise State's Kellen Moore and ran the ball all the way back for a pick six on the Broncos infamous blue "Smurf Turf".

Biggest Surprise This Year (Not named Brett Smith)

The Utah State game

I wasn't surprised by how well Wyoming played all season, or by how quickly and efficiently Brett Smith picked up the offense. I also wasn't surprised with how well the Pokes competed against upper echelon teams: TCU, Boise, and Nebraska. Christensen has built a fine program, and these kids know they have a shot to beat anyone in the country. The only thing that stands out as surprising to me, was the way Wyoming was whipped by Utah State. Utah State had an excellent team, don't get me wrong. They played very hard, and had an imposing and dominating ground attack. But this "Cowboy Tough" team doesn't beat themselves like that. The Cowboys rallied to an impressive 8 win season, but this was the biggest surprise to me.

Impact Freshmen (Not named Brett Smith)

Blair Burns

True Freshman DB Blair Burns made an immediate impact at the corner position for Wyoming. Burns played in all 13 games this season, and made a significant contribution to the passing defense. Teams that thought they could "pick on" the guy with less experience and throw at him, paid the price. Burns picked off a team leading 4 interceptions, and tallied 86 interception return yards. The Texas native also batted down 4 passes, and recovered a fumble, on his way to being named a Freshman All-American. I look forward to seeing this kid in 2012.

Can't Wait To See In 2012

The whole team - Offense, Defense, and Special Forces

I am excited and optimistic to see what Coach Christensen and this group of Cowboys can do in 2012. The whole team has improved, and the culture is turning in Laramie. Coach Kaligas has the offensive line in order, which did a fantastic job this season protecting their freshman signal caller. The addition of new defensive coordinator Chris Tormey will certainly help improve the defense, specifically against the run. The seniors that graduated will certainly be missed, but they paved the way for success in the future.

Senior You Will Miss Most

This is an incredibly difficult question. This senior class was a great one, and it helped to lay the foundation of what will, and already has been, a very successful program for Wyoming football. I honestly will miss every single senior from the 2011 class. Four that stick out to me are the defensive captains of Josh Biezuns, Gabe Knapton, Brian Hendricks, and Tashaun Gipson. All four of those seniors have a realistic shot at making it at the next level, on defense or special teams, and they will be greatly missed.

Freshmen QB of the Year (Ok, give this one to Brett Smith)

QB Brett Smith was undoubtedly the best freshman quarterback in the nation. The Salem, OR product put in the hard work and the coaches put him into a position to be successful. The entire team rallied around the kid, and instilled in him the meaning of being a Wyoming Cowboy, and he reciprocated this to the rest of his team and community. Smith did a phenomenal job all season long of leading the offense in every game. The true freshman took the time to learn the scheme, and know what routes would be open against different defensive sets. He grasped the game of football, and he didn't make too many mistakes. Smith was a joy to watch all year, as it's rare to see a kid with that much passion, dedication, and work ethic. I look forward to 3 more years with the Freshman All-American behind center for the Cowboys.
I'd also like to add my farewell to Coach Alex Grinch. Grinch recently moved on to the University of Missouri where he will coach safeties, and I wish him and his family all the success in the world. Good Luck Grinch!

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