To me, Wyoming receiver Chris McNeill has been “Mr. Reliable” throughout his career.
No matter who threw the ball, McNeill often was the one the quarterback wanted to get the ball to when it was third-and-8 or even on fourth down. More often than not, McNeill came up with the catch.
Unfortunately, McNeill’s career is done as he suffered a knee injury after a catch in the fourth quarter in UW’s 28-23 win at UNLV last Saturday and won’t play in the season finale at home against San Diego State Saturday in Laramie.
“I have countless memories of Chris,” senior center and co-captain Nick Carlson said. “I feel like every fourth down situation we’ve been in it has been him that came up with a catch. That comes from his understanding of the offense, his awareness in space and how to be found by (sophomore quarterback Brett Smith).”
Carlson quickly recalled a fourth-down catch at Air Force last season, and one in Smith’s first game against Weber State at home. I’m sure UW fans can come up with several more.
Tough break for a good receiver and a very humble and soft-spoken kid. McNeill said he took great pride in what he accomplished on the field. He caught 150 passes — one shy of breaking into UW’s top 10. He was a Second Team All-Mountain West pick last season despite missing the last four games with an arm injury.
He also took as much, or more pride in the leadership role he had among the receivers this season being the lone senior.
Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said Monday he isn’t sure who will start for McNeill. Look for Sophomores Trey Norman, Justin Berger and Keenan Montgomery to see more playing time Saturday than they have in the past.
Some other news and notes from the final Monday interview session with players and coaches this season:
–Christensen was asked what’s been the biggest factor in team’s three-game winning streak. He said having a healthy Brett Smith at quarterback. Smith’s thrown 11 touchdown passes the last three games. He also earned MW Offensive Player of the Week honors for the fifth time in his career Monday. Sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff was the Co-Defensive Player of the Week with Nevada linebacker Albert Rosette.
–A couple of interesting match ups between UW and San Diego State should be how the Cowboys’ offensive line blocks the Aztecs’ blitzing 3-3-5 defense, which also uses more four-man fronts this season. Also, how UW’s receivers do against mostly man-to-man coverage from SDSU’s secondary.
–Three other players will miss the San Diego State game for UW: true freshman running back Shaun Wick, senior safety Luke Ruff and senior linebacker Oliver Schober.
–According to the depth chart, redshirt freshman Eddie Yarbrough and junior Justin Bernthaler will start at the two defensive end spots for the second straight game. Former starters Sonny Puletasi and Miraldo Michel are both listed as backups, although both played some last week at UNLV coming off injuries.
For more on McNeill’s injury and other news and notes, see Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to www.wyosports.net.