Cowboys’ O-line showing progress, will return experience

Two of the eight seniors on the Wyoming football roster are seniors — guard Troy Boyland and center Rafe Kiely.

Troy Boyland

Troy Boyland

However, in offensive line coach Scott Fuchs’ mind, he returns five starting offensive linemen for the 2016 season.

That’s because sophomore Charlie Renfree started the first 10 games this season at center. Kiely did some good things in practice late in the season, and Renfree was a bit banged up. Kiely started in UW’s Nov. 14 game at San Diego State and will start in the Cowboys’ season-finale Saturday at home against UNLV. Renfee and Kiely have split time in UW’s first 10 games, but Renfree saw most of the playing time.

Boyland started in nine of 11 games, but true freshman Kaden Jackson started two. And, both have played in all 11 games this season. Boyland moved from defensive line to offensive line this season.

It’s been a mixed bag for UW’s offensive line this season. The biggest positive is it has helped sophomore running back Brian Hill gain 1,399 yards, and he is 57 yards away from the Cowboys’ single-season rushing record held by Ryan Christopherson in 1994.

The biggest negative is that UW has allowed a Mountain West high 34 quarterback sacks for 249 yards. UW’s offense also is last in the MW at 16.7 points per game and 10th out of 12 teams with 335.8 yards of total offense. It’s fair to say not all of the offensive’s struggles should be put solely on the offensive line, but to say none of it should wouldn’t be accurate.

Scott Fuchs

Scott Fuchs

“Never fast enough,” said Fuchs on the progress the offensive line has made this season. “They have developed .I’ve been pretty impressed with (right tackle) Zach Wallace as a true freshman. He needs to put weight on (he’s listed at 265 pounds). Kaden Jackson has done an exceptional job when in there. Troy, in his first year playing offensive line, has grown and done a very good job.

“(Junior left guard Chase Roullier) is the rock in there. (Sophomore left tackle Ryan Cummings) is a second-year player who continues to grow an get better. It’s not a finished product yet, but we are well on our way.”

Fuchs added he doesn’t think the offensive line would have made the strides it did had it not been for Boyland’s play, and wishes he had him for another year.

Chase Roullier

Chase Roullier

Roullier was given the highest combined grade among college offensive guards in both run and pass blocking by Pro Football Focus last week, which also ranked him as the ninth-best college player among offensive and defensive linemen.

Fuchs would like to see more depth develop behind his five returning starters next season, and he also expects big things for his guy in 2016.

“I anticipate more from them, and I think they will expect more from themselves. I’m excited to see that,” Fuchs said.

Rafe Kiely

Rafe Kiely

Kiely’s UW career has taken some odd twists and turns, both on and off the field. For more on that, see my column in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang and log on to wyosports.net.

And more importantly, I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving. I am incredibly thankful for your interest in this blog and my work.