Few people have insight into a program like those who cover it on a daily basis. And Casper Star-Tribune Wyoming beat writer Ben Frederickson is uniquely qualified to talk about the Cowboys. Prior to his job at the Star-Tribune, Frederickson had an up-close view of Dave Christensen's previous product at the University of Missouri. He took the time to answer five LonghornDigest.com questions ahead of Wyoming's visit to Austin to take on the No. 15 Texas Longhorns.
1) You've come to Wyoming from Missouri, following the same arc — though within a different time range — as Wyoming head coach and offensive guru Dave Christensen. How much will Wyoming's offensive system remind Texas fans of the one employed by Gary Pinkel the last few years, even after Christensen left?
Frederickson: Funny you should mention that. I'm pretty sure I was freshman at Mizzou the year Christensen took the job in Laramie. And now here I am covering him my first job out of school. From what I've seen of Wyoming's offense, and it hasn't been a ton since I just started the job a few weeks ago, it is similar to the spread Christensen ran at Missouri. Running the ball is necessary at times, but it's definitely not the priority. And that's good for Wyoming since it's a little thin at he position this year. Last year's leading rusher, Alvester Alexander left early for the draft. The wild card is Brett Smith's ability to get out and run. Chase Daniel could do that at Mizzou, too. But not as well.
2) Brett Smith emerged as one of the best freshman quarterbacks in the country a year ago. What kind of player is he, and what leaps forward can he take as a sophomore?
Frederickson: Brett has said the past few weeks that he feels more comfortable in the offense heading into this year. He's got more freedom to go through progressions and it seems like he has proven his ability to run. Look for that a lot. If the pass he wants isn't there, he's taking off. Coaches would probably like to see him be a bit more comfortable in the pocket. But the most important thing is that he doesn't take the big hits he exposed himself to last year. He is going to run, but he needs to run smarter.
3) The Texas staff has described new Wyoming defensive coordinator Chris Tormey's system as "multiple." What have you noticed about this unit this fall?
Frederickson: Welcome to this year's big secret. It's been pretty hush-hush on the defense. I've seen different looks at scrimmages. From talking with coaches and players, the emphasis is on disguising and surprising offenses. I'd expect more blitzes and stunts. The top priority though is stopping the run. The Cowboys were one of the worst teams around in amount of rushing yards given up per game last year.
4) Name a breakout player on each side of the ball for the Cowboys this fall. Why those guys?
Frederickson: Freshman running back Shaun Wick. He's gonna play Saturday and locked down the No. 2 spot behind junior running back Brandon Miller. Imagine having your first game as a true freshman come on the road at UT.
Redshirt freshman Zack Berg. Brett Smith says he is the best coverage linebacker on the team. He picked off two passes and passes and returned one for a TD during this season's scrimmages. Kid has a motor.
5) What are the expectations surrounding this Wyoming team this season. What's your prediction for the game on Saturday?
Frederickson: I think Wyoming will play tougher than people expect. Christensen has instilled a confidence in this team. I think the Cowboys could be a top contender for the Mountain West conference title. But I don't think they'll pull off the upset in Texas.