Christensen concerned, confident in QB

Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen is concerned.

He’s concerned that his quarterback — sophomore Brett Smith — has a lot of expectations on him coming off a true freshman season where he was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year as he guided the Cowboys to an 8-5 record, a third-place finish in the conference and their second bowl game in three years. On top of that, Smith was voted by the coaches as one of four team captains.

Continue reading

Border War Q&A

Kelly Lyell has covered Colorado State athletics for the Fort Collins Coloradoan for a long time, and here are the answers to the five questions I had for him leading up to Saturday’s Border War with Wyoming.

Let me know what you think, and we can discus this and many other things in more detail during today’s live chat at 3 p.m. Here is the link to the chat:http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2011/11/29/live-chat-thursday-december-1st-at-3pm/

Continue reading

UW-Weber postgame thoughts

How about that for a first impression for true freshman QB Brett Smith?

He leads UW to a come-from-behind win in the final minutes, capped by a 9-yard TD pass to sophomore receiver Robert Herron to give UW a 35-32 victory over FCS foe Weber State.

I’m not going to compare Smith to former QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, who led UW to five come-from-behind victories in 2009. But Smith showed some moxie in this game. He wasn’t perfect. Heck, he threw an interception on his first attempt after the ball slipped out of his hands. But he bounced back and as 27 of 41 for 294 yards with three TDs, one pick and one rushing TD.

I think fans are going to like this guy, and the media got to talk to him after the game for the first time. Coach Dave Christensen didn’t make him available for interviews until after games.  Smith seemed humble and thankful for the win.

I also think fans will get fed up with the defense if it doesn’t improve. It gave up 541 yards and way too many big plays. Weber State ran at will most of the game, and UW had only one sack. However, that sack by senior lineman Gabe Knapton helped force a punt that led to UW’s game-winning offensive drive.

I know most fans are more concerned than happy after this game, but it’s better to be that with a win than a loss. Doesn’t hide the fact there’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s better to work on things after a win than coming off a loss.

Thoughts?

See Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang for more from this game. Hope to post video interviews from the post-game interviews I did sometime on Sunday.

It’s official: Carta-Samuels to Vanderbilt

Some Wyoming fans care, others don’t, but former Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels is enrolled at school at Vanderbilt. He confirmed that on his Twitter account Sunday.

Here is the message Carta-Samuels left me via Facebook Monday morning:

“My favorite reporter in the world hope all is well. I will always remember the fans and my teammates that were so supportive of me while I was there. I will miss you guys but regardless of what anyone has to say I will always consider myself part Wyoming Cowboy and will be a true fan and hope the best for their future. Sincerely ACS.”

Carta-Samuels was the Freshman of the Year in the Mountain West in 2009 and the Outstanding Offensive Player in UW’s 35-28 double-overtime win over Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. He struggled last season as a sophomore, and so did the Cowboys with a 3-9 record. Carta-Samuels left the program for personal reasons after the season, which drew a lot of comments and criticism among UW fans.

Carta-Samuels must sit out this season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Vanderbilt’s probable starting quarterback this season is a senior. It also has junior Jordan Rodgers, the brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Vanderbilt has three true freshmen and a redshirt sophomore listed on its current roster as quarterbacks.

Any thoughts or opinions on this?

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com on a story about one of UW’s true freshmen defensive backs who has made a big move up the depth chart. Here is a link to today’s story on the Cowboys’ young wide receivers http://www.wyomingnews.com/articles/2011/08/22/sports/19sports_08-22-11.txt

Carta-Samuels still undecided on next school

Despite published reports, former Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has not transferred to Vanderbilt.

Not yet, at least.

Though text messages sent Wednesday, Carta-Samuels told me he visited Vanderbilt last weekend, and the Southeastern Conference school is one of his three finalists. He wouldn’t tell me his other two, but hopes to decide in a couple of weeks.

A photo of Carta-Samuels on Facebook from his visit to Vanderbilt surfaced a few days ago. Here is that link: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1981926902164&set=p.1981926902164&type=1&theater

“I simply went on a visit and took a picture there. I have not decided yet that is where my next home will be,” he said.

In today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser, there’s an article about former Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier having interest in transferring to Hawaii. It also says Carta-Samuels showed interest in going there, but that he will play at Vanderbilt. Here’s the link: http://www.staradvertiser.com/sports/sportsnews/20110615_ExMichigan_QB_Forcier_wants_to_be_a_Warrior.html

Vanderbilt recently had a quarterback transfer in sophomore Charlie Goro, who will attend South Dakota and likely play safety. Senior Larry Smith returns and is the likely starter. Redshirt junior Jordan Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and sophomore John Townsley are other quarterbacks on the roster. Rodgers redshirted last year and also had shoulder issues.

If Carta-Samuels transfers to another FBS school, he must sit out a year to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He has yet to use a redshirt year, and has two years of eligibility remaining. If he transferred to a FCS school or lower division, he could play this fall.

Carta-Samuels was the 2009 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year and Outstanding Offensive Player in UW’s 35-28 double-overtime win over Fresno State in the 2009 New Mexico Bowl.

Miller Jr. leaves UW

Just got confirmation from Wyoming a little while ago that redshrit freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr., is leaving the team for personal reasons. From what I can gather, and I have not confirmed it, this has nothing to do with Miller Jr. getting into trouble or anything like that. Sounds like family/personal issues.

That leaves UW with two quarterbacks on scholarship — true freshmen Brett Smith and Adam Pittser. The likelihood of one of these guys being the starter was pretty good prior to Miller Jr., leaving. Now, it appears obvious.

In two scrimmages and the spring game, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Miller completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 277 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions. He also ran for 38 yards, but most of his snaps came against UW’s No. 1 defense.

Against mostly backups, Smith completed 72.6 percent of his passes for 469 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Still, Smith looked like a more complete quarterback to me with more tools and a better skill set. With 15 spring practices under his belt, he’s got to be the early favorite to be the starter.

Pittser was arguably the most highly-touted recruit in UW’s 2011 class. He was the 19th-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com, and the No. 25 quarterback overall by Scout.com.

In about a two-year span, UW has had three quarterbacks leave. Junior-college transfer Robert Benjamin left after the 2009 season after he lost his starting job in the season’s fourth game to then true freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels.

Carta-Samuels, unexpectedly, left after the 2010 season for “personal reasons.”

Now Miller Jr.

What can you read into this? All had different stories and circumstances. I don’t see a pattern here. With Benjamin, you bring in a JC guy to play, and if he doen’t t play you expect them to leave. Benjamin didn’t move on to bigger school for his final year of eligiblity. Carta-Samuels’ departure still raises questions, but in the end the brief, roller-coaster relationship between ACS, his teammates and the coaches ended and probably needed to end. If Miller Jr., has family/personal issues, then those should come before football.

What do you think, and who do you think will be UW’s starting quarterback? Are you concerned about the quarterbacks that have left? Perhaps UW will try and bring in a JC quarterback in fall camp to add depth? Maybe, but it will be hard to find one now.

Spring game notes and quotes

If Wyoming’s spring football game were a real game, fans would have been in for a treat.

The Gold beat the Brown 14-13 as redshirt freshman defensive lineman Riley Lange sacked redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr., on a two-point conversion attempt to seal the victory with 30 seconds to go.

There were good plays by the offense and defense. Not much from the kicking games. No live punt or kickoff coverage, and no field-goal attempts.

I liked how both quarterbacks played. True freshman Brett Smith struggled against the No. 1 defense in last week’s scrimmage, but against a mix and match of starters and backups, he was 16 of 24 for 153 yards and an interception for the Gold. He also ran for 22 yards and a short TD run. I really like how Smith handles himself, and if he gets more comfortable against the No. 1 defense in fall camp I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the starter.

Miller Jr. is just steady, and always seems to play big when it matters most. He led the team on an impressive 13-play, 59-yard touchdown drive late in the game to cut the lead to 14-13. He also threw a TD pass to senior receiver Mazi Ogbonna. However, he threw two interceptions and four total in two scrimmages and the spring game.

Sophomore receiver Robert Herron was outstanding with five catches for 76 yards for the Gold. Drops have been his issue this spring, and even last season. Not today, or in last week’s scrimmage. He looks to be UW’s go-to guy.

Got to love redshirt freshman running back Brandon Miller. He played for both squads due to a lack of depth at running back, and he scored a touchdown for each team — both in the fourth quarter. The former walk-on earned a scholarship in January and he isn’t taking it for granted. I don’t know if he will play that much this season, but you can’t help but want to root for a kid like that.

Coach Dave Christensen said 15 players expected to contribute this season didn’t see action in the spring game due to injury or suspension. But he indicated they should all be ready for fall camp.

UW handed out several most improved awards at halftime of the game. See my story in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and laramieboomerang.com for that list. But when I asked him who in particular had good springs, he said both quarterbacks, true freshman linebacker Mark Nzeocha and junior linebacker Korey Jones, who ironically was suspended for the game for a violation of team rules. However, I don’t expect that was too serious of a violation or Christensen wouldn’t have singled him out. Jones also won UW’s most improved linebacker award for the spring.

Here are some quotes from after the game:

–“From a depth stand point and a speed stand point we’re certainly further than we’ve been since I’ve been here.” — Christensen

–“I think if we put both offenses together we can do some damage this season.” — Herron

–“It shows a lot about Emory that he led the team down the field in the last two minutes and scored.” — Brandon Miller on QB Emory Miller’s final scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

–“I’d give them both an A. They both mange the offense really well and have the things like that you look for in a quarterback.” — senior receiver Mazi Ogbonna on both quarterbacks.

–My confidence is getting up there. There’s a lot I still have to learn and I have to put on more weight.” — Lange, who added he is 250 pounds now and wants to get up to 275 by the start of fall camp.

–“Let’s talk about the team that’s here. I have no comment on that. I have two quarterbacks that have done extremely well and I’m excited about the one coming in. We’ll have a great quarterback when we start in the fall.” — Christensen on the Internet rumors that former QB Austyn Carta-Samuels may return to UW.

A DB take on the QBs

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen doesn’t want redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Miller Jr. and true freshman Brett Smith talking to the media this spring. Those two are battling for the starting job, and will be joined by true freshman Adam Pittser later this summer.

Junior safety Kenny Browder has got a good look at both QBs in practice, and should today in the Cowboys’ first spring scrimmage at 9 a.m. at the indoor practice facilty in Laramie.

Here’s what Browder said about both: “Emory is really shifty. I’ve seen him shake a couple of linemen out there. It kind of makes me mad, but it’s good to see we have some moves back there. Brett is showing some ACS (former quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels) out there. A little show-and-go.”

For more on Browder and sophomore cornerback Marqueston Huff, see my story in Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Here are some other news and notes from this week:

— Christensen’s assessment of his receivers: “(Junior) Chris McNeill has been very consistent. He’s battled some minor injuries that have slowed him down some. (Sophomore) Robert Herron’s done some good things. He’s shown great speed and quickness inside. (Senior) Mazi Ogbonna is making some plays and having a better spring than he did last year. He’s picked up a little bit where he left off last year.”

–I loved this quote from secondary coach Alex Grinch on what he told his players prior to the start of spring drills: “You can have a bad play but you can’t have a bad day.”

–On signing day back in February UW wasn’t sure what to do with true freshman Mark Nzeocha from Germany. At 6-3, 220 he was listed at a safety prior to spring drills, but has been taking snaps at middle linebacker. I’m really curious to see what he does there.

–As stated earlier this week on the blog, Christensen has been pleased, and perhaps a little surprised, with the play of the offensive line so far. The player I am most anxious to see in tooday’s scrimmage and the rest of spring is junior Kyle Magnuson at right tackle. Listed as a left guard prior to spring, the 6-6, 317-pound Magnuson played in only four games last season and started one. He didn’t play as a redshirt freshman in 2009. If Magnuson works out at right tackle, that would be a huge boost for an offensive line that remains a question mark heading into the season. I don’t think many of the coaches thought Magnuson would be a significant contributor this season. He’s getting his chance now.

Arroyo knows young QBs

Now that signing day has come and gone at Wyoming, what’s next?

First, here’s the link to the official UW release on the signees: http://www.wyomingathletics.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/020211aac.html

How about trying to figure out who will start at quarterback. Right now redshirt freshman Emory Miller Jr. and true freshman Brett Smith will get the first look when spring drills begin March 5.

True freshman Adam Pittser, UW’s highest touted recruit, comes in later this summer. In fact, some recruiting services rate Pittser as the highest-rated recruit UW ever signed. He is the fifth-best QB in the nation according to Rivals.com in terms of arm strength, and 19th-best dual threat QB in the nation.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks cocach Marcus Arroyo knows what it’s like to work with young quarterbacks. He helped Austyn Carta-Samuels emerge as the starter in the fourth game in 2009 when Carta-Samuels was a true freshman.

Arroyo himself played as a true freshman when he was at San Jose State.

Arroyo said his ability to know what it’s like to play as a young quarterback and coach them were factors in why coach Dave Christensen hired him three years ago.

“I’ve coached one senior in eight years now,” Arroyo said. “I’ve never had a guy longer than two years. Building a guy and helping mold him into what we need in a quality athlete and a competitor (is what I need to do).”

So what approach will Arroyo take with his three young QBs moving forward? Will it change based on the fact Carta-Samuels left the team for personal reasons after the 2010 season after being a two-year starter?

“The same approach we took last year,” he said. “These guys and are coming in fresh. We know a lot about their character and who they are because we recruited them. We haven’t seen them on the field yet, but we’re excited about that.”

UW is only a month into off-season workouts, and coaches have been busy recruiting up until nonw. They won’t have a lot of contact with their players until spring drills. Still, Arroyo likes what he sees in Miller Jr. and Smith.

“Both are good workers. Both have some skills that we believe fit the system,” Arroyo said. “We’ve seen Brett for four weeks now. He’s been working out and running. He is what we thought it he would be. He’s athletic, a good-looking kid, solid and wants to be great.

“Emery is athletic and does some real good things in the spread system. He’s very comfortable back there in it. We will see what they do in the spring.”

_________________________________________________________________________________

Christensen started off UW’s signing day presentation by giving out some rankings about this year’s class from Rivals.com.

He said the Cowboys had the top linebacker class in the MWC, and that Pittser and LB/DE Eddie Yarbrough from Colorado are two of the highest-rated recruited to ever sign at UW since the inception of Rivals.com.

Christensen said the kicking class was the 10th-best in the nation, and that long snapper Zach Ewen was the only UW signee to ever have played in the Under Armour All-American game.

The linebacking class was 26th nationally and the receiver class was 38th — all according to Rivals.com.

And, the eight three-star recruits signed was the most in school history. UW inked six last year.

But all that matters to Christensen is this: “Is the guy good enough to win and win at a high level, and are they a good fit?”

In his mind, this class is all that.

For more from signing day, see Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune-Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

More on Carta-Samuels leaving

I talked to now former Wyoming quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels Monday night on the phone.

He was in Laramie gathering his things and telling players he won’t return to UW next season.

ACS said he left for personal reasons. Nothing bad, nothing life-threatening, nothing illegal, nothing academically. He also didn’t tell me specifically why, either.

He said it wasn’t because of a conflict with coaches, or because he thinks he’s too good for UW.

We may never know why, although I’m sure speculation will run rampant.

Carta-Samuels was voted as a team-captain prior to his sophomore season and he said he tried to be a good captain. Coach Dave Christensen told me in December that was too much for ACS to handle and he should have done more to help him back then. He also planned on not having ACS do interviews with the media this coming season to take one more thing off his plate of responsibilities.

 Christensen, who is in Dallas for the American Football Coaches Association’s annual convention, said Monday night he doesn’t plan to sign another quarterback in this year’s recruiting class. He likes the guys in the program now, and two newcomers — true freshmen Brett Smith and Adam Pittser.

Smith is on campus and in school. He graduated early from high school. Pittser is verbally committed, but according Scout.com Pittser will visit Colorado this weekend.

From Smith’s Twitter account Monday night he posted this: “I know lots of WYONation may be scratching heads, but things happen for reasons. Nobody will out work us and we WILL battle! Go POKES!”

This is the third starter and fourth player to not return for UW since the fall semester ended. Kicker Ian Watts, safety Shamiel Gary and receiver David Tooley are the others.

Any common ties here?

None that I see right now. Watts left due to academics. Tooley had a knee injury and some off-field issues. Gary and ACS were for personal reasons. All played different positions so no common ties there.

With all the changes spring ball and fall camp should be interesting this year.

See Tuesday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on this story.