Who has the edge?
CHEYENNE – People like to say that the game of football is
not played on paper.
They are right. But it’s still fun to look.
Today, we will breakdown the offenses of the Missouri Tigers
and Wyoming Cowboys. The two squads will meet Saturday in the 2019 season
opener at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
So, who has the edge on offense?
Let’s break it down real quick.
Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant will take the reins of the Missouri offense this fall and he’s bringing his 16-2 career record with him. He’s played in big games: The ACC Championship and the College Football Playoff. He is a proven winner who can beat you with his arm or legs. He has thrown for 3,338 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and found the end zone 16 more times on the ground.
Sean Chambers played in three-plus games for the Cowboys during his true freshman season. The California product showed he was more than capable of taking over a game with running ability. Chambers rushed for 329 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also hitting 15-of-25 passes for 266 yards and three scores. With Chambers under center, Wyoming won his two starts over Colorado State and San Jose State. We just haven’t seen a big enough body of work yet.
Larry Rountree’s workload increased by 99 carries in 2018. His production on the ground nearly doubled. The junior tailback racked up 1,216 yards last season and scored 11 touchdowns. He was a threat in the passing game, too, catching 14 passes for 62 yards. Tyler Badie was a nice change-of-pace back for the Tigers, amassing 437 yards on just 89 carries. He also scored twice.
Wyoming was supposed to have a plethora of experience and talent returning in 2019, despite losing the Mountain West’s leading rusher from a season ago in Nico Evans. That didn’t happen. Transfers depleted the depth at the running back position. In fact, only one back on the current roster has carries in a Wyoming uniform. That man is Xazavian Valladay (pictured). The Chicago product rushed for 396 yards on 71 carries and scored three touchdowns. He is just a sophomore. Louisville graduate transfer, Trey Smith, should help carry the load. In a limited role, Smith rushed for 415 yards and five touchdowns in his first three collegiate seasons. True freshman Titus Swen will also see action in the opener. Coaches are high on him.
The Tigers return a pair of starters this fall in Jalen Knox and slot receiver, Johnathon Johnson (pictured). Emanuel Hall, the team’s leading receiver in 2018, graduated. Against Wyoming, Hall hauled in a game-high 10 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown. Johnson is the Tiger’s top big-play threat. He has caught 124 career passes for 1,896 yards and 13 scores. Johnson has snagged three touchdown passes and racked up 419 yards on just 27 catches in 2018. Senior Johnathan Nance and Alex Ofodile add experience and depth. Kam Scott and Dominic Gicinto also add speed on the outside.
Wyoming should have a leg up in this category. The Cowboys return three seniors in Austin Conway (pictured), John Okwoli and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. However, this trio combined for just 59 catches and 548 yards in 2018. There were only three touchdown catches between them. Losing fellow senior receiver, CJ Johnson, before fall camp doesn't help matters. Wyoming will need to see marked improvement from the three seniors and get some added help from guys like Ayden Eberhardt, Gunner Gentry and Dontae Crow. The experience is there, the results are not. Wyoming tied Air Force for the worst passing offense in the Mountain West last season. It’s never good to be tied with the Falcons in that category.
Albert Okwuegbunam is not only one of the best tight ends in the Southeastern Conference, he might just be the best in the nation. A preseason All-American, Okwuegbunam snagged 43 passes for 466 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. In just two years the Illinois product has caught 72 passes and 17 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 5-inch, 255-pound monster can block, too. He’s the total package.
Josh Harshman (pictured) received a fifth year of eligibility and was named a Wyoming team captain last week. The Cowboys are hoping for a big year from the Casper native. In 17 career games, Harshman has hauled in just 22 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. Jackson Marcotte and Nate Weinman are both 6-foot, 7-inch pass catchers for the Pokes at tight end. Neither has a collegiate catch.
This is one of Missouri’s real strengths. Not only are they returning three starters – left tackle Yasir Durant, center Trystan Colon-Castillo and right guard Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms (pictured) – the five big uglies average 6-foot, 5-inches and 324 pounds across the board. Even the back-ups have plenty of game experience. And they are big, too. Tiger running backs followed these big guys to the tune of 2,838 yards rushing last season. They gave up just 13 sacks all season as a unit.
Wyoming returns freshman All-American center, Keegan Cryder (pictured), and Rudy Stofer at left tackle. Eric Abojei, the biggest of the Cowboy lineman at 6-foot, 5-inches and 354 pounds will take over at left guard, and Torrington native, Logan Harris, will open the season at the other guard spot. Alonzo Velazquez, A 6-foot, 6-inch, 310-pound junior will handle duties at right tackle. Injuries to Gavin Rush and Zach Watts, hurt the Cowboys’ depth up front. Wyoming running backs had a big year in 2018, amassing 2,743 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. The unit gave up 24 sacks on the season. Bart Miller, Wyoming’s offensive line coach, is in his rookie season in Laramie. Time will tell if the big guys can stay healthy and keep Chambers upright.