BOISE, ID - NOVEMBER 26: Kody Sutton #3 of the Wyoming Cowboys runs the ball against the Boise State Broncos at Bronco Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)
After a month hiatus we are back with another edition of Panel of Pokes. This month we spend our time figuring out what is going to happen with life in Laramie after Alvester Alexander. The position of strength for Cowboys became a little shakier after he decided to take a shot at the NFL early. There are a number of players that could be utilized at running back next year and quized our crew to get their thoughts.
HERE IS THE TOPIC:
What do you want to see the Cowboys do at running back for 2012? How many running backs do you want the Cowboys to use and which players would you put in those spots?
Last year the Pokes used a three back rotation of Alvester Alexander, Ghaali Muhammad and Brandon Miller. Kody Sutton burned his redshirt late in the season when converted linebacker Muhammad went down. Alexander is taking a shot at the NFL and so he is gone. Nehemie Kankalongo is coming back after missing 2011 with a knee injury. There are also two new running backs that just signed with the Pokes this month in DJ May and Shaun Wick.
Our panel this month includes:
Matt Hargleroad - Cowboy Altitude
Matt Blaylock - Poke Pride
Ian - GoWyoGo
UW head coach Dave Christensen probably continues the multiple back rotation and I like this philosophy of a three back rotation. I'd expect to see Kody Sutton come in next season and be more than an adequate replacement for Alexander. I think Sutton can be a superstar in this offense, while the Cowboys will have a good mix of candidates to be part of the multi-rotation. There is a decent chance Ghaali Muhammad stays at running back with the departure Alexander, while Miller could be moved to receiver or stay at RB. It will be interesting to see if Nehemie Kankolongo can finally emerge. The Pokes are excited about incoming freshmen Shaun Wick and DJ May, who could both find themselves in the rotation as true-freshmen.
Brad Reed - WyoNation
The Cowboys had a running back by committee last year with no single back really standing out. Alvester Alexander led the team in yardage, but towards the end of the season we got to see what Kody Sutton was made of. Brandon Miller had some carries in there, but eventually moved out into a WR position of sorts. Ghaali Muhammad was having a nice year at RB but was derailed by injuries and lost for the season. In 2012 the Cowboys are going to have an entirely different look at RB. Alvester Alexander, the leading rusher from last year's team, and the best back the Pokes have had since Devin Moore left town was primed to have a big senior season and set himself up for some NFL looks, instead, Alexander decided to leave for the NFL early, leaving a big hole to fill in the Pokes offense.
For 2012 I'd like to see a few changes in the running game (and I know that Gregg Brandon is definitely taking my advice!!). First, I'd like to see Ghaali Muhammad move back to linebacker. I think having Ghaali on the offensive side of the ball hurt the Pokes' ability to stop the rushing attack on defense. Ghaali runs with a lot of power and speed, and is a decent returner, but I think his calling as a Cowboy is at LB. Next I'd give Sutton a crack at the starting spot. He had some freshman mistakes last fall, but I think he's going to be a great RB. Runs with a lot of power considering how small he is. Nehemie Kankalongo should be given a chance to start, but we really don't know much about him. He was suspended as a freshman and was held out with an injury in 2011. This will be the first real action Kongo has gotten in a game. I honestly have no clue what the Pokes should do with Miller, but I think leaving him in his WR/RB spot is probably best. I would expect that neither of the true freshman would play unless we suffer an injury that can't be overcome with other back-ups.
The Pokes will be in capable hands next season at RB and I hope that we'll see a 1000 yard rusher emerge and lead the Pokes offense. Brett Smith won't be able to do all the rushing by himself, and to save his health, we need a solid running game to keep the offense chugging.
Matt Hargleroad - Cowboy Altitude
Last year I was critical of the running back by committee system that was utilized by the Cowboys. After watching it work after a few games it won me over. The loss of Alexander certainly means a big hit to losing a senior on the team and the most experienced running back on the roster. I'd look another three back rotation like the Cowboys utilized in 2011. Last year Ghaali Muhammad made the switch from linebacker to running back and I loved what he brought to the the table. He brings a great package of size and speed together and I hope he gets the spot as the featured back.
After that I certainly say Kody Sutton should be the next to get the rock. He showed some nice flashes last year and would be a nice change of pace to the larger Muhammad. Brandon Miller was effective last year at running back and he also spent some time at receiver. With the depth at running back and the loss at wideout I'd like to see Miller play receiever fulltime in 2012. Sam Stratton is out for the year and Miller would help add some more depth at that spot.
With the third back I want to see Nehemie Kankalongo achieve some success this year. I've been a fan of "Kongo" ever since he visited UW via a very long bus trip from Canada. As a freshmen his time was limited due to suspensions for off the field issues. Then he missed 2011 with a knee injury and used his redshirt. I think he certainly has the potential to be very similar all purpose back like Alexander. There has been some whispers about him and Ghaali perhaps moving to defense. I hope that isn't the case for either players and that they get another shot at running back.
With the two freshmen backs Shaun Wick and DJ May, Christensen has said that both of them are likely to play as freshmen. I hope that one or both of them may be able to redshirt simply because of the depth the Cowboys have at the position. Obviously if someone gets moved to another spot then they would be next in line to get some reps. May and Wick are fairly similar in height, weight and speed as far as I can tell. It will be interesting to see what they can do in fall practice and if one emerges as an impact player right away.
Matt Blaylock - PokePride
Wyoming head football coach Dave Christensen needs to open up the offensive playbook and run a true spread offense. In a true spread the running back is limited in what he will do out of the backfield as far as running the ball.
If Wyoming runs a true spread then we need a back that has the best hands along with speed to catch the ball out of the backfield. The problem lies as you also need experience and that is where you have to look.
Ghaali Muhammad, Brandon Miller, Kody Sutton, Nehemie Kankolongo and the two new recruits D.J. May and Shaun Wick you have to go with what is proven until someone proves otherwise. Right now Muhammad has the experience and he has to be backed up by Brandon Miller.
May and Wick have the speed but are still an unproven commodity, Kankolongo could add depth and may make an impact but coming off an injury he will have to work his way back into playing shape and coaches will need to make sure he is not hesitant in his play.
Going into the season all signs would point to Muhammad starting at running back and Miller backing him up. If this does happen it will be time for Muhammad to shine
Your turn: Tell us who you want to see the Cowboys use at running back in 2012!