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.”

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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.

Carta-Samuels won’t return to UW

Wyoming junior-to-be quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels won’t return to the Cowboys, and has enrolled at a junior college.

Carta-Samuels, a two-year starter, was the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year in 2009 as he led UW to a 7-6 record and New Mexico Bowl victory.

The story broke on this this afternoon, and here is an e-mail Carta-Samuels sent me and Casper Star-Tribune writer Eric Schmoldt a few minutes ago:

Hello Mr. Gagliardi and Mr. Schmoldt,

I have arrived at a very difficult decision, one that effects my status as a Cowboy and as a student at the University of Wyoming. With a great deal of humility and a heavy heart, I will be leaving the University of Wyoming and the Cowboy Football Team effective immediately. I have enrolled as a full time student in a Junior College. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to compete as a Cowboy, the support from the Laramie community, and the camaraderie with my teammates. To the Wyoming fans, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and acceptance of me. I will genuinely miss the Laramie Community, the pride, and tradition!

Finally, please know that I have made this decision for personal reasons and that I have no regrets. This is the best decision for my growth and success going forward. There may well be speculation as to why I am leaving, I would simply state, with conviction, that I have given my heart and soul to the program and will always wish the very best for Poke Nation and the Wyoming Cowboys.

Sincerely,

Austyn Carta-Samuels

UW just sent its official release out on the matter, and here are quotes from coach Dave Christensen:

“I had met with Austyn (Carta-Samuels) at the end of the season,” said Christensen.  “After our meeting, he had indicated he was excited to be a Cowboy, and had already signed up for his spring lifting schedule. 

      “While it is disappointing to our team and Wyoming fans that Austyn has made this decision, if you are in this business long enough as a coach you face situations where young men choose to transfer.  We wish Austyn the best in his future.

      “As coaches, it is important for us to focus on the young men who are here in our program working hard to build for a successful season in 2011.  We have a number of very good leaders returning for next year, and as I’ve said before, I am extremely excited about the recruiting class that we are putting together this year.”

Christensen told me the same thing about Carta-Samuels in early December when I sat down with him for an interview for a season-ending analysis piece.

More QBs to visit UW this weekend

Wyoming received a verbal commitment from Illinois high school quarterback Adam Pittser Thursday night, and it is scheduled to have two other quarterback recruits visit campus this weekend.

Brett Smith is a 6-1, 185-pound senior at West Salem High in Salem, Ore. He finished his career with school records in passing yards (5,064), touchdown passes (52), rushing yards (2,326), rushing touchdowns (43) and points scored (260). He retracted his initial verbal commitment to San Jose State, but still has a scholarship offer from the school. UW, New Mexico State, Eastern Washington and Portland State also have offered Smith a scholarship, and Nevada and Wake Forest have shown interest.

Smith received a two-star rating out of five from Rivals.com.

Clayton Moore is a 6-2, 220-pound freshman quarterback at Mississippi Gulf Coast College that led his team to a 10-2 record and 62-53 victory over Grand Rapids in the Mississippi Bowl last season. Moore was 155 of 257 for 2,395 yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and ran for 309 yards.

One of Moore’s offensive linemen, Zach Rushing (6-4, 290) also is scheduled to visit UW.

It appears UW wants to sign more than one quarterback in its 2011 class. Aside from two-year starter and junior-to-be Austyn Carta-Samuels, there is no one in the program with any experience. True freshmen Emory Miller Jr., Sam Stratton, and Austin Woodward (a walk-on from Sheridan) were redshirted this past season and Miller was listed as the third-string quarterback. Based on how UW used Stratton in late-season scrimmages with other young players, he could be moved to another position.

Carta-Samuels still a Cowboy

Just got done talking to Wyoming football coach Dave Christensen for a season-ending analysis/look-ahead piece to run on Sunday.

The first question I asked was about sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and if he is coming back next season. Rumors and speculation have swirled the last month or so that Carta-Samuels will transfer.

“He’s on the football team and 100 percent committed,” Christensen said. “He’s signed up for his lifting next semester. He’s been positive with me. He’s here. There’s no reason to believe that he’s leaving.”

Carta-Samuels wasn’t available for an interview for my Sunday story, and he won’t do any interviews for a while per Christensen’s request so he can concentrate on school and football.

Christensen said the same thing about sophomore safety Shamiel Gary, who missed the last two games of the season. Gary had a death in the family and didn’t travel to UW’s second-to-last game at UNLV. He returned to school and practice the following week for the Colorado State game. But even though he was in uniform for the game, he didn’t play.

“I didn’t feel like was mentally in tune to be able to go back into play,” he said. “He was at our team meeting (Wednesday), along with Austyn.”

Christensen has been meeting with players this week, and said the only one that won’t be back as of now is sophomore walk-on defensive tackle Eric Brooks. However, Christensen expects Brooks to be back for fall camp in August.

The only player that will miss spring drills due to injury is redshirt freshman defensive lineman Mark Willis, who is still recovering from knee surgery. Willis is expected to be ready for fall camp.

Junior linebacker Oliver Schober had some minor shoulder surgery and will be limited in contact during the spring.

Christensen anticipates some players switching positions heading into 2011. He and his staff will discuss that more later this month. The most notable one as of now is sophomore Ghaali Muhammad moving from linebacker to running back. Muhammad was a running back in high school, and returned kickoffs this past season.

For more, see my story in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com

UW-CSU postgame thoughts

History was made in the 102nd Border War football game between Wyoming and Colorado State.

And fortunately for UW it was all good.

The Cowboys won 44-0 for their most lopsided win in the series. It was its first shutout since their 24-0 Border War win in 2006. It was the most points scored in coach Dave Christensen’s two seasons, and most points in a regulation game since Sept. 4, 2004.

And, it was UW’s first back-to-back wins in the Border War since 1991-92.

Those things help erase some of the bad memories of what was a 3-9 season.

Other than a missed extra point and a couple of early drives on offense, UW was flawless. It threw for 267 yards, ran for 212 and held CSU to 162 yards.

Sophomore running back Alvester Alexander ran for 147 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. It was the hardest he ran all season. CSU did a horrible job of tackling Alexander, and many other players the entire game.

Alexander also broke the school record for touchdowns in a season with 14. The guy really ran well near the end of the season.

The defense recorded six sacks. It had 14 in its first 11 games.

That may be the most shocking statistic of them all. But it wasn’t like true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas was under constant pressure. At times he was, but UW’s linebackers and defensive backs didn’t allow many open receivers for Thomas.

I liked what junior receiver Mazi Ogbonna did in the game. He has five catches for 65 yards. He did a lot of damage on short passes and running after the catch. Ogbonna was expected to give UW speed and a deep threat when he came in from junior college this season. There weren’t any deep passes, but he did show me some speed and skill.

Where was that all season?

See my column in Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on that.

Junior defensive back Tashaun Gipson recorded his team-best third interception. He was playing cornerback at the time, but also played some at safety for sophomore Shamiel Gary, who was in uniform but didn’t play. Gary returned to Laramie Monday after a death in his family and practiced. Coach Dave Christensen said he wasn’t mentally ready to play, but expects Gary to be fine and back next season.

Didn’t get to talk to sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. There was a delay doing player interviews as a fire alarm went off in the weight room of the Rochelle Athletics Center. He was gone by the time we got to getting players out for interviews. Nice to see him play well. He was 23 of 32 for 267 yards, and ran for 46 yards and a touchdown.

It was his best game since he threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opener against Southern Utah, and the most passing yards since that game. Carta-Samuels needed a game like this.

Good way for UW to end the season. Coaches will hit the road Sunday to recruit. Winter conditioning starts in January and spring ball in March.

UW-CSU five things to watch

1. Lead by example: It’s been a frustrating season for every UW player, coach and fan. Sophomore quarterback Ausytn Carta-Samuels may be the most frustrated, and he let it be known after last week’s 42-16 loss at UNLV.

“A lot of miscommunication and we weren’t prepared. We didn’t do a good enough job as a team — players, coaches and everybody. We didn’t do a good enough job to prepare are be ready to win a football game. That’s why we lost. It was evident when we got out on the field. We got our (butts) kicked in all phases of the game. It’s frustrating. It’s very frustrating. … It’s not fun right now.”

Carta-Samuels was called out on these remarks by MountainWest Sports Network college football analyst Kelly Stouffer this week, and Carta-Samuels issued an apology to the network.

Frustration is one thing, but letting them show in public is another. Not only does Carta-Samuels need to play better — along with all of his teammates –but he needs to lead better.

2. Stop the run: Simple concept but probably the most important thing the Cowboys need to do on the field. Colorado State is a pro-style offense that needs its run game to set up its play-action passing attack. We all know UW’s struggles here (go back to the San Diego State game). If UW can slow down the run enough it should neutralize the play-action pass.

3. Pressuring Pete: True freshman quarterback Pete Thomas and started in every game for CSU. He’s thrown for the second-most yards in the MWC, and leads in completions and attempts. He also leads in interceptions. Thomas has improved significantly as the season has progressed. The worst thing UW could do is let Thomas be comfortable in the pocket. The Cowboys must pressure Thomas and not let him get into a rhythm.

4. Better special teams: This area has struggled in recent weeks, especially the kickoff return coverage. But there’s more: ophomore kicker Ian Watts missed an extra point and field goal last week, a UNLV punt hit off a UW player that resulted in a turnover and an onside-kick attempt failed after UW’s first touchdown of the game. The Cowboys need to make more plays on special teams, not give them away.

5. Last chance: We’ve heard all week that the Border War should be enough for players to get up for this game, despite the fact both teams have combined for just five wins. The team that comes out with them most energy and focus likely will win. Does UW have anything left in the tank after losing six straight games? We shall see.

But based on those last six games, it’s hard for me to think the Cowboys will win. Are they capable of winning? Absolutely. But such was the case at New Mexico and UNLV and it didn’t happen. I would like to see UW end on a winning note, but I don’t see it based on the past six weeks, and in particular, the last two weeks.

Final score: CSU 31, UW 17

Hope you will join me for the final live game blog of the season starting at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Here is the link http://wyomingcowboysblog.com/2010/11/18/wyoming-vs-csu-live-game-1120-1130/

UW-UNLV postgame thoughts

From bad to worse for Wyoming.

The Cowboys lost at UNLV 42-16 to clinch last place in the Mountain West Conference for the first time since 2003.

This game was full of mistakes, especially on special teams.

I thought the onside kick after UW took a 7-0 lead on the game’s first play was a gutsy call. But it didn’t work and UNLV tied the game off the good field position.

The kickoff return coverage was bad, sophomore kicker Ian Watts missed an extra point and a punt bounded off the back of sophomore Luke Ruff.

But as coach Dave Christensen said, this game was lost because UW wasn’t consistent enough on offense and defense, which has been the case all season.

Carta-Samuels had some harsh words after the game, and looked like he was crying as he came off the field into the locker room.

“A lot of miscommunication and we weren’t prepared,” he said. “We didn’t do a good enough job as a team — players, coaches and everybody. We did not do a good enough job to prepare and to be ready to win a football game. That’s why we lost.

“It was evident when we got out on the field. We got our (butts) kicked in all phases of the game. It’s frustrating. It’s very frustrating. … It’s not fun right now.”

This team is searching for answers for a lot of things right now, and it can’t seem to find the answers.

Looks like freshman running back Robert Herron will be OK. He took a hard hit on a carry near the end of the game. He was taken off on a stretcher and taken via ambulance to a local hospital where he will spend the night for tests and observations. Christensen said Herron had movement in all his extremities, but likely has a concussion.

A long season will come to an end this coming Saturday with the Border War game with Colorado State in Laramie. Seems like this season can’t end soon enough for the Cowboys.

UW looks to build up Herron

The good was a career-high 122 yards.

The bad, and it was real bad, was two fumbles deep inside New Mexico territory for Wyoming true freshman running back Robert Herron in the Cowboys’ 34-31 loss Saturday night.

Herron lost his first fumble in the end zone, and the other at the New Mexico 9-yard line on consecutive drives in the third quarter.

“He hasn’t got a lot of carries yet and doesn’t leverage the ball properly and lets the thing fly around,” UW coach Dave Christensen said. “That’s a poor job on my part of coaching. Obviously I haven’t taught him what h’;s supposed to do with the football.”

Sounds like UW will work on that in the final two games because Herron has shown he’s capable of making big plays with his speed. His 122 yards against New Mexico came on nine carries — an average of 13.6 yards per carry.

“He was put in same position as I was last year,” said sophomore running back Alvester Alexander, who was one of three Cowboys with 100 yard rushing against New Mexico with a career-high 151.

“I had some fumbles as a true frehsman myself. You’ve got to flush them. You’ve got to let it motivate you or you’re going to let it break you down. I told him he’s got too much talent to let it break him down so he has to come back hungry.”

Herron got a similar talk from sophomore quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, who also ran for 119 yards but also lost a fumble that led to a New Mexico touchdown and threw an interception at the Lobos’ 2-yard line with 12 seconds left in the first half.

“I told him not let it effect him,” he said. “He’s a great kid. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he cares so much about the team. If he lets him effect him it will effect his play next week, and he won’t.”

By the way, Carta-Samuels said it was a miscommunication between him and sophomore receiver Chris McNeill on the interception.

“It’s a big-time anticipation play,” he said. “(McNeill) was going to wrap the (middle) linebacker, and I threw it based on how he was going to wrap. He wrapped vertically and and I threw a skinny.”

See Monday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.comfor why Carta-Samuels seemed happy after UW’s loss.

UW-New Mexico postgame thoughts

Just when you thought Wyoming couldn’t sink any lower. … it loses 34-31 at New Mexico.

Folks, New Mexico is bad and I guess for now, UW is worse.

Four turnovers, three inside the New Mexico 10-yard line. You can’t win games against anyone like that.

Coach Dave Christensen put the loss on him. Said the fumbles by Robert Herron were on him because he needs to be better taught to secure the ball. Missed assignments and lack of execution on defense also on him.

“If the kids can’t execute, that’s on us as coaches,” he said.

UW had three 100-yard rushers in Alvester Alexander (151), Herron (122) and Austyn Carta-Samuels (119). First time since 1995 that happened.

Five quarterback sacks for UW in the first half, including three by Gabe Knapton. None in the second half.

True freshman quarterback Stump Godfrey looked good, 16 of 20 for 211 yards and two touchdowns and 69 yards rushing and a TD. UW said Godfrey didn’t do anything they didn’t expect, but that he executed and UW didn’t.

Where have we heard that this season?

Not sure where this team goes from here. Carta-Samuels almost seemed happy after the game that UW was productive offensively with 536 yards. That was weird.

It was a pretty dejected looking locker room afterwards as coaches and players got on the bus t get out of here.

Can UW win another game from here on out?

I really don’t know.

See Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more coverage.