Monday, August 18, 2008

Receivers need to step up

Richard Anderson photos
Wyoming junior wide receiver Greg Bolling runs the fly-sweep with quarterback Karsten Sween earlier in practice. At left, senior receiver Chris Johnson runs past Tramaine Brown during a drill.

By Richard Anderson

In some ways, the running duo of Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon can only be as good as the Wyoming Cowboys passing game performs, whether it is from the quarterback or from the wide receivers.

Halfway through last season, opposing defenses began to stack things up in the box and take away the Wyoming running game. With no passing game so to speak, the Cowboy offense struggle.

“We probably have the two best running backs (duo) in the nation. I don’t want to sound boastful about those two, but they are just that good,” Wyoming junior wide receiver Greg Bolling said. “If we can help them in any way by making pass plays so people can respect that and not put eight or nine people in the box, that will help.”

It’s all about making plays, Wyoming senior receiver Kyle Jacobo said.

“When they do pack it in the box, we have to win one-on-one situations and make them scared of playing man-to-man,” Jacobo said. “We have the capability to do that with the speed that we have. That’s when we will come back and run Devin and Wynel right up their butt.”

In Wyoming’s five wins last season, it averaged 219 yards of net rushing per game. In their seven losses, the Cowboys ran for just 90 yards a game. In most cases in the losses, the passing game struggled, even if it put up some higher numbers.

“Last year we had teams eight in a box, nine in a box on us because we couldn’t stretch the field,” Wyoming senior wide receiver Chris Johnson said. “I think we’re different this year. We’re not as veteran as last year with Hoost (Marsh) and Mike (Ford), but we are a lot different; each and every one of us brings something different to the table. We all feel that teams, as far as packing the box on us, that is not possible this year.”

The Wyoming wide receiving corps doesn’t have a lot of experience -- Bolling, Johnson, sophomore David Leonard and Jacobo have the most experience and only Bolling has considerable experience (second on team with 35 receptions).

Because of that, Bolling said it is his duty to come back this year as the position leader.

“Not as much as a vocal leader, but be a leader by going out and showing these young players how to do things on the field,” he said.

Those young guys include redshirt freshman Brandon Stewart, sophomore Travis Burkhalter and redshirt junior Donate Morgan. Stewart and Morgan will play their first games a Cowboy when Wyoming opens the season on Aug. 30 against Ohio. Burkhalter plated six games last season, catching three passes for 12 yards.

“Obviously, I have to show them how it is done in the film room, show them how to study defenses and things like that, but just come out here and play with nothing but heart and do our assignments to the best of our ability,” Bolling said. “We have probably the best wide receiver corps that we have had in a long time, with speed on the outside and speed on the inside as well.”

Possibly the biggest key for the Wyoming passing game is to utilize its speed, something the Cowboys appear to have an abundance of with Bolling, Johnson, Burkhalter, Morgan and Stewart.

“If we want to go ahead and go down the field, I say we can use that speed. Speed will be a big key for us this year, to stretch people vertically,” Bolling said. “Getting open is technique-wise, breaking down routes and reading defenses and getting into certain spots where the quarterback knows we are going to be.”

Johnson likes the all-around versatility of the receiving corps this season.

“We have big guys, we have strong guys, we have physical guys and we have speed guys,” Johnson said. “We have guys who can go up and get the ball, guys who can make people miss. I think we have more talent than we did last year. It is just a matter of going out on the field and getting it done.”

For the Wyoming offense to overcome last season’s problems, it will have to show balance between its running game and its passing game. The Cowboys feel they took a step in the right direction last Friday by naming sophomore Dax Crum as the starting quarterback. Moore and Seldon have had solid fall camps and the Wyoming offensive line has the most experience than it has had in Joe Glenn’s tenure.

It all goes back to the receiving corps.

“We’re coming together as a unit,” Johnson said. “We still have things we have to work on, but I think we’re really going to help the running game this year. We’re going to open the field up for D-Mo and Wynel, so they can do what they do best.”

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