Year 16 Preview: Meet the 2028-29 Pokes
The Wyoming Cowboys are ready to ride in their second year under Coach Luke
Welcome to the first Wyoming roster preview to supplement the series about Coach Luke’s journey for peace and happiness in NCAA Football 14. For any new readers, feel free to check out the about page of the site to read about this whole project and catch up on the past installments. This preview is meant to give you a closer look at the team since there are so many players to know on a fictional football team.
The first year in Wyoming mostly went as expected. The young team was able to go from being a three-win team to a seven-win team under the tutelage of Coach Luke.
The fact of the matter is that Coach Luke didn’t stumble upon a roster that was devoid of talent; the Cowboys were becoming a decent team before he even arrived. With a good coaching plan that harkened back to his early Akron days, Coach Luke got the Pokes to a good place in just one year.
A strong recruiting class should bode well for their future as well. There were some stars in last year’s #17 recruiting class that will be able to immediately jump into the starting lineup. It would be no surprise to see this team win a conference title within the next two years.
The state of Wyoming and the city of Laramie are buzzing.
Everyone in the area also understands that Coach Luke is a man that begs for peace and quiet nowadays. Despite Wyoming being the home to Kanye West, Coach Luke declined every opportunity to meet the man. He doesn’t want another LeBron James situation on his hands.
When he is not driving out to see the Grand Tetons, Coach Luke spends most of his free time fondly remembering books with the past and present poet laureates of Wyoming. Coach Luke even owns a horse that he is learning to ride. Her name is Phoenicia.
In short, things are fine.
The 2028-29 Cowboys? They also very well may be fine. Let’s take a ride with them and find out.
Meet the Offense
This ain’t our first rodeo with these cowboys. In fact, this is our second rodeo with many of them.
The offense is rated 84-overall and led by talented seniors at QB and HB.
The interior of the offensive line creates some cause for concern but the team has a lot of interesting pieces at skill positions. We have no idea if these players will live up to their ratings or not though. That will be answered on the football field this season.
Pow-Pow: QB Leon Powell
When Leon Powell made the decision to go to Wyoming four years ago, it was mostly because they were the only school that showed an interest in the scrambling quarterback. He knew about Coach Luke and the Akron juggernaut, but playing for such a prestigious program seemed like a bridge too far for Leon. Plus, he knew he wouldn’t be able to compete with the likes of Rod Jackson at quarterback there.
Leon rode the bench for years and watched QB Gene Coley for two seasons as the team sputtered to three wins in each of those seasons. He knew he’d eventually get his shot at QB in his senior season and likely also lead the team to three wins before he would return to Florida to work on a graduate degree. He’d at least be able to tell his future children that he was a starting collegiate quarterback. That seemed nice.
Then there was the Coach Luke decision.
Suddenly, it became clear that Wyoming may actually get serious about winning some football games. Leon’s impending senior season was now going to be a lot more important than he expected. He wasn’t going to peacefully ride off into this sunset after all.
Leon’s had a full spring and summer of trying to rally this team behind him. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t nervous as the Cowboys enter a season with high expectations now. He’s hoping that his scrambling nature will give the Cowboys a fearsome rushing attack that harkens back to the days of Coach Luke’s Fountain Drew era.
The Zac Attack: WR Zac Spencer
Leon Powell’s best friend on the team is another Florida native, WR Zac Spencer. Their hometowns are on opposite ends of Florida but they appreciate being able to talk about gator farms and beach life together as they spend their days in Wyoming.
Zac was the second option at WR during Coach Luke’s first year with QB Gene Coley at the helm. The top option was—and still is—Brandon Coker. That irks Zac a little bit because Coker had eight drops last year to go along with 72 receptions. Zac only had one drop and 62 receptions.
That’s not the only thing that irks Zac. He also is upset he didn’t eclipse 1000 yards receiving last year. The sure-handed receiver ended the season with 939 receiving yards and is hell-bent on eclipsing that 1000 yard mark this year.
The good news is that his best friend is at QB this year. He’s hoping that their rapport off-the-field will translate to success on the field as well. He may not be speedy but he knows that his ability to catch every ball will make him the preferred target for both Leon Powell and Coach Luke alike.
Meet The Defense
While the offense is rated 84-overall, the defense is a step down in terms of ratings as they land at 80-overall this year. There are no superstar seniors here but there aren’t any obvious weak points either. It’s a defense that is surprisingly solid across the board.
The most interesting part of this defense is that there are two true freshman starters on it. Coach Luke does not have a long history of making such moves but he recruited “his” guys last year and is ready to get them on the field immediately.
The Bowling Ball: MLB Tavares McBride
Unlike a lot of recruits, Tavares McBride was familiar with Wyoming even before Coach Luke put them on the map. Growing up in Hawai’i, he had seen the Cowboys every year in a battle with the University of Hawai’i for the Paniolo Trophy. When he started his recruiting journey last year, he didn’t have Wyoming on his list of schools mainly because he had hoped his home team would come calling.
In fact, nobody came calling. Maybe it was because of his size. A 5’9”, 280-pound middle linebacker isn’t the classic prototype, after all.
The four-star recruit was basically ignored by all of the schools he had hoped to go to. Coach Luke figured it was worth taking a gamble to call Tavares McBride up. After they started talking with some frequency, Coach said he was going to make a special trip to meet Tavares before the Cowboys game against Hawai’i late that season.
To see the three-time champion coach was almost like meeting a celebrity for Tavares. He found it a bit odd that Coach wasn’t wearing a suit and that he was wearing a sweater vest in Hawai’i but, still, he found the coach down-to-earth and charming. Coach’s relaxed nature really got Tavares on board quickly with thinking that Wyoming could be a nice place to be for a while.
In a few short weeks, he found himself doing something he never expected he’d do in his life: committing to Wyoming.
Now a few months later, he’s ready to captain a defense as a true freshman starter at the center of a blossoming 3-4 defense.
The Gambler: FS Ahmad Benson
It’s a similar story for Ahmad Benson. He knows Wyoming quite well from his time of cheering for an MWC school growing up. He grew up close to Logan, UT and cheered for Utah State. When his family moved to Orem, he didn’t shift allegiance to the University of Utah. As he followed his beloved Aggies, he’d see them beat up on the Cowboys each year. He never thought he’d be a Cowboy himself one day.
When Ahmad heard Coach Luke was going to be reviving Wyoming, it piqued his interest but it didn’t change his plans. He was the projected top free-safety recruit in the country and he expected to get bigger and better offers. Heck, maybe he’d even get recruited by Akron!
None of the top schools called Ahmad up. Coach Luke did. The esteemed coach even took the six-hour drive to Orem, UT to meet Ahmad in person. When Ahmad was promised that he’d be a freshman starter for this improving team, he knew it was time to take the gamble.
He couldn’t believe it. He was the #1 FS in the country and he was committing to Wyoming. He had thought he would going to be joining a championship squad after high school, but he’s gambling on the idea of building something special with a historic coach instead. He hopes that this will pay off with some epic seasons before he leaves Laramie.
Meet the Special Teams
Coach Luke shook up the special teams unit at Wyoming by recruiting two new starters right away. The new kicker is a former JUCO player named Chris Nixon (83 OVR) and their new punter is a true freshman named Xavier Smith (77 OVR).
The X-Man has the distinct honor of being the first-ever recruit to commit to Coach Luke at Wyoming. He knows that will make him an answer to local trivia questions in the future and he’s quite proud of it.
Year 16 Overview
As usual, there is a roster spreadsheet that breaks down the entire roster here. This is helpful if you are curious about backups and depth at our various positions. You can find the sheet here:
It’s a very serviceable roster for Year 16 here. Considering that there are a lot of bottom-dwellers on our schedule, the roster may be good enough to have a special year already.
There’s only one game that I feel we cannot compete in this year (you can guess which game that is). In every other game, I wouldn’t be shocked to see our Cowboys win or at least make the game close. I’m not saying we’ll end up being conference champions or anything, but I’m also saying that you shouldn’t discount it this year.
Twitch stream at 8 PM EST tonight!
At this point, I hope you know the deal. There are Twitch streams on Tuesday and Friday nights that supplement this series. Here is a link to my Twitch channel.
This season’s plan is to get through the season in the two streams this week and then send out a season recap afterward.
Come on out and ride with us!
Plugs for some cool cowpokes
Reader Matt has become Owner Matt. He’s running a spin-off series that will chronicle the NFL life of former Zips players in Madden 20. He’s the owner of the Dublin Shamrocks and drafted Kenneth “K-Dubs” Washington with a first-round pick. I’m excited to see more Zips legends in the NFL during his series (Substack Link, Twitch Link)
Reader Andy not only has a great Twitch channel where you can watch him paint pixel art, but he also has an Etsy shop called 8-Bit Acrylic where you can buy cool stuff. The holidays are coming and a video game painting may be just the thing someone in your life needs this year. (Twitch Link, Etsy Link)
Fun fact: I also have an Etsy shop called Neatworkman where I sell art that I drew. (Etsy Link)
Reader Jake is running a lunchtime stream on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays where he is currently playing Hollow Knight and hanging with folks from this community. (Twitch Link)
I have more plugs for other people’s great work in this community that I’ll continue to pepper into future articles. For now, support those beautiful people as they do beautiful things.