The Wyoming football program got some good news this week when the school announced that defensive tackle Patrick Mertens and linebacker Devyn Harris were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.
Here is the story: http://www.wyosports.net/university_of_wyoming/football/ncaa-grants-harris-mertens-a-sixth-year-of-eligibility/article_de2dc0ee-7da0-11e3-9fd0-0019bb2963f4.html
This is good for UW because it needs all the help it can get defensively. We all know how much this group struggled last season by allowing 36.7 points, 220.2 rushing yards, and 482 total yards per game.
Both players bring a lot of experience back, which can’t hurt. Combined, both have played in 74 games and started 48.
The weakest part of UW’s defense last season was the defensive line, and with new coach Craig Bohl wanting to run a 4-3 scheme, the importance of interior linemen is huge. Mertens doesn’t solve all of UW’s issues there, but it gives it another guy that his proven with 107 career tackles.
Right now, Mertens, sophomore defensive tackle Uso Olive, junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough and senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi return and are UW’s most experienced and productive players. At least the returns of Mertens could give the Cowboys a decent starting lineup, but more depth needs to be found and developed.
Harris’ return is big in terms of experience, too, but also because of his versatility. He has played both inside and outside during his career. He began the 2013 season inside, lost his starting job to Jordan Stanton and then didn’t do much until the end of the season. But in the final three games he recorded 26 tackles — 21 over the last two games.
If there is a strength of UW’s defense going into this season it could be at linebacker with Harris and Stanton back — both as seniors. Senior Mark Nzeocha along the outside also returns, as does sophomore Lucas Wacha, junior Malkaam Muhammad and junior Siaosi Hala’-api’-api. He has played middle linebacker and outside linebacker/defensive end over his first two years. Where he plays for Bohl remains to be seen. But UW does have some experience and production there, which is a good start.
UW also announced the departure of two players: senior center Albert Perez and sophomore linebacker Alex Berg.
A lot was made of the center position and its revolving door last season. Perez was a junior college transfer that was supposed to be the answer for the Cowboys. He was, at times, but also missed time due to injury and ineffective play. UW has two other guys that played center in junior Rafe Kiely and sophomore Chase Roullier. Snaps often were issues with Kiely, but UW probably won’t run as much out of the shotgun in Bohl’s pro-style offense. The loss of Perez doesn’t help UW, but I don’t think it is that big of a loss, either.
The other player that left was junior-to-be linebacker Zack Berg. A promising recruit from Washington, Berg looked like he would be a good player as he made a ton of plays during spring drills in 2012. But he did little else. He had seven tackles in two seasons, and most of his time came on special teams. It is hard to miss a guy that wasn’t productive.
The loss of quarterback Brett Smith and Jason Thompson were huge for UW, but if the only other players that aren’t coming back at this point turn out to be Perez and Berg, the Cowboys are in decent shape.
Any thoughts/opinions on this?