Wyoming coach Dave Christensen and Nebraska coach Bo Pelini both held their first weekly press conferences of the season on Monday, and they were somewhat revealing.
Depth charts were unveiled, jokes were cracked and some questions were carefully sidestepped. Here are my observations from the two press conferences:
Breaking down the depth chart
Wyoming finally released an updated depth chart on Monday, and there were a few mild surprises tossed into the mix. The notable changes were as follows:
- Tyran Finley was listed as a starter at cornerback, after beating out junior DeAndre Jones in fall camp. Jones, in fact, was no longer listed as a cornerback, instead being slotted second at free safety behind Marqueston Huff. Redshirt freshman Cortland Fort moved up to second-team cornerback behind Finley.
- Freshman wide receiver Tanner Gentry was officially named a starter, moving ahead of junior Trey Norman. Gentry will start alongside Robert Herron, Dominic Rufran and Jalen Claiborne at receiver. And despite his inexperience, Wyoming receivers coach Derek Sage expects Gentry to perform like a veteran on Saturday.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough to break this two-deep and be a starter," Sage said. "He’s shown that. So I don’t have any doubt in my mind that he’ll show up on Saturday and have the look that I want him to have.”
- In the special teams races, freshman walk-on Ethan Wood appears ahead of Stuart Williams for the punter job. Jalen Claiborne is also listed ahead of Finley at both the punt and kick returning spots, after Finley dropped at least three punts in Saturday's practice.
- True freshman quarterback Tommy Thornton was named the team's third quarterback, ahead of senior Colby Kirkegaard. Thornton -- a Tempe, Ariz., native -- played with the third team throughout Wyoming's final week of fall camp.
- Tight end J.D. Krill was not listed at all on the depth chart, after injuring his right foot in Saturday's practice. Christensen said Krill should be back to practice on Tuesday. Krill has struggled heavily with drops, though, and there is no guarantee he would have played even if healthy. Spencer Bruce, a Gillette, Wyo., native, is listed as the starter at tight end.
- Brandon Miller, Shaun Wick and Omar Stover were listed first, second and third respectively at the running back position. However, it's likely all three will receive significant reps on Saturday and throughout the season.
Christensen's Nebraska history
Throughout Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen's stint as Missouri's offensive coordinator from 2001-08, his team faced off against Nebraska every season. And while many of those matchups didn't go Christensen's way, his most recent memory of Lincoln is a fond one.
In 2008 -- Christensen's last season at Missouri -- quarterback Chase Daniel thrashed the Huskers' secondary en route to a 52-17 Missouri win.
On Monday, Christensen said that he enjoys playing in Lincoln -- some games more than others.
“It was a lot of fun. It was more fun my last year than my first year there," Christensen said. "It was a great place to go -- great fans.”
Best offense in the Big Ten?
Christensen knows a thing or two about offense. And after studying Nebraska's game film, he declared that the Huskers' offense could be one of the best in their conference -- as well as the NCAA as a whole.
“It’s got a chance to be the best offense in the Big Ten and maybe one of the top offenses in the country," Christensen said. "They are explosive and they have a lot of variety in what they can do.”
Dismissing the schedule
After he was asked if scheduling a probable loss against Nebraska in Wyoming's season opener might create a negative vibe to kick off the 2013 season, Christensen didn't exactly answer.
“Nobody asked me. I got hired one night, and they told me on a radio show that I’d be playing Nebraska three times," Christensen said. "I just coach the games.”
Not rising to the occasion
Wyoming has played 12 top-25 opponents in the Dave Christensen era.
Their record in that span? 0-12.
Christensen addressed that streak on Monday, and he stated the obvious. Those opponents weren't BCS afterthoughts. They weren't pushovers.
The Cowboys have scheduled legitimate contenders, and they simply haven't gotten it done.
“If you look back at the last four, five years, the teams we’ve played are all nationally ranked, top 25 teams in the country. We’re not playing an average BCS team. We haven’t played one. We play ranked teams," Christensen said. "It’d be great to upset one of those teams.”
On Monday, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was asked if there was a specific position on his team that concerns him going into the season opener against Wyoming.
He specifically has a very young front seven on defense, and many of those guys will be playing their first collegiate games on Saturday night.
With that said, though, Pelini says that he isn't particularly concerned about any one position. As the Huskers' head coach, he worries about everything.
“Right down the line," Pelini said. "If you sit in this spot, it all concerns you."
Martinez praises his line
Taking his turn in front of the microphone, Nebraska dual threat quarterback Taylor Martinez said that his offensive line wasn't just good -- it could be historic.
“I’ve been saying it since Big Ten Media day, I think this is going to be one of Nebraska’s best offensive lines we’ve ever had," Martinez said. "They are going to be the strong point of our offense.
In a program built upon big boys and physical football, that's about as high as praise can get.
Impressed with Smith
Bo Pelini got an early look at Brett Smith, witnessing Smith's fourth career start at quarterback in Nebraska's 38-14 win over Wyoming in 2011.
Smith threw for two touchdowns and an interception in the loss.
And while the Huskers left Laramie with a win, Pelini said on Monday that he came away with newfound respect for the Cowboys' true freshman signal caller.
"I went into that game and came out of that game thinking he’s really far along for a true freshman, and I think he’s a really good player," Pelini said. "He’s very poised."
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah certainly remembers the last time his team played Wyoming. And he's happy this game is at home.
On Monday, Abdullah said that he barely played in Nebraska's 2011 win, only hitting the field briefly as a returner. But even in that short amount of time, he noticed the change in altitude.
"I couldn't breathe," Abdullah said."They have a really good atmosphere down there."