LARAMIE – New University of Wyoming offensive coordinator Tim Polasek isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel in Laramie. But you can be sure he’s trying to ensure it handles bumps in the road a bit better.
Polasek, most recently the offensive line coach at the University of Iowa, was tabbed as the new leader of UW’s offense and quarterbacks coach on Feb. 10, just a few days after former offensive coordinator Brent Vigen took the head coaching job at Montana State.
Polasek has a long history with UW head coach Craig Bohl; Bohl hired Polasek as a graduate assistant at North Dakota State back in 2006, his first major college football job. Polasek served as NDSU’s running backs coach from 2007-11, and was named the Bison offensive coordinator when Bohl and Vigen left for Wyoming back before the 2014 season.
During Polasek’s tenure as offensive coordinator, NDSU won two national championships. He coached a pair of NFL quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Easton Stick, who play for the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively. In three seasons, Polasek’s offenses averaged 32.9, 34.9 and 29.1 points per game, respectively.
His latest task is resurrecting a UW offense that has been among the most unbalanced and ineffective in throwing the football the last few seasons.
Don’t expect the Cowboys, who finished 2-4 in a shortened 2020 campaign, to be an air-raid offense. But you can be certain that UW’s patented run-heavy scheme will be looking for chances to make plays down the field with Polasek at the helm.
“(I’m) not focused on fixing anything that was done in the past,” Polasek said Monday during his first meeting with UW beat reporters. “I just know, if we’re able to run the ball the way that we have and the way that we want to, it should create some shots.
“We want to start with the run game, build it from the play-action and then run-action.”
Polasek was one of three changes made on the offensive side of the ball for UW this offseason. Derek Frazier was named offensive line coach the same day Polasek’s hire was made official, and wide receivers coach Mike Grant added the title of offensive passing-game coordinator on Feb. 18.
The trio will try to solve the mystery of a passing attack that has ranked 100th or lower in passing yards per game five times in Bohl’s seven seasons and has ranked 125th or lower in completion percentage each of the last three years. Cowboy quarterbacks have also completed less than 50% of their passes in each of the last three seasons.
“Not to give away the playbook to the opponents, but I think things can be spread out a little more,” Grant said. “I think that we can also run the ball with fewer people in the box. And then that also requires us, as wide receivers, to be dangerous on the outside.”
Vigen spent 18 years with Bohl, including the last 12 as his offensive coordinator at NDSU and UW. Vigen was lauded for finding Wentz and Buffalo Bills star Josh Allen, but he always leaned heavily on the running game, finishing 23rd and 14th in rushing yards per game, respectively, in each of the last two seasons. The Cowboys ranked in the top 40 of rushing offenses nationally in four of Vigen’s seven seasons.
That emphasis on the run isn’t going anywhere. The real change will be in how the offense takes advantage of opportunities down the field.
Bohl’s emphasis on “reengineering the offense” this offseason is not a wholesale overhaul, per se; it’s a much-needed tweaking in efficiency in all phases.
“Change offers an opportunity for some great, great advancements,” Bohl said. “And I think you’re going to see some new wrinkles.”
Polasek spoke highly of quarterbacks Sean Chambers and Levi Williams, both of whom will return in 2021. Chambers was the starting quarterback to start the 2020 season, but suffered a broken leg on the first drive of the year against Nevada, his third season-ending injury in as many years. Williams, who started in UW’s 2019 Arizona Bowl victory over Georgia State, took over the rest of the season and saw mixed results.
Williams threw just one touchdown pass in six games and completed just 49.6% of his passes.
Polasek sees potential in both, however, and is encouraged by what he’s seen in his brief time on campus.
“We need to build this thing around whoever our quarterback is,” Polasek said. “(Levi) got valuable experience, and he’s got film that he can learn from. And rather than focusing on the past and what we did or didn’t do, we just focus on moving forward.
“I think they both have good ability when I watch them move around. Levi’s a big kid that can move. … I’m not going to draw comparisons, but (Chambers) has kind of that ‘it’ factor that I saw in Carson Wentz, that Coach (Bohl) speaks so highly about Josh Allen … just kind of how he maneuvers in the weight room with his teammates.”