By Brand LeMaitre
Right off, let me say that I am a passionate Poke fan and complete newbie at football knowledge. I barely know all the positions and can only recognize basic formations, so I will go with what I could see and if that answered my questions I had about the Pokes.
First off, it was Meet the Pokes Kids Event 11:30am-12:30pm. What a perfect day. Not too warm and not too windy...
Honestly, didn't know what to expect and I thought at best they would have a couple of footballs and only a couple of players would be out to meet with the kids. I was completely wrong. I would say that nearly EVERY PLAYER was out on the field and set up in groups by unit and had a position specific drill ready to go with equipment for the kids. I brought my 5 year old son and he had a fantastic time! The players were really nice, cheering on the kids and all were having fun. There were a TON of kids and parents. Wow, I can't say enough about these Pokes, I was really impressed with their character, everyone was involved.
To top it off, the Players were made available for autographs. I had brought a pen and pad of paper (to write notes for this post) and only had that for my son to get autographs, Lame Dad struck again! But then out of nowhere, I looked over and my boy had a 2013 Pokes FB Poster and he was getting autographs on it! I asked my son where he got the Poster and he said the nice football player gave it to him!
Finally, I will just mention that I got to talking with some of the players while my son was getting autographs and high-fives. I asked "You guys gonna get it done this year?", and the response was a military-style "Yes Sir" response. One player, (withholding his name) said that last year was extremely tough with the close losses. You could sense how hungry these Pokes are... they want to win and go to a bowl game in 2013 and I'll bet nothing less will do for these guys...
1. Can the Defense put pressure on the quarterback? Answer: I liked what I saw, the Defense generally got to the QB and would have had 3-4 sacks in a game situation. Thompson ripped off a 50 yard run, but you could see that the Defensive players held up because they were not actually going to tackle the guy... but this is where the Spring game is not quite realistic.
2. Has the Defense improved itself on the Missed tackle syndrome? Again I liked what I saw in the first half, those guys were trying more to wrap up verses arm tackling. However, missed tackles showed up in the third quarter. I would estimate that the coaches will point to this and say that is why the conditioning is so important. More on that later.
3. Will the Pokes stop the run? Again, not too bad when the Gold team executed a run play as run plays up the middle were limited to a couple of yards. Definite improvement and you can tell that we've got better, BIGGER guys on the D-line. However, there is a question of depth and not all players were playing at the spring game. DC mentioned that everyone will be ready for the Fall camp.
4. Why do the Cornerbacks begin the play 10 yards off the opponent? Honestly, I don't understand this philosophy and is one of my pet peeves because the Pokes have gotten beat so many times at the Cornerback position. Today they didn't disappoint my frustration. Smith threw to Claiborne for 53 yard play by beating the Luke Kellum, but I will give Luke credit, he was beat, yet he didn't give up and stopped Clairborne on the 2 yard line. Marqueston Huff made a beautiful interception by getting inside the receiver for a TD. Despite a couple of nice plays, the Cornerbacks will need to be a bit faster if they continue to play so far off their receiver assignments... This is an area of concern (at least to me).
5. Does the Offense really have depth at receiver? Without a doubt, YES! Clairborne, Herron, Rufran, Nzeocha, Norman, Sewell all saw passess thrown to them. We are well stocked and we have some fit and fast receivers.
6. Do the Pokes have a backup QB? After last year, especially after the Toledo game where Brett Smith got a concussion, this is a Poke fan worry. Jason Thompson is a gamer, has a good arm and he looks to be fit and more poised than his trial by fire last year at Air Force. I liked what I saw in Thompson. My brother (who lives in Laramie) observed that Thompson is an awesome fit to be the mock Nebraska QB- Martinez to prepare the Defense when the Pokes visit Lincoln August 31st. Colby Kirkegaard had a slow start today with 2 interceptions, but I had to hand it to him that he played better throughout the game and made better decisions with the football. Colby (I thought) got a lot of the blame for the Cal Poly loss last year, but honestly he did enough to win that game.
7. Does the Offense have a running game? Not really sure. D.J. May, Miller, Tedder Easton, Stover, Wick... are all in the lineup for sure next season. But not many running plays. The only thing I noticed was a couple of good efforts by May to continue fighting for yards, and Tedder is one of those "fall foward and get 3-4 yard guys". That ability may come in handy. The one nagging thing I've noticed with the Cowboys is that the spread offense has the running backs next to the QB in the shotgun position (no surprise there), but a running play must be fast and quick. I still believe this aspect must improve. The running plays develop too slow. I would expect this to be an area of emphasis and would it kill DC to have the QB line up under center then hand off the ball to the running back? Think Toledo last year... inside the 5 yard line and settled for field goals because we couldn't punch it in with a running back in the shotgun formation...
8. Side Note: Is their truth to the "It is hard to Recruit to Laramie" issue? My son drank two bottles of water in the first half and we had to find a restroom quick, three times! So I got to see the weight room and we went over to the IPF. I was floored at how nice the facilities are... this was first rate! I honestly think it is up to the players and coaches to provide the atmosphere to the visiting recruit. From my view (and maybe I'm just getting older), a recruit is not deciding on UW because of the facilities, the school and the education UW can provide. That said, I would question is the university doing all it can to promote the school? Don't get me started on the TV situation either... Yes Laramie can be tough to bear in the Winter, but so what? If I was a recruit and I wanted to play football, then UW should and can make quite an impression on me. The TV situation is all apart of that problem. I've heard rumblings that a MWC streaming service will be set up and this is great for the fans and streaming is the future. Sign me up I am ready to pay, but there should be no way that CSU gets five games televised and the Pokes 0. What can we do as a fan base to help?
Summary: The Offense led by Brett Smith and an awesome receiver corps will continue to give us fans some exciting football to watch. Today the Offense was a well oiled machine and it showed in the end with Gold winning over White 92-60. But there has been improvement in the Defense. Speed and tempo has improved overall, lots of plays executed. This means that the decision for the play has been made, go get your assignment done, then get off the field. This not only means a more well conditioned player but also smarter play and more concentration by each individual player. They have to know their assignments. It occurred to me that the reason DC has put the pressure on speed and tempo is that, now that we have some depth on both Offense and Defense, the Pokes will be able to play to what should be the Cowboys strength - being well conditioned at 7220ft! If the Offense and Defense can play at a higher tempo than their opponents, those one or two plays that meant the difference last year (i.e. close losses) should translate into more wins in 2013. These guys are hungry and I can't wait for Fall, should be fun!
Thanks to all the Players today for making such a great memory for my son and I! Time to get a couple of frames for the pictures of my son at the spring game with Sonny Puletasi and Brett Smith and the FB Poster with all the great autographs! Matt H. -Thank you for the encouragement and posting my pics! Go Pokes!