10 Thoughts Heading into Wyoming’s Spring Football Camp
LARAMIE -- Is it football season yet?
While many of you were clamoring for the once much-anticipated hoops campaign to get underway, you may have missed the fact the third-youngest roster in the country was in contention for a Mountain West title game appearance on the third Saturday of November, won seven games and again landed in the postseason.
Yes, Craig Bohl's boys overachieved last fall. Why on earth are some fans still so pessimistic when it comes to this Wyoming football program?
Two words: That offense.
Led by first-year starter Andrew Peasley under center, the Cowboys again featured one of the worst passing offenses in the nation, averaging just 132.2 yards through the air per outing. That ranks 125th overall. There are only 131 teams. UW did best the likes of New Mexico, Navy, Army and Air Force in this important category. One issue with that -- those schools primarily run the option.
Can this problem be fixed? Better yet, will it? Bohl is entering Year 10 on the sidelines in Laramie and this always seems to be the main topic of conversation, doesn't it?
Bohl isn't abandoning that vaunted running game anytime soon -- and he shouldn't -- but even the 64-year-old knows something has to change for these Cowpokes to get over the hump.
"You know, there's no doubt, anytime that we can see ourselves being one dimensional, that's a real challenge," Bohl said in early February. "... We're going to need to stretch the field vertically. We're going to need to separate. But, overall, for us to win wars in the trenches, that's what's going to define us."
This staff thinks it added some critical pieces to the puzzle this offseason via the NCAA Transfer Portal.
Let's take a look at a handful of questions that we have heading into spring camp, which kicks off today on the high plains.
Is there an X-Factor in this receiving corps?
While we will all have to wait for the arrival of offseason acquisitions Devin Boddie Jr. (Vanderbilt) and Ayir Asante (Holy Cross) -- the duo won't be here until the fall -- one wide receiver that is in-house could be a wildcard this fall -- Gunner Gentry.
The senior wideout from Aurora, Colo., has suffered back-to-back season-ending knee injuries, but according to his position coach, Mike Grant, he was playing a lot like a former pass catcher around here with the same last name before a torn patellar tendon in his left leg cost him the 2021 campaign.
Will be interesting to follow Gentry's development this spring.
Speaking of wide receivers ...
It may not seem like much, but can you imagine the confidence Jaylen Sargent and Caleb Merritt took into offseason workouts? Both snagged a pass -- Sargent caught two -- in the Cowboys' 30-27 overtime loss to Ohio in the Arizona Bowl. Those were career firsts for both.
Sargent, a 6-foot-2, 183-pound sophomore from Utah, had yet to appear in a game before Wyoming traveled to Tucson. He sat and watched 25 games from the sideline before finally getting his opportunity. Merritt, a true freshman from Missouri, also didn't play until the postseason.
Don't underestimate getting that monkey off the back.
Is this Peasley's job to lose?
"Yes." That's the short answer.
The Cowboys were 7-5 overall with Peasley under center, and for a good portion of the season, the decision and playmaking was there. During a six-game stretch, the then-junior tossed nine touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. More importantly, Wyoming was 4-2 in those games.
Then, the injuries mounted. In Peasley's final four starts, he was picked off six times. He threw just one touchdown strike.
This coaching staff loves Peasley. They love his compete level, his leadership and football IQ, among many other qualities. Expect No. 6 to be under center when Texas Tech comes to town Sept. 2.
The back-up spot, however ...
Remember the lead up to the Illinois game last fall when Bohl refused to even name a starter let alone a back up? Ahh memories. We all had a pretty good idea Peasley would start, but raise your hand if you thought Jayden Clemons slid into the No. 2 role.
Watching his assent ascension up the depth chart should tell you one thing -- these coaches really are evaluating everything in practice. Clemons was a scout team QB the year prior. He got his teammates ready to face Air Force's option attack in practice all week then watched the game on television like the rest of you. In 2022, he started the most important game of the season against Boise State, and if it wasn't for him, the Bronze Boot might reside in Fort Collins.
Who will be this year's Clemons? Maybe him? If not, there are plenty of names to choose from: Kaden Anderson, Caden Becker, Evan Svoboda or Hank Gibbs.
No Titus, no problem
Yes, Titus Swen was a really good running back, rushing for more than 2,000 yards during his three-plus seasons in Laramie. He ran hard. He had the breakaway speed. He had the temperament.
Will that be missed? Of course.
But Plan B is not too shabby himself.
This offseason, Bohl and Co. dipped into the transfer portal to snag Harrison Waylee, a tailback from Northern Illinois they are very familiar with. When the Pokes and Huskies tangled in DeKalb in 2021, Waylee gashed the visitors to the tune of 179 yards on 26 carries. He also found the end zone twice.
Wyoming wasn't his only victim, either.
During his three seasons at NIU, Waylee rolled up 1,929 rushing yards and 10 scores. He also caught 26 balls out of the backfield for 186 yards and a touchdown. This dual-threat runner is exactly what the Cowboys were looking for.
And did I mention Dawaiian McNeely, DQ James and Jordon Vaughn are back?
Did Wrook Brown put a stranglehold on the nickel spot?
Brown's wide eyes told the tale. He had no plans of seeing much action -- if any -- in the Cowboys' opening day tilt in Champaign. Well, he did, stepping in for Keonte Glinton, who was battling cramps throughout the afternoon.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound freshman from Texas finished with five tackles that afternoon against the Fighting Illini.
Soon, the job would be all his. Glinton went down against San Jose State and didn't return for the rest of the season. In Brown's first-career start at New Mexico, he tallied 10 tackles and broke up a pass. Seven of those stops were dubbed solos.
While Brown was impressive and plays much more aggressively than his frame would suggest, this job might not be his. Why? Buck Coors is coming. So is Malique Singleton.
Coors suffered what was thought to be a season-ending leg injury in fall camp. He came back and suited up in the final five games of the season. Singleton was a true freshman, but impressed coaches from the jump.
This is a good problem to have.
Will Wyoming's 4-star tackle start this season?
One of Bohl's famous one-liners when talking about offensive linemen is "he threw him out of the saloon."
Apparently Deshawn Woods was doing plenty of that on the practice fields in Laramie last season.
A source inside the program said the 6-foot-5, 285-pound freshman from Omaha is "the real deal." He certainly was in high school, fielding calls from programs like Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Miami, Penn State and Texas A&M, among others. He eventually chose Missouri. That didn't pan out. Wyoming was waiting in the wings.
The Cowboys didn't lose many to graduation, but they did see Zach Watts and Marco Machado retire in the offseason. Eric Abojei also graduated.
The spot is open. Can Woods take it?
Is Sabastian Harsh at full speed?
The Scottsbluff native was no doubt the MVP of spring and fall camp a year ago. Bohl gushed about the 6-foot-3, 242-pound pass rusher nearly every time he stepped behind the podium. If you follow this program, you know he doesn't typically do things like that.
Harsh, he says, is special.
Unfortunately we didn't get to see that. He suffered a season-ending knee injury just days before the Illinois game. Luckily for the Cowboys, Braden Siders and DeVonne Harris stepped up, combining for 15.5 sacks. So did Oluwaseyi Omotosho, who left the program in January and eventually landed at Oregon State.
Though Harsh hasn't taken many snaps on the defensive front when the live bullets are flying, we have to take Bohl's word for it that he could be the team's top sack man in 2023. If he stays healthy.
Look out for Alabama transfer Keelan Cox, too. A hip injury sidelined him last season. This unit could be scary.
Tyrecus Davis is a name to keep an eye on during camp.
The Navarro CC transfer is already on campus, and the staff thinks he possesses the skills to be a lockdown corner. Their words, not mine.
He will have to battle it out with Jakorey Hawkins and Deron Harrell, a pair of Power-5 transfers who got better as the season went along. Kolbey Taylor should also be in the mix to add depth on the outside.
During Davis' two-year JuCo stint in Texas, he totaled 80 tackles, five interceptions, 13 pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He even returned one scoop and score to the end zone and landed a pick-six.
Last, but certainly not least, can this team throw the damn football?
The media isn't allowed to watch practice. Neither are you. What is going on beyond the walls of the indoor practice facility is top secret. And don't you dare take a peek into War Memorial Stadium. If the big man catches you, trouble is coming.
Though I'm not kidding about most of that above, I have to use my imagination and take players and coaches alike at their word. Yes, we'll ask about this passing attack. More times than Bohl cares to hear. We always do.
But will things change?
I don't think anyone is asking for an air raid, but simple efficiency and timing. Can these wideouts get separation? Can the signal caller deliver it accurately and on time? Will passing plays be called in the right moments? No, I'm not talking about third and long.
This has been the one big black mark on Bohl's tenure in Laradise. Will that get fixed in 2023? If so, this could be a special season.
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players