This football season will be the first that includes a group of seniors that were part of Dave Christensen's initial recruiting class at Wyoming. Seems like time is flying by and several members of this group will be playing in their final college football games this fall.
Coach Christensen only had a couple months to put together this group of 22 new recruits. Nick Carlson and Josh Leonard signed at the same time as grayshirts but they were recruited under Joe Glenn. Attrition is at 50% with just 11 of the 22 signees on the current roster that Christensen recruited. That number has improved greatly with the recruiting classes afterwards.
Still this group has gone through plenty and been a huge part of turning around the Cowboy program. Four of the eleven are now seniors. 10 members of this signing class played their first year at Wyoming and helped the Cowboys make two New Mexico Bowl appearances in three years.
Let's take a trip down memory lane back to February 9, 2009 and that first signing class.
ALVESTER ALEXANDER - RB: Alexander was a three starter at running back for the Pokes. He rushed for 2,127 yards and 27 touchdowns during his career. Decided to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL in order to help his family. Signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent. Still plans on completing his degree. Alexander was the latest member of recruiting class to leave Laramie but it was under different circumstances then most.
ROBERT BENJAMIN - QB: The only junior college signee in this class Benjamin was a co-starter at QB for the Cowboys in 2009. He eventually lost the starting job to Carta-Samuels and decided to transfer after the season. He didn't want to spend his final year of eligibility serving as a backup. Benjamin ended up at D2 Fayetteville State in North Carolina where he was a starter for his final year.
KENNY BROWDER - DB: After an up and down four years it seems like Kenny Browder has gotten things figured out. Browder has missed several games over the years for violating team rules. He played well this spring and is part of a very deep secondary. Will begin 2012 as the backup free safety.
SPENCER BRUCE - DL: The only Wyoming product in this signing class. Bruce used his redshirt in 2009 and has transitioned from defensive end to tight end. Had three catches for 27 yards and a touchdown in 2011 as a sophomore. Should see much more playing time in 2012.
AUSTYN CARTA-SAMUELS - QB: Eventually won the starting spot at quarterback as a freshmen and led the Cowboys to a 7-6 record with a New Mexico Bowl victory. Named Mountain West Freshmen of the Year for 2009. The Cowboys struggled in 2010 and Carta-Samuels became unhappy. Transferred to a JUCO in January 2011 and then later ended up at Vanderbilt where he had to sit out a year. Will compete for the Commordores starting job this fall.
SCOTT CRISS - OL: After redshirting in 2009 the Omaha native decided he had to be a Husker. He chose to leave Laramie in order to pursue a walk-on spot at Nebraska.
SHAMIEL GARY - DB: Named freshmen All-American in 2009 at free safety after finishing with 98 tackles. Had 94 tackles as a sophomore but missed the last two games. Transferred to Oklahoma State in January 2011 to be closer to home. Sat out last season due to transfer rules and is competing for playing time in the Cowboy secondary.
DEVYN HARRIS - LB: Used his redshirt in 2009 after suffering a knee injury. Playing in all 12 games in 2010 including eight starts, had 47 tackles. Started at MLB for the Pokes in 2011 and finished with 67 tackles. Part of a very deep linebacker group in 2012.
RODNEY JAYNES - WR: Used his redshirt in 2009 and then left the program. Looks like he ended up at the JUCO College of DuPage back in Illinois.
TODD KNIGHT - LB: Used his redshirt in 2009 and is currently a junior. Didn't see any playing time as a sophomore. Played in every game last and finished with 12 tackles. Currently listed as the #3 SAM linebacker for the 2012 season.
TRENDT MARSOM - DB: The Hawaii native reshirted as a freshmen and then transferred out the second semester. No sign of him playing football elsewhere.
CHRIS MCNEILL - WR: Played in 13 games as a freshmen and caught 17 passes for 117 yards. Was third on the team with 257 receiving yards in 2010. Was the leading receiver for the Pokes as junior with 42 catches for 504 yards despite missing the last four games after injuring his shoulder. Will be the veteran leader of the receivers in 2012.
LARRY MITCHELL - DB: Used his redshirt in 2009 and then left the team on his own during 2010 fall camp.
ALO MOLI - WR: The Utah product signed with Wyoming and then went on a two year mission as part of his LDS faith. He never attending Wyoming but he can certainly play the ivories.
GHAALI MUHAMMAD - LB: A team first player Muhammad has been willing to play where ever the coaches needed him. He started off as a freshmen playing safety and special teams. Moved to outside linebacker in 2010 where he had 75 tackles including 6 tackles for loss. As a junior he switched sides and moved to running back. Averaged 6.3 yards per carry and had 379 yards as part of the Cowboys running back trio. Injured his knee in week eight against TCU and missed the rest of the season. As a senior Muhammad is moving back to linebacker and working his way back from that knee injury. He should be 100% by the time camp starts in August.
MIKE PURCELL - DL: Purcell has played all four years and will be entering his third season as a starter at defensive tackle. Played in 30 games so far in his career. Finished with 48 tackles and two sacks his junior season. Has been a very consistent and steady contributor each year. Will be a key piece of the veteran defensive line in 2012.
JEFF ROUECHE - LB: Used his redshirt in 2009 and didn't see any playing time in 2010. Recorded two tackles in four games last year as a linebacker in 2011. Now listed at 6-3 234lbs Rouche has moved to defensive end and is currently third on the depth at left defensive end.
LUKE RUFF - DB: As a freshmen Ruff played special teams, his highlight was blocking a punt in the Texas game that Muhammad recovered for a touchdown. Served a backup safety as a sophomore. In 2011 he earned the starting strong safety spot and was second on the team with 102 tackles. Will be a starter again in 2012 as well a team captain. Just named to the 2012 Lott Trophy Watch List.
T.J. SMITH - TE: Used his redshirt in 2009. Was able to earn some playing late in 2010 and finished with eight catches for 175 yards. Played in eight games a sophomore but only caught two passes for eight yards. Has been battling injuries and didn't participate in any spring scrimmages.
DAVID TOOLEY - TE: Made some several clutches catches as true freshmen. Unfortunately he blew out his knee in the Border War and was never the same. Tried to play through the pain in fall camp of 2010 but it didn't work out. He left the team for a brief a time before returning to school but was suspended for violating team rules. He left Laramie in January 2011.
THOMAS VONASHEK - OL: Listed at 6-9 302lbs Vonashek was certainly a big linemen. He used his redshirt 2009 and then got in some trouble during the summer of 2010. He was dismissed from the team for a "violation of team rules" and then went to Iowa Central CC. Vonsahek signed with FCS Western Carolina in 2011 but never appeared on their roster.
MARK WILLIS - DL: Willis used his redshirt year to add some weight to his frame. Played in six games at defensive end as a redshirt freshmen before a knee injury forced him to miss the last six games of the year. Saw more playing in 2011 as a backup but still missed the last three games with an injury. Did not participate in 2012 spring practice due to injuries but is expected to be healthy this fall.
Amazing that only half of this signing class remains on the roster. Plenty of turnover will happen with a coaching change but most of that occurs with former athletes. I think with Christensen being a first time head coach you didn't really know what type of atmosphere he would create. We now know that Christensen is a no nonsense coach that is very strict on following team rules. The percentage of signees in other classes that left have been much lower.
None of the playesr that left has made an impact elsewhere. Obviously we'll have to see what ACS and Gary do this year now that they are eligible to play. Alexander left for a shot at the pros and a chance to help his family, he was very happy at Wyoming and loved the fans.