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Breakdown of the Wyoming Defense

It's game day so still a great time to get you caught up with who to watch out for on defense this year for the Cowboys.  This off season has been one of change for the defense as they adjust to 4-3 defense after sticking with the 3-4 under Joe Glenn.  The coaching staff is confident in this move though some fans are skeptical of the switch. 

The Pokes lost their entire defensive line to graduation and so now the Cowboys need to find four bodies to plug in the line.  Before we get into specifics let's go over how the defense fared  the last couple of years.

 

Year Points Allowed Passing Yards Allowed Rushing Yards Allowed
2009 27.3 2701 2046
2008 27.8 2274 1682


Now obviously this is not including every single statistical category but when you look at the last two years the Pokes gave up over 800 more yards in 2009 but allowed slightly less points.  The Pokes defense had a bend but not break mentality and combined with a change from -22 to +8 in turnover differential allowed the Pokes to win six games and become bowl bound.

Some would argue to stick with the 3-4 because the Cowboys have some many good linebackers and they are easier to recruit.  To run a 3-4 scheme requires a lot of girth up on the line and that is one thing that the Pokes simply don't have this year.  Even with their veteran defensive line the Cowboys still gave up a ton of yards on the ground.  The switch to the 4-3 allows more bodies near the ball to cutdown on running lanes.  The University of Iowa is a master of the 4-3 and their coaches spent time with the Cowboys staff over the summer going over the conversion.  I feel confident in the switch and it may be tough at points with so many new players on the line but it will eventually pay off.   

Player breakdown after the jump. 

 Defensive Line

Left Defensive End -

Josh Biezuns (6-2, 249, Jr.)

Left Defensive Tackle -

Mike Purcell (6-3, 269, So.)

Right Defensive Tackle -

Patrick Mertens(6-5, 269, RFr)

Right Defensive End -

Gabe Knapton (6-3, 251, Jr)

The positions may be new but some of the names aren't at defensive end.  Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns both strapped on the feed bag and bulked up in preparation for their move to defensive end this year. Well both of these guys are legit as Knapton was second on the team last year with 128 total tackles and Biezuns was vital in the game saving goal line stop against Fresno State as well 65 tackles.  I view it as putting two dangerous bulked up linebackers closer to the quarterback.  Which just happens to be their favorite meal.

Mike Purcell and Patrick Merten are both starting for the first time in their careers and this is Mertens first time seeing any game time action.  Purcell appeared in six games and totaled nine tackles  a year ago.  It is obvious these two are slight undersized and inexperienced but they truly had a fantastic Fall Camp.  Purcell was the MVP of the first scrimmage in my opinion with two sacks, and a fumble recovery. 

Backups:  The depth on the defensive line isn't where Coach Christensen wants it to be.  The two JUCO linemen are listed at third string and still adjusting to campus, there is a chance they could be redshirted.  Tyler Strong is a true freshman and back up behind Mertins who i believe will become a stud within the next two years as he learns the defense.  Mark Willis is the #2 DE behind Knapton and besides going to a really great high school he should be a beast once he fills in his body.  Listed at 6-4, 225 Willis wears a size 18 shoe!  He make some plays in his career. He blocked two field goals in scrimmages this Fall.

 

Linebackers

OLB - Keith Lewis (5-11, 213, Sr)

MLB - Brian Hendricks (6-1, 228, JR)

OLB - Ghaali Muhammad (6-0, 225, So)

The Linebacker crew should again be very solid for the Pokes and depth is one thing they do have in this department.  Brian Hendricks had 116 tackles last season in just 11 games.  He was also named to the preseason ALL MWC Team.  The important thing is for him to remain healthy after missing two games last year and a week this Fall with an ankle sprain.  Ghaali Muhammad had a lot of big plays last year and has proven to be a game changer.  Keith Lewis grabbed the starting job opposite Muhammad but don't be surprised if rotates often with redshirt freshmen Devyn Harris

Backups:  Cowboy fans are excited to watch what Oliver Schober can do when gets on the field.  Though he is the backup at MLB to Hendricks, Schober is also the teams place kicker for kickoffs.  The import from Germany looks to be a special forces dream come true.  Alex Toney is a Senior and made some big plays in the scrimmages, I except him to end up his career as Poke on a high note.

SecondaryCornerback - Marcell Gipson (5-10, 189, Sr., Dallas, Texas)

Free Safety - Chris Prosinski (6-1, 210, Sr., Buffalo, Wyo.)

Strong Safety -Shamiel Gary (6-1, 210, So., Tulsa, Okla.)

Cornerback - Tashaun Gipson (6-0, 203, Jr., Dallas, Texas)

 

We saved the best for last here as the three of the four starters have played with each for the last two years.  Toss in an All Freshman All American last year and you have a great secondary.  The Gipsons have held down the starting CB spots for the last three years and Tashaun seems to have blossomed during the offseason and really stepped up his game.  Older brother Marcell is sold as a rock and won't be returning kickoffs this year so he can focus on his defense even more.  Expect more man to man coverage as result of their improvements.

Chris Prosinski had an amazing year at FS with 140 tackles to lead the team.  This earned him All MWC 2nd team last year and All MWC Preason honors this year.  One of four captains Prosinski is a ball hawk who manages to be in the right place at the right time. 

Strong Safety Shamiel Gary started off his Cowboy career with three interceptions of Weber State and finished the year by being named to the Freshman All American team.  Gary also had 98 tackles during the season.  Expect him to improve even more this year.

Backups: Marqueston Huff has cool first name as well as tons of talent.  Expect him to be the first DB off the bench in dime and nickel situations.  Luke Ruff will be playing behind Gary and had a solid preseason.