We're wrapping up our preview of the offensive with this piece today.
In 2011 the Wyoming offensive line was greatly improved and that played a big factor in the success of the offense. The linemen had finally adjusted to operating in the spread system and had the right of type of athlete in there to execute the blocks needed. They only allowed 12 sack last year compared to 31 the previous season. Less then one sack per game is a great average. Continued progress on the o-line will be a big to help keeping Brett Smith safe and allowing the young running backs enough room to work.
John Hutchins - Graduated
Clayton Kirven - Graduated
Brandon Self - Graduated
Daniel Fleischman - Left team
Jacob English - HS
Nathan Leddige - HS
Walker Madden - JC
Connor Rains - JC
Chase Rouiller - HS
Left Tackle: Josh Leonard Backup: Austin Traphagan
Right Tackle: Kyle Magnuson Backup: Connor Rains
This unit lost several important seniors in Hutchins, Kirven and Self after last season. When camp opened it was announced that Daniel Fleischman had injured himself in a non football related injury and then left the team. He was projected to be the starting right tackle after spring practice. While he had never started a game for Wyoming, it still hurts to lose a projected starter before the season starts.
This unit is fairly experienced with the starting five. That isn't really where the concern should be. The group of backups are all very young and all of them have little to no playing time under their belt. Developing depth at all five spots is vital in case anyone goes down. As far as depth goes the offensive line ranks at the bottom of my list. If injuries hit this unit hard, it may be disastrous.
Let's take a look at each position.
Josh Leonard (6-4 296) is a former grey shirt that has actually played ever year since 2009. Only appeared in two games a freshmen. As a sophomore he started 10 games at right tackle. In 2011 Leonard played in 11 games with three starts at right tackle. Now he is making the move to left tackle and did a nice job there this spring. With 13 career starts this senior will need to stay healthy.
Austin Traphagan (6-5 295) is a big guy from the small town of Yuma, CO. As a redshirt freshmen he has no game experience. Was named to the 1A All State team twice in high school.
Tyler Strong (6-3 292) has really excelled in his move to offense. Strong played nine games at defensive tackle as a freshmen. After that season the coaches thought they needed his help on the offensive line. Started 11 games at left guard as a sophomore earning Honorable Mention All-Mountain West. He certainly is in the picture for earning All-Conference honors this year.
After redshirting in 2011 Rafe Kiely (6-3 290) now finds himself as the key backup behind Strong. He is followed by redshirt Sophomore Shayne Kelley (6-4 293). Kelley spent a year at Ventura CC before committing to Wyoming and redshirting last year.
The elder statesmen of the offensive line is senior Nick Carlson (6-4 292). He's played in 33 of 34 games including 25 straight starts coming into this year. Named to the Rimington Trophy watch list for the second straight, he was also was named to the All-Mountain West Preseason Team. Late last season Carlson moved to right guard as he having an issue with his snaps. He is back at center and seems to have everything figured out. One of four captains on the team, Carlson will be relied upon to provide leadership for the o-line.
Behind are sophomores Travis Bogard (6-4 304) and Skyler Hinton (6-4 296). Both of them were active last year but didn't see the field due to Carlson locking down the position. If may be tough for either of them to crack the rotation this year as well. They will play a huge role on this team in 2013 after Carlson graduates.
After two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC Zach Rushing (6-3 295) came to Wyoming in 2011. He started the first four games at guard and then played mostly special teams afterwards. Rushing will be counted on to have a strong senior campaign.
Redshirt freshmen Jake Jones (6-3 295) is currently #2 on the depth chart. He was named First Team All-State Class 5A as senior at Lakewood HS in Colorado. If Jones has a really strong camp he may be able to overtake Rushing.
Kyle Magnuson (6-6 300) was injured this spring and missed all of the practices. That dropped him to second on the depth chart behind Daniel Fleischman. With Fleischman gone Magnuson finds himself the starter at right tackle. He played in nine games in 2011 at left tackle and right guard. He is certainly the most experienced player competing for the right tackle spot. This will be certainly the biggest battle on the offensive line.
His two competitors are two junior college transfers: Connor Rains (6-7 305) and Walker Madden (6-9 260). Rains enrolled in January and a chance to grab the starting spot at right tackle but ended up third on the depth chart after spring practice. He has a second chance to make a first impression and certainly hope it goes better. Madden presents a very tall but leaner linemen then the rest of the team. He enrolled this summer which will put him behind in learning the playbook and getting up to speed.