Number crunching through two scrimmages

Was crunching some numbers from Wyoming’s first two scrimmages of fall camp to try and come to some conclusions on who we might see play this season. Here’s what I came up with.

At quarterback, true freshman Brett Smith has the best numbers so far. He’s 39 of 51 (76.5 completion percentage) for 483 yards with four TDs and one INT. His yards-per-completion is 12.4. Smith has ran the No. 1 offense in both scrimmages, and based on those numbers I would guess he will continue to.

Junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard seems to have an edge over true freshman Adam Pittser right now in the backup battle. He is 35 of 46 (76.1 completion percentage) for 221 yards with no TDs or INTs. Pittser is 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) for 210 yards with a TD and a INT. Both guys played better in last Friday’s second scrimmage compared to the first last Tuesday. I’ve been impressed with Kirkegaard’s accuracy, although he hasn’t attempted a lot of deep throws.

At running back, sophomore Brandon Miller has ran 19 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and a team-best 7.7 yards per carry (thanks in large part to a 53-yard run Friday). Junior Alvester Alexander has the most carries at 24 for 104 yards and three TDs. True freshman Kody Sutton has 23 carries for 114 yards. All three have shown some good things, and we’ve yet to see junior Ghaali Muhammad (injury). I think UW will be fine at running back, whoever gets the carries.

Sophomore Robert Herron and redshirt freshman Sam Stratton are the top receivers so far with 11 catches apiece. Senior Mazi Ogbonna has eight catches for 150 yards and two TDs, including a 76-yard touchdown. Miller has caught seven passes for 77 yards out of the backfield. Among the true freshmen receivers, Dominic Rufran has 12 catches for 65 yards, Trey Norman has five catches for 50 yards and Josh Doctson has four for 17. I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of them play this season.

Perhaps most impressive than anything from the receivers so far? Only three dropped passes in the first two scrimmages.

Haven’t seen a lot of movement or experimentation along the offensive line so far, which I think is good as the coaches must like what they’re seeing. Seniors Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins each have took turns playing with the No. 1 offense at right tackle. Wouldn’t be surprised if that continues all season.

Defensively, junior-college transfer linebacker/defensive end Korey Jones has been spectacular with 12 tackles, including five for loss. True freshman defensive end Eddie Yarbrough has six sacks. I really like the looks of this kid and could see him playing this season. Sophomore linebacker Todd Knight is taking advantage of his opportunity with some injuries at the position with 16 tackles. I would like to see how this defense can play when it gets some of its other LBs back like senior Brian Hendricks and true freshman Mark Nzeocha.

Other than Yarborough, I’ve been impressed with true freshman cornerback Blair Burns, who has 10 tackles, two pass break-ups and one tackle for loss in the two scrimmages. He saw a lot of time with the No. 2 defense in the second scrimmage. He could be a solid nickel back behind senior Tashaun Gipson and sophomore Marqueston Huff.

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Here are some links to stories for some of UW’s 2010 opponents. Note the trouble brewing at Colorado State.

http://www.standard.net/stories/2011/08/11/turnovers-most-important-stat-wildcats-2011

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20110814/SPORTS/108140352/CSU-suspends-3-due-rule-violations

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/aug/13/sdsu-riddle-one-ball-four-starting-tight-ends/

http://www.lvrj.com/sports/unlv-freshman-jefferson-steps-into-void-as-qb-s-key-protector-127677558.html

http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/08/14/1759969/defense-dominant-in-first-scrimmage.html

http://www.golobos.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/081411aac.html

http://www.gazette.com/sports/cobb-123199-fullback-steffon.html

Hope you will check out and vote in the new poll question on the blog. Another possible shake-up in terms of the college athletics landscape could be coming if Texas A&M and others go to the SEC. I don’t see this move having an impact on the Mountain West. If others follow A&M’s lead and leave the Big XII, then things could get interesting. But even then, I see the MW being OK and surviving all this. Thoughts?

Also hoping to do another live chat for Tuesday’s third scrimmage at UW. Will post more on that on Monday.

Letter from Tom Burman

Here is a letter Wyoming athletics director sent to fans via UW’s Steamboat Sound email service to fans. Would love to hear any thoughts or opinions on this.

Pretty lofty goals of increasing the overall budget by 2014, but vital to UW’s success.

Dear Wyoming Fans:

As we begin a new fiscal year, I thought I would provide you with a financial update.  You are such a vital part of what we do, and why we do it, and it is our desire to keep you informed.  It is our hope that all of you, who are so loyal to our program, will find this information interesting.  Our goal is to produce the best intercollegiate athletics program possible, and to represent this great state with class and respect, while operating within our financial means.  Accomplishing this goal takes a total team effort, from our student-athletes, our coaches, the student-body, our institution and athletic administration, the UW Trustees, our legislators, and certainly you, the fan.  We thank each of you and pledge to continue to progress and improve.

There is no question that the grass roots support of Wyoming fans is the key to our success.  If we all row together we have a wonderful opportunity to overcome the challenges we face as the least populated state in the country.  There is no better evidence of that than the camaraderie on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in War Memorial Stadium!

For the past fiscal year our operating budget was $25.1 million, and we operated in the black.  That must be our goal each and every year.   It is a challenge to forecast our revenues and expenses because there are so many factors involved.  Many of those factors are not within our control.  But we have been very fortunate in recent years.  The budget for the fiscal year 2012 (July 1-June 30) has been set at $25.7 million.  You can see on the attached pie chart how our expenses are divided.  As you might have guessed over $9 million of our budget is in personnel and nearly $5.5 million is in scholarship costs.  The positive aspect of the scholarship costs is that much of those dollars come back to UW in the form of tuition, fees, housing, etc.  We are spending over $2 million in travel and we believe that will increase dramatically over the next few years as travel costs continue to rise.

We also have attached a bar chart that will show you revenue growth in recent years.  It is easy to see how you have continued to do amazing work through your support.  We will exceed $4 million in ticket revenue in 2012.  Just six years ago we barely reached $2 million.  What can we say but a huge thank you. Your support is extraordinary.  The Cowboy Joe Club also has seen dramatic growth from less than $1 million to over $2.7 million this fiscal year.  That is an unprecedented increase during a time when many of our fellow institutions are experiencing only modest growth, if that.

As mentioned last year, we have established a goal of increasing our annual operating budget to $30 million by 2014, and that will require significant growth.  If we are able to reach that goal, I believe it will significantly improve our chances for competitive success.  It is well documented that we are at or near the bottom in overall athletic budget in the Mountain West Conference.  We will continue to work to find ways to reach a more competitive position going forward.

As part of that initiative we set a goal of 5,000 Cowboy Joe Club members (Drive for 5), and we are making excellent progress toward reaching that goal.

In 2007 we established an objective of reaching 10,000 season football tickets.  As of mid-July we are thrilled to have eclipsed that goal. Congratulations to all of you who have helped us realize that dream by purchasing tickets, referring friends and relatives etc.  We appreciate you deeply.

If we can maintain that football season-ticket level, reach 5,000 annual donors, increase men’s and women’s basketball revenue by 30 percent, and  do our part in the win column, we will reach $30 million in revenue.  When that happens, watch out for Wyoming!

In closing, we so appreciate our fan base.   We hope you will continue to support our sport programs and the efforts of our student-athletes and coaches.

Go Pokes!

 


Click on Image to Enlarge

No Wyoming-Hawaii football games for 2012-13

When the new-look Mountain West has 10 teams starting next year, it will play only eight league games — meaning someone won’t play someone.

For Wyoming, that someone is Hawaii.

Although UW hasn’t released its future conference schedules, here is a link to Brian Murphy’s blog from the Idaho Statesman. http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2011/06/11/bmurphy/mountain_west_football_schedules_2012_2013

Wyoming will play at Nevada in 2012 and host Nevada in 2013. Here’s what the home and away conference schedule should look like next season:

2012

Home: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State

Away: Fresno State, New Mexico, Nevada and UNLV

Flip those around for 2013 in terms of home and away.

Thoughts on not playing Hawaii for the first two years? I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s hard to make the trip to Hawaii, and vice versa for Hawaii to come to the mainland, let alone play at 7,220 feet. On years when teams play at Hawaii they can schedule a 13th game, usually a home game, to help offset travel costs. This sounds good, but often not easy at Wyoming to get anyone decent to come to Laramie.

This rotation will last only two years, and then another team enters into a new two-year rotation. Let’s hope the MW higher-ups don’t come up with something silly like UW not playing CSU or Air Force, or even CSU not playing Air Force in this rotation. Wasn’t the MW formed to preserve traditional rivalries back in 1999?

Air Force and Boise State play each other this season (Oct. 22 in Boise) but don’t in 2012 and 2013. Colorado State and Nevada don’t play each other in 2012-13, either. Was looking foward to seeing Boise State and Air Force play right away. That’s likely a bonus for both schools, but not for fans.

Burman asks fans to help

No, Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman isn’t trying to solicit more money from fans. But he also wouldn’t turn any down, either.

He’s asking for fans to make sure UW doesn’t turn out like what has been happening around the country at places like Ohio State, USC and Tennessee in terms of NCAA rules violations.

In a statement in the athletic department’s official email called the “Steamboat Sound” this is what Burman had to say:

“As we reflect on what has happened at Ohio State and other institutions, we want to reiterate how much we need the support from our fans and friends to reduce the potential of NCAA violations.  As athletic administrators and coaches we ask our external groups to help. Remember, athletes CANNOT receive a benefit that is not available to the general student body.  If you are aware of that happening, please contact our compliance office (Jessica Kumke, [email protected]).  Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to run a clean program of which you can be proud. If you have a question about something you see or hear regarding our student-athletes, please let us know. Thank you.”

In other news from the athletics department, men’s and women’s basketball season ticket prices have been released. Go to www.wyomingathletics.com for more on that. And, the latest number for season football ticket sales (as of Tuesday morning) was 9,436.

Starting the day off right

Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen wants to add size to a number of players at different positions, so starting in January all scholarship players will be required to attend a breakfast training table Monday-Friday from 7:15-9 a.m.

The goal is have players consume between 2,500-3,000 calories before lunch.

“We’re not going to be able to recruit the finished product here,” he said. “We have to recruit athleticism and project, and then build them when they get here. We have some great linemen, but they’re 275 or 280, and we need them up to 290 or 300. Same with our defensive line, and all positions.”

There won’t be any early-morning weight-lifting sessions when the players return from Christmas break. They will be moved to the afternoon where players should be more alert. However, players will still go through Christensen’s Winning Edge Program at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays in February.

Weekly weight-lifting and agility testing will continue during the offseason, but will be moved to Mondays after two days of rest for players instead of Fridays after a week of workouts in the hope the players are fresher and get more out of the testing.

Those are some of the changes to be made as Christensen and his staff enter their third season. For more changes, see my analysis piece in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.

News and notes

Got an e-mail today from the Bowl Championship Series and it said Oregon is the first automatic qualifier to play in one of the five BCS bowls. It also said the BCS is considering 19 other teams.

Really, 19 other teams?

There are the teams in conference championship games. OK, I get that.

But it also listed Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma State as possibilities. I get Arkansas, which is seventh in the BCS. Missouri and Oklahoma State are 12th and 14th, respectively. Don’t see how they can be given any consideration.

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The MountainWest Sports Network announced it has expanded its distribution on Comcast cable in Atlanta, and also to cable customers in west Texas, including Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, San Angelo and several communities east of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Could this mean the Mountain West Conference will make a pitch to have some Texas schools join, such as SMU or Houston?

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So the NCAA declares Auburn quarterback Cam Newton eligible, and ruled he didn’t know his dad did all the wrong-doing in his alleged play-for-pay scam.

But didn’t Newton’s dad “represent” his son in this matter, even if he didn’t know?

This still sounds fishy to me, how about you?

Knowing what you know now, and if you had a Heisman Trophy vote, would it change your vote?

I’ve got some thinking to to do this weekend before my ballot is due Monday.

Thorburn book signing Saturday

University of Wyoming graduate and Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera sports writer Ryan Thorburn will be signing copies of his new book: Lost Cowboys: The Story of Bud Daniel and Wyoming Baseball from noon-2 p.m. Saturday in the west foyer of the UW Student Union.

You also will have a chance to purchase Thorburn’s first book: Black 14: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Wyoming Football. That was a great read. It was well-written and well-researched.

Ryan is a top-notch journalist and incredible writer. If you are a UW sports fan, you definitely will enjoy his books.

For more information, go to his website at http://ryanthorburn.com/

Join me at 3 p.m. today for my weekly live chat on UW sports. Here is the link http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2010/10/14/u-of-w-live-chat-thursday-1014-at-300-pm/

Week 1 depth chart is out

No big surprises among the starters and backups. This first depth chart pretty much held true from the start of fall camp in early August. Here is the link to the depth chart: http://www.wyomingathletics.com/auto_pdf/p_hotos/s_chools/wyo/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/depth-chart

Some things that caught my eye:

–The two junior-college defensive tackles: Kurt Taufa’asau and B.J. Sumter are both No. 3. Taufa’asau worked with the No. 2s a lot during camp. Sophomore Ben Durbin and true freshman Tyler Strong are the backups behind sophomore Mike Purcell and redshirt freshman Patrick Mertens.

“Both those kids have a redshirt year and we think they can be great prospects here,” Christensen said. “If we can redshirt them and they had a year to grow in our program they both could be impact players for us.”

Christensen added the decision to redshirt those two isn’t final, merely and option at this point.

–The depth chart listed sophomore James Caraway and true freshman Robert Herron as the No. 1 kickoff return duo. But during his news conference Christensen said sophomore outside linebacker Ghaali Muhammad will join Caraway. He said it was an “executive decision.” Herron is still in the mix, but Christensen wanted a more experienced player out there in Muhammad.

Last year’s top duo was cornerback Marcell Gipson and running back Alvester Alexander. Both averaged between 22 and 23 yards per return. Gipson said he was disappointed not to be returning kicks, but understood the move when the coaches told him they wanted to keep him on the field more as a cornerback. Alexander is the only running back on the roster with game experience.

–UW will have a linebacker return kicks in Muhammad and a linebacker kicking the ball off in junior Oliver Schober.

“I’m glad we’ve got a guy that can kick (the ball) in the end zone, and it doesn’t matter that he plays linebacker and looks like Vin Diesel.”

Schober also is listed as the backup behind junior Brian Hendricks at middle linebacker, and Christensen said Schober will play in the opener.

As far as the possiblity of getting Hendricks and Schober on the field at the same time, Christensen said: “I don’t know. We’ll have to see.” Christensen later said it’s a possibility both will play at the same time.

–Secondary coach Alex Grinch said the first cornerback to come off the bench in passing situations will be true freshman Marqueston Huff. Huff also is listed as the backup behind junior Tashaun Gipson.

–The Cowboys played 12 true freshmen and started eight last year. According to the two-deep heading into this game the only freshman starter is Mertens, but he is a redshirt freshman and was in the program last season.

–As far as the No. 2s go on offense and defense, 15 of the 22 have never played in a game at UW, including all five offensive linemen. Three are true freshmen: Huff, Strong and right tackle Justin DiRe.

–Christensen said he doesn’t plan to rotate guys in and out along the offensive line right now.

“I like our second guys, but our first five are definitely our first five at this point and time,” he said.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on UW’s first depth chart and other news and notes.

And a reminder that I will have a live chat at 3 p.m. Friday to discuss the Cowboys’ opener and anything else UW or sports related. A link will be posted later this week. And I will live blog Saturday’s season-opener beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday’s stories

Air Force has some nice things planned for its Sept. 11 home game with Brigham Young, and is BYU staying in the Mountain West?

http://www.gazette.com/sports/force-103602-air-game.html

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/cougars/50167857-88/byu-mwc-football-state.html.csp

http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/08/26/2422741/tcu-aiming-to-dominate-again-ending.html

http://www.lvrj.com/sports/clayton–clausen-still-doing-battle-101544943.html

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/aug/25/sdsu-offense-wont-get-too-flamboyant/

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700060250/Utah-Utes-football-notebook-Kamaron-Yancy-with-late-start-tops-Utes-old-guy-list.html