These Cowboys are much better than those that wilted in the heat of The Swamp back in 1990. Coach Urban Meyer and his staff are well-schooled on Coach Joe Glenn's Wyoming attack. Meyer and Utah defeated the Cowboys, 45-28, last year in Laramie.
The Utes took control of the game early, forcing three Wyoming turnovers in the first four possessions. Utah scored on their first five possessions and went into the half leading 31-7.
Meyer couldn't have been pleased with his team in the second half. The Utes gave up three touchdowns, two of them on drives of 64 and 74 yards respectively. Meanwhile, the Cowboys made some defensive adjustments and held the Utah offense to 14 second half points. Both of those touchdowns were in the third quarter. Glenn's charges don't quit. The Florida coaches have relayed that message to the team.
Wyoming has a few very talented players. Everyone has heard of wide receiver Jevon Bouknight. But, cornerback Derrick Martin, Buck end Aaron Robbins, defensive end John Flora, free safety John Wendling, punter Adam Brooks, and place kicker Deric Yaussi all have earned their stripes while helping lead Wyoming in a season that included a bowl win over UCLA.
Just for kicks: When Waylon (Jennings) and Willie (Nelson) recorded their country outlaw smash "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys" in 1978, the Gators were just a few months away from yet another exciting transition. The Charley Pell Era was about to begin. Steve Spurrier was in his only year as a Florida assistant coach. Urban Meyer was a budding 14-year old three-sport star (freshman) at St. John's in Ashtabula, Ohio.
Wyoming offensive line vs Florida defensive front
The Cowboys return four starters along their offensive line. Alan Erving (left guard), Jason Karcher (right guard), Chase Johnson (left tackle), and Hunter Richards (right tackle) started every game last year for the Cowboys.
Karcher started every game in 2003 as well, ten at right tackle and two at right guard. Johnson is a two-year starter at left offensive tackle. Erving started at right tackle for two years at Chaffey Community College before transferring to Wyoming. Center Drew Severn has not started for the Cowboys since the 2003 season. He started five games in 2002 and nine in 2003 at right guard. Last year he worked as Wyoming's backup center. He also wrestled for the Cowboys.
Injuries: Hunter Richards injured his groin in an August 24th scrimmage. If he is unable to go, senior Brandon Avery (6-4 296) would probably get the call. Center Drew Severn sprained his ankle in last week's scrimmage, but will go against the Gators.
Center #75 Drew Severn 6-3 301 Sr. 3L Glendale, Az
Guards #78 Alan Erving 6-4 295 Jr. 1L LeVerne, Ca #69 Jason Karcher 6-3 304 Jr. 2L Tempe, Az
Tackles #73 Chase Johnson 6-8 325 Jr. 2L Loveland, Co #67 Hunter Richards 6-7 287 Jr. 1L Larkspur, Co
By the way: Just over a year ago, Wyoming center Drew Severn saved the life of a two-year old boy who was about to drown. Severn accompanied his mother, a preschool teacher and her class to a water park in Arizona. Upon their arrival, he noticed a few small boys standing by a pond looking into the water. Severn noticed a boy splashing around about to go under, so he jumped in and saved the boy.
Five of the eight who figure in the rotation on the defensive line are juniors. One (Jeremy Mincey) is a senior. Five of those players (Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas, Joe Cohen, Steven Harris, and Mincey) average 20 games played in their Florida careers.
To this point, they have not played to their potential, and I think they'd be the first to admit it. They are mature enough to know what to expect in the Saturday battle and will need to hustle on every snap to stay in the rotation. Two other things should benefit this unit is the aggressive play of Florida's linebackers and Urban Meyer's doctrine of competition. There is a winner and a loser every play. Losers can count on finding time on the sidelines.
Linebacker Earl Everett told me that he and Brandon Siler have taken the freshmen linebackers under their wings and at times taken them to watch film together. The reserves usually play a huge role and the Gators will need Jon Demps and Darryl Gresham Jr. to CLEP this course.
Everybody would benefit with a healthy Todd McCullough in the lineup. One of the key reserves is journeyman Brian Crum, who has played on both sides of the ball. The Gators are counting on Crum to help solidify the second unit and stay on track when spelling one of the starters.
Tackles #44 Marcus Thomas 6-3 285 Jr. 2L Jacksonville #93 Steven Harris 6-4 281 Jr. 2L Miami
Ends #95 Ray McDonald 6-3 285 Jr. 2L Belle Glade #57 Jeremy Mincey 6-4 265 Sr. 1L Statesboro
Linebackers #40 Brandon Siler 6-2 239 So. 1L Orlando #30 Earl Everett 6-2 231 Jr. 2L Webster #47 Todd McCullough 6-5 233 Sr. 3L Jacksonville
ANALYSIS: This is a good test for a Florida defensive front that has tremendous potentia, but has not lived up to the billing. The Florida defensive line will have five players in the rotation (RayMac, Thomas, Harris, Cohen, and Mincey) who have averaged 20 games played in their Florida careers. That's good experience. Now, they'll need to produce.
Three factors lead me to believe they will: Maturity, Meyer's Doctrine of Competition, and the Florida scheme. Meyer demands competitiveness. There is a winner and a loser in everything they do so these guys understand that if they want to stay in the rotation they better win. Taking a play or two off is not allowed..
Co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison and Charlie Strong will have the linebackers doing more than they have ever had to do before. They'll be all over the place, and it will be up to the Wyoming offense to find them. Last year, the Cowboys struggled early to do so against Utah, committing three turnovers in the first half. Aggressive play by the linebackers, who will jump in and out of gaps and move around trying to confuse the reads of quarterback Corey Bramlett and blocking assignments of the O-Line will often help the D-Line. The noise of the Florida crowd should also help tremendously.
Wyoming will have the advantage of seeing Meyer's defensive schemes before. The return of four Cowboys starters will also help their cause. This is a good offensive line. I don't believe that Florida's speed will cause these guys to crack. The humidity and crowd noise give Florida the edge here.
SLIGHT Edge: FLORIDA
Wyoming Skills Positions vs Florida secondary
The Cowboys will be without their top two running backs, Ivan Harrison (knee and shoulder) and Joe Harris (knee) due to injuries. Redshirt freshman Wynel Seldon will get the start. Seldon saw extensive action in spring practice as Harrison and Harris were out. Coaches were hopeful to get both back in time for the start of the season. That has not happened.
Wide receiver Jevon Bouknight owns the longest (consecutive) receiving streak (36 games) in the nation. He could line up for any team in the country. Bouknight is a weapon receiving, blocking, running, and throwing the ball on occasion. He tossed a 69-yard touchdown pass on a reverse against Ole Miss last season.
Last season, fellow wide receiver Tyler Holden caught 27 passes for 339 yards and one touchdown. He was the Cowboys third leading receiver.
Bramlett is a very good quarterback. He led the Cowboys to a 7-5 record in 2004. However, the senior does have a nasty habit for throwing picks. He threw nine of his thirteen interceptions on the road.
Injuries: In addition to running backs Ivan Harrison and Joe Harris, senior wide receiver Josh Barge is also out for this one. A starter throughout last season, Barge is rehabbing an ankle injury. He was the Cowboys fourth leading receiver in '04 with 23 receptions for 310 yards.
Quarterback #17 Corey Bramlett 6-4 219 Sr. 3L Wheatland, Co
Running back #18 Wynel Seldon 6-0 204 RFr. Sq San Diego, Ca
Wide receiver #9 Jevon Bouknight 6-1 191 Sr. 3L Denver, Co #86 Jason Wallace 6-2 187 Sr. 1L Overland Park #5 Tyler Holden 6-0 175 Jr. 1L Littleton, Co
Vernell Brown has had an absolutely tremendous August. He has been lights out in coverage with the exception of covering Chad Jackson and oftentimes Andre Caldwell. Playing opposite Brown is the dependable Dee Webb, who has gotten the attention of the entire conference.
Backing up those two are Juco transfer Reggie Nelson and true freshman Avery Atkins. Nelson has battled a staph infection in his ankle which caused him to miss several practice sessions. Atkins has been every bit as good as promised. Atkins earned All-America honors last year at Mainland High School. It didn't take him long at all to catch the eyes of the coaches in practice. Depth is much better at corner than it was last season.
The Gators have also improved their stock at safety. Jarvis Herring, Kyle Jackson, Tony Joiner, and Nick Brooks are a year older and appear to be improved in their ability to cover.
Cornerbacks #15 Dee Webb 5-11 190 Jr. 3L Jacksonville #16 Vernell Brown 5-8 165 Sr. 2L Gainesville
Safeties #46 Jarvis Herring 5-11 205 Sr. 3L Live Oak #3 Kyle Jackson 6-1 200 So. 1L Jacksonville
ANALYSIS: Expect the Cowboys to utilize the short passing game mixed with the run and an occasional deep pass to Bouknight early. The Cowboys have a quality group of veteran receivers paired with a veteran quarterback in a hostile, loud environment with which to contend. Furthermore, they'll want to keep the Florida offense on the sidelines.
Bouknight hauled in six passes for 142 yards against Utah last season. The greatest success the Cowboys had running the ball was when Bramlett called his own number.
Losing Harrison and Harris hurts the Cowboys tremendously. The pair accounted for 996 of Wyoming's 1,552 yards rushing. The Swamp is not the best environment to replace 64 percent of your running game. Perhaps even more dangerous is having a redshirt freshman in his first Division I action trying to pick up the blocks on Florida's blitzing linebackers and defensive backs.
The Cowboys should be able to complete passes, especially to Bouknight, which is enough of an edge in this match-up. Florida's defensive backs have been outstanding…in practice. I'm having a difficult time giving the edge to Wyoming knowing that Bramlett threw 70 percent of his interceptions on the road in 2004. Besides, everybody knows how annoyingly loud you people are when you fill up The Swamp. So, let's just call it …
Florida offensive line vs Wyoming defensive front
Mike Degory, Randy Hand, and Lance Butler lead a proven pass blocking unit that developed into a solid run blocking group a year ago. The line play was rather porous against Miami in the Peach Bowl but considering the coaching shakeup, that is at least somewhat expected. All three of these guys should merit All-SEC consideration. Degory and Hand have gotten their share of national attention.
Redshirt freshman Jim Tartt's true test from shoulder surgery will be a few rounds against Wyoming's fire plug of a noseguard, Dusty Hoffschneider (5-8, 257). Washington saw significant action at Mississippi Delta Junior College three years ago but he has yet to prove himself at this level in live action where he has only played 65 snaps.
The Riverview boys, Drew Miller and Steve Rissler are jockeying for playing time. Miller, a true sophomore, has 28 plays in four games. Rissler has seen action in 16 games (three starts) for a total of 541 plays.
Center #68 Mike Degory 6-6 304 Sr. 3L Melbourne
Guards #63 Jim Tartt 6-3 315 Fr. Sq Sopchoppy #76 Tavares 6-4 320 Sr. Sq Greenville, MS Washington
Tackles #72 Lance Butler 6-7 315 Sr. 2L Lexington, NC #74 Randy Hand 6-6 310 Sr. 3L Ft. Myers
By the way: Offensive guard Jim Tartt has a sweet Orange Chevy pick-up sitting in the family garage. The truck is lowered and hosts a 350 four bolt with a four barrel carb and a set of headers that reverberate in your ears long after you depart the passenger side door.
Dusty Hoffschneider brings an impressive 2004 resume to The Swamp. The senior nose guard recorded 59 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and three recovered fumbles.
Defensive end John Flora is the Cowboys leading returning tackler. He recorded 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in '04. Flora is a three year starter and led the team defensively versus Utah. Buck end Aaron Robbins was right behind him with 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Robbins has very good athleticism and speed. He was the Cowboys tight end/H back in 2003.
The Cowboys will be light in the middle. Linebackers Luke and Matt Chase will man the Mike due to an injury to starter John Prader. The Chase brothers weight in at 220. Tatnall will be making his first start for the Cowboys since 2003. He played last season, but as a reserve.
Injuries: Junior middle linebacker John Prader is out of the game with a back injury. He had surgery in his native Texas on Tuesday.
Tackles #58 Dusty 5-8 258 Sr. 1L Littleton, Co Hoffschneider #97 Jake Mayes 6-3 285 Jr. 2L Aurora, Co
Ends #43 John Flora 6-4 267 Sr. 3L Arvada, Co #42 Aaron Robbins 6-4 253 Sr. 3L Aurora, Co
Linebackers #45 Austin Hall 6-2 229 Jr. 2L Sheridan, Wyo #53 Luke Chase 6-1 222 So. 1L Windsor, Co. or #50 Matt Chase 6-1 222 Sr. 3L Windsor, Co. #31 Jeff Tatnall 5-11 230 Sr. 3L Newark, Del
ANALYSIS: The Gators should be able to pound the ball up the gut with Hoffschneider (257) and Chase (222) considerably undersized against the likes of Degory (304), the roadgrader Tartt (315), and Washington (320). There are some pretty good battles here though. Despite the weight disparity, watching Hoffschneider will be exciting, as will watching a pair of good defensive ends (Flora and Robbins) matched up against Hand and Butler.
Florida Skills Positions vs Wyoming secondary
Florida has tremendous talent at wide receiver. That much is known. This first game will be an exercise watching Leak run this offense live, finding a back who wants the ball, and seeing just how Gavin Dickey fits the bill for Urban Meyer.
Quarterback #12 Chris Leak 6-0 210 Jr. 2L Charlotte, NC
Running back #25 Skyler Thornton 5-11 209 Jr. 2L LaGrange, Ga or #2 Markus Manson 6-0 210 Fr. Sq Tuscaloosa, AL
Wide receiver #8 Chad Jackson 6-1 205 Sr. 2L Hoover, AL #5 Andre Caldwell 6-1 200 Jr. 2L Tampa #81 Dallas Baker 6-3 204 Jr. 2L New Smyrna Bch
The Cowboys have plenty of help in the secondary, and they'll need it to corral a talented and experienced group of Florida wide receivers. Derrick Martin is an All-American candidate who broke up seven passes against Ole Miss last year, earning him National Defensive Player of the Week honors. Butler is solid corner with good speed, but he doesn't have the skills of Martin.
Ronnie Rockett took over at strong safety in the fifth game last season, when starter Marcial Rosales was injured. Good safety with a great name. Free safety John Wendling led the 'Boys in tackles (89) in '04.
Cornerbacks #3 Terrance Butler 6-1 179 Sr. 2L Ft. Lauderdale #1 Derrick Martin 5-11 189 Jr. 2L Westminster, Co
Safeties #12 Ron Rockett 6-1 185 Sr. 1L Escondido, Ca. #23 John Wendling 6-1 209 Jr. 2L Rock Springs
ANALYSIS: If Leak and company have the timing down, this should be fun. Will Jackson and Caldwell have the same measure of success against Martin and Butler?
#39 Adam Brooks (P) 5-11 190 Sr. 1L Vermillion #40 Deric Yaussi(PK) 5-11 199 Sr. 3L Ft. Collins
#10 Eric Wilbur (P) 6-1 195 Jr. 2L Winter Park #12 Eric Nappy (PK) 5-10 180 Jr. Sq Gainesville or #39 Chris Hetland (PK) 6-0 185 Jr. Sq Leesburg
ANALYSIS: Wyoming has two outstanding kickers. Florida has a Wilbur and an unproven kicker. Next week we'll feature the special teams overall.
MEET THE WYOMING COACH: Joe Glenn is an outstanding coach who has won three national championships at the Division I-AA and Division II level. He is a proven winner and there is no question that he has the Cowboys headed down the right path. Glenn is in just his third year at Wyoming and at 56 will probably be on many teams short list after the season.
Pick: As I stated earlier, the Cowboys lost four of their five road games in 2004. That doesn't bode well when you are scheduled to play game one in the loudest stadium in the country. The Gators go to 1-0.