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Wyoming Can Make Some Bold Offensive Improvements in 2011

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When Dave Christensen arrived in 2009 he brought with him the patented no huddle spread offense that he had crafted at Mizzou.  During his tenure as offensive coordinator for the Tigers he produced one of the most product offenses in the nation.  His final season in Columbia the Tiger offense averaged a whopping 42.2 points a game.

That offensive prowess has been hard to find in Laramie during the first two years.  And in Coach Christensen's defense he never said it would happen quickly.  Much of the roster that was brought in under Joe Glenn was designed for a run heavy offense that relied on the defense to keep games close.  Many of the offensive linemen weren't ready for the blocking schemes involved in the spread and there was very little depth in the receiver department.

In 2010 the Cowboys averaged 19.2 points per game which was up slightly from the 18.3 average posted in 2009.  Those first two years the offense was directed by Marcus Arroyo whose only prior experience was serving as co-offensive coordinator for his alma mater San Jose State for two years.  Four games into the 2010 season the spread was actually disbanded for a couple games to focus on the run game and bunch the offensive line together.  This created some turmoil with the some of the offensive players.  Arroyo left during the winter to take a job as QB Coach at Cal.     

The big shiny glimmer of hope for Wyoming's offense is new offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon who was hired in February.  Brandon previously worked as the wide receiver coach at Wyoming under Paul Roach.  Later he succeeded Urban Meyer as the head coach at Bowling Green where finished with a 44-30 record and utilized a spread offense that averaged more than 400 yards in four of his six years. 

The experience that Brandon brings to the table will be huge for the offense as they try and bust out of the bottom of the conference this year.  His expertise will allow for better play calling and more opportunities for big plays.  There is sure to be some bumps along the way as he breaks in a true freshman quarterback this year.  Brett Smith and Adam Pittser will battle for the starting job in August and I wouldn't be surprised if both quarterbacks end up playing this year.

The run game will be the strongest it has ever been since Christensen took over in Laramie.  The threat of the run game will help also help buy time for the receivers.  The running backs are a solid five deep and all of them are worthy of getting carries this year. 

  • Brandon Miller (SO) had a fantastic spring and actually earned the #1 RB spot.  In the spring game he ran for 52 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Alvester Alexander (JR) is the two starter who was banged up and unable to work very much during spring practice.  Still I would expect Alexander to earn the starting job again in August now that he is healthy.  Had an incredible five touchdowns in the Border War blowout last year.  
  • Ghaali Muhammad (JR) moved from linebacker to RB this year but injured his shoulder during the spring.  He played running back in high school and was always a play maker in his first two years while playing defense.  Except to do some great things on offense this year. 
  • Nehemie Kankolongo (SO) has been described as the most talented running back on the team but he missed the spring game due to suspension. He will also miss the season opener due to a violation of team rules for the second straight year.  Great at catching the ball out of the backfield.    
  • Kody Sutton (FR) is an example of good things coming in small packages.  The 5-8 190 freshman from Texarkana, TX is a powerful and compact runner who has gotten very high marks from the coaching staff.

Despite losing their top two receivers to graduation the Cowboys still have plenty of depth at wideout this year.  An effective spread offensive requires a solid set of eight receivers who can rotate to keep everyone fresh and the defense worn down.  The Pokes should be able to push their their opponents defensive backs this year and create some mismatches.

  • Robert Herron (SO) moves to wide receiver full time in 2011 after splitting time between running back and receiver last year.  He is by far the fastest receiver on the team and really improved at holding on to the ball during the spring.  Earned the #1 WR spot with his impressive spring and was a favorite target of Brett Smith.
  • Mazi Ogbonna (SR) was fourth on the team last year with 187 receiving yards.  He saw action in eight games and will be looked upon for his senior leadership this year.
  • Chris McNeill (JR) is Mr. Consistent who always seems to ride under the radar.  He is actually the top returning receiver from 2010 and is the best route runner on the team.  
  • T.J. Smith (SO) actually led the Cowboys in receiving yards per game last year with 58.3 while only playing in the final three games of the season.  At 6-3 210 he brings a great combination of size and speed to the tight end spot. 
  • Sam Stratton (RFR) is a converted quarterback who impressed during the spring after making the move to wideout.  His experience as a dual threat QB in high school gave him great hands and elusiveness.
  • Others who are expected to contribute include: Jonathon Aiken (SR) if he can keep on top of everything academically.  Spencer Bruce is a beefy TE at 6'5 235lbs and is the largest target on the team.  There is also a great class of freshman receivers who can be difference makers including 6'4 Kevin Robertson, speedy Josh Doctson, Dominic Ruffran, London Muse and Trey Norman. 

Last year Christensen redshirted all his freshman offensive linemen and with the addition of some help from the junior college ranks the Pokes will finally have some depth upfront. Center John Carlson (JR) made the watch list for the Rimington Trophy.  While 6'6 315 Kyle Magnuson (JR) has transformed himself the over the winter and is now the starting right tackle.  It may be not be perfect but the offensive line certainly looks to be improved in 2011 and will create more time for the quarterback and open up more running lanes for the backs. 

Even though there will be a freshman quarterback running the show that doesn't mean that Brandon should keep the training wheels on when the season starts.  The season begins off with two FCS teams in Weber State and Texas State in which Wyoming will be heavily favored.  That is the time to get the offense started quickly and take some risks in the play calling.

Set the tone for the season by putting up some big points on the scoreboard and get that momentum rolling.  The offense has the tools for putting up some big numbers and an increase of at five points per game is definitely possible.  With Gregg Brandon steering this ship things are looking very bright for the Cowboy offense.