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Wyoming sporting leaner offensive line

AP Photo Wyoming coach Dave Christensen watches his team practice Tuesday.

LARAMIE, Wyo. -- It's a case of the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing.

That's the left side of Wyoming's offensive line where guard Sam Sterner and tackle Ryan Otterson are deeply rooted.

The two UW linemen have been getting "down and dirty" in the trenches, side-by-side, for 24 straight games.

When the Cowboys open the 2009 season on Saturday, Sept. 5 against Weber State, Sterner and Otterson will begin their third season of watching each other's back.

"It doesn't happen very often, and I've been fortunate that we have been able to play together this long," Sterner, a 6-foot-2, 302-pound junior guard from Waconia, Minn., said. "You get to a point where you're pretty much on the same page, and that's where Ryan and I are. We have been playing together so long that I know what he does and he knows what I do."

"It's a confidence thing because I know what Sam is going to do," Otterson, a 6-5, 275-pound senior tackle added. "He has his assignments, yeah, but I know what he's going to do and he knows what I'm going to do."

Sterner and Otterson are a part of a stronger and leaner Wyoming offensive line that also includes senior captain and center Russ Arnold and sophomore tackle Clayton Kirven.

The unit has taken on a leaner and quicker look in order to adapt to new UW head coach Dave Christensen's up-tempo, spread offense.

It's an offense that requires linemen to rely on mobility and conditioning rather than just pure brute strength.

"Not all, but most of us have lost weight. We definitely can feel it when we are running and moving, especially laterally," Sterner said. "That's a good thing because our splits are now so much wider."

Sterner, one of the few Cowboys now tipping the scale at over 300 pounds, said he really doesn't care what offense he is playing in.

It all amounts to creating space for the running backs and keeping defenders off the quarterback.

"It doesn't matter if you are in tight or spread out, it's still football," he said.

The new offense is tailor-made for the long and lean Otterson, though.

"This new offense with the splits plays to my strengths," Otterson said. "I've never been a big, 300-pound guy. I've always been the more athletic type, concentrating on my techniques. I have to use that to beat guys who may be bigger and stronger. I have the quickness, and I really fit well with this offense and what they want us to do."

The new-look Cowboys may not be looking to overpower opponents up front, but that doesn't mean they will shy away from them. They are buying into a more physical and tougher approach demanded by their new head coach.

"That's what Wyoming wants, what Wyoming has been waiting for -- the fans and the people have been wanting that," Otterson said. "We're trying to perfect that every day and get better and better at it."