Analysis: One-dimensional Pokes must find outside weapons
We had some questions heading into spring football.
The COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has likely shut that down though an official announcement from the school has not yet been made. Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers did Tweet this Monday though:
Here are a few things we were looking forward to seeing:
- Who will line up next to Chad Muma and fill the enormous shoes of Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia at linebacker?
- Who will replace Wyoming's all-time leading scorer, Cooper Rothe?
- What will the receiving corps look like without Raghib Ismail, Austin Conway and John Okwoli?
- Will Levi Williams take full advantage of being the lone quarterback this spring?
- Who are the Cowboys' play makers at the wide receiver position?
That, and plenty more.
In this series, we will dissect those queries. No, we won't get to talk to the players or coaches, but we can dive into the numbers and possibilities.
Let's continue with the wide receiver position.
LARAMIE -- A member of the Wyoming coaching staff last week during NFL Pro Day said one thing about the Cowboys' receivers in 2020 -- "watch out for Alex Brown and Isaiah Neyor.
"They are going to be really good."
The emphasis was on Neyor, the 6-foot, 3-inch, 195-pound freshman from Ft. Worth, Texas.
It wasn't just a coach telling me this, Wyoming's all-time leading scorer, Cooper Rothe, echoed those same sentiments.
When the place kicker is watching you in practice, you have to be a stud, right?
Neyor got into just two games last season -- Utah State and the Arizona Bowl -- and wasn't targeted once. Neyor snagged 39 passes for 858 yards during his senior season at Lamar High School. He hauled in eight touchdowns in Texas's highest classification.
Can he make those same type of plays for the Cowboys in 2020?
We will just have to wait and see.
Spring would have been a chance for Neyor, Brown and Devin Jennings to show that they can help replace -- and hopefully surpass -- the numbers put up by Raghib Ismail, Austin Conway and John Okwoli, three seniors who graduated after the season.
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said it's no accident the program is recruiting bigger targets on the outside. Ismail, Conway and Okwoli averaged 6-feet tall and all had similar body types, befitting of a slot receiver more so than an outside threat.
That is all changing with guys like Neyor, Brown (6-4), Jennings (6-2) and incoming freshman, 6-foot, 4-inch, Joshua Cobbs.
Bohl picked up a 6-foot speedster, too, in Tyrese Grant. The latter two will be on campus this fall.
All of these tall guys are from talent-rich Texas.
“We have to be more explosive and throw the ball better,” Bohl said.
Some of that lands on the shoulders of signal callers Sean Chambers and Levi Williams. The offensive line was good in pass protection, but needs to improve if the throwing game hopes to follow. The rest, well, that's up to a mishmash of rookies and vets at the wide-out spots.
Wyoming will return plenty of experience in Ayden Eberhardt, Gunner Gentry, Dontae Crow and Wyatt Wieland.
Those guys have played a ton of football at Wyoming, but the play-making has been sporadic -- at best.
Here are last season's individual stats for those returners:
- Eberhardt: 8 receptions, 168 yards, 21-yard average, two touchdowns
- Gentry: 6 receptions, 130 yards, 21.7-yard average, zero touchdowns
- Crow: 5 receptions, 70 yards, 14-yard average, zero touchdowns
- Wieland: 0 receptions
That's a grand total of 19 catches for 368 yards and two scores.
That, simply, won't get it done.
As I mentioned above, this was not all on the wide receivers. They need a QB to get them the ball consistently. With each passing week, Bohl and Co. depended more and more on the run. They became one dimensional.
Those are his words.
Here's some more solid, concrete facts:
- Wyoming finished 2019 ranked 123rd in passing offense out of 130 FBS teams. That was an average of 136.2 yards through the air per game.
- The Cowboys passing efficiency was ranked 117th in the country. That's 11 total touchdown passes and nine picks.
- Between Chambers, Williams and Tyler Vander Waal, the Pokes ranked 128th in completion percentage. The only teams with worse completion rates: Army and Georgia Tech. Two programs that run the ball -- a lot.
Wyoming has to have more from its veteran receivers next fall. The coaches still have plenty of faith in them, but consistency plagued this group in 2019. They didn't get many opportunities -- Conway led the team with just 23 catches -- but they let plenty slide right through their finger tips -- literally.
Bohl is hoping that youth, speed and size will make a big difference in 2020. If the Cowboys can find a passing game, that will make their offense just that much more dangerous.
They are banking on the Lone Star State producing a few stars in the coming years. Spring ball could've started to showcase those talents that coaches and players say are there.
We just haven't seen it yet.