3 Quick takes: Bart Miller has some new toys to play with
LARAMIE -- Remember the days when you probably used to say: "Man, we have a great quarterback, really solid receivers and tight ends and a nice stable of running backs."
Then your buddy would surely dump on your parade.
"Yeah, but who's going to block for them?"
That's a thing of the past in Laramie.
Wednesday, four of the 18 players signed by the University of Wyoming are offensive linemen, joining arguably the strongest position in the program under first-year line coach, Bart Miller.
Those guys are: Malik Williams, Nofoafia Tulafono, Kohl Herbolsheimer and Mana Taimani.
Another lineman, Micah Barnhart, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 290-pounder out of Canton, Illinois, is an incoming preferred walk-on. Even more help might be on the way.
We'll get to that in a bit.
I asked Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl if he has ever had such an embarrassment of riches at this position.
"Just speak plainly, we are in Wyoming," Bohl joked.
But in all seriousness ...
"No, but we needed to fortify our offensive line," he said. "You could see the number of injuries we've had and the benefit we've had by having those (younger) players out there. We worked really hard -- it was a point of emphasis -- and sometimes the stars align right, too. Some of the guys fell one way or the other. In this is a case, when some of the stars fell, they fell in the right way."
This was Miller's first recruiting class at Wyoming. You might remember that the offensive line coaching position was a bit of a revolving door last summer after Bohl relieved Scott Fuchs of his duties and Klayton Adams accepted the gig only to take the same position with the Indianapolis Colts literally weeks later.
Miller, who has coached the lines at national powers Minnesota and Wisconsin, landed right in Wyoming's lap. Miller also knows the Mountain West. He played under Rocky Long at New Mexico and coached the tight ends at Air Force.
Wednesday, he finally got to put his own stamp on this program.
And it's not like the cupboard was bare, either. The Cowboys offensive line has been one of the top units in the nation this season, featuring an entire crop of underclassmen. Logan Harris, Alonzo Velazquez, Keegan Cryder and Rudy Stofer have been the mainstays on the line.
Arguably Wyoming's best lineman, guard Eric Abojei, suffered a season-ending injury at San Diego State. Zach Watts is still working his way back into playing shape after an injury cost him most of the regular season, and Gavin Rush missed all of 2019 with an injury.
And let's not forget about guys who have played big minutes with the front five this season. Frank Crum, a redshirt freshman, was forced into action. The reliable Patrick Arnold filled in around the line, too. Miller is high on freshman Latrell Bible, who also saw some snaps this season. Blayne Baker and Gavin Dunayski could also fit into future plans. Both are on the two-deep heading into the Arizona Bowl.
This, folks, is why I annoyed Bohl with the term "embarrassment of riches."
This program hasn't seen talent up front like this since the 1996 squad, which featured names like Jay Korth, Steve Scifres, Rob Bohlinger, Jeff Smith, Rob Rathburn and Co.
Wyoming makes no bones about it -- it wants to run. It will run. It has to run. Wednesday, the program took a big step in proving that the ground game is where the Cowboys will find success in Tucson, in 2020 and beyond.
Bohl expected a surprise Wednesday. Unfortunately, he also expected a disappointment.
Well, his expectations became a reality all before 3 p.m.
Let's start with the good news. Well, it was news to the media anyway.
Oluwaseyi Omotosho, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 225-pound defensive end/ linebacker hybrid from the Houston area, sent his fax through around 8:30 a.m. Wyoming was his first offer. Louisiana Tech, Liberty and Kansas State were late to the party.
Bohl said they stumbled upon Omotosho or "Double O" at a camp in east Texas. Despite the numerous Big XII coaches in attendance, Bohl said Omotosho "fell in love with us and held firm throughout the whole process."
I asked Bohl if he reminded him of Carl Granderson. He thinks Omotosho could be even better.
"We clocked him a couple of times in the low 4.5 and under 4.5," he said of the 40-yard dash. "He has a big frame, great explosion, and we got to see him in the one-on-one drills. We are fired up about him. We think he's a really, really talented player."
Omotosho finished his senior season at Ft. Bend Bush High School with 44 tackles, a pair of sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. He has zero stars behind his name, but as you should know by now, none of that amounts to a hill of beans. Especially to Bohl, who claimed he had no idea that around half of his 2020 class was made up of three-star players.
"Whoever gives out those stars, and this is going to sound like an arrogant statement, but I think I forgot more than they know," Bohl joked about the experts who hand out star-ratings.
Take a few seconds to watch this guy's film. He is lightning fast and violent at the point of attack. You think Jake Dickert can't work with that?
Now, the not so good news. Chau Smith, the three-star defensive back from Chicago, who posted on his Twitter just three days ago that he would be coming to UW and to "respect my decision" didn't make one of those Wednesday.
Purdue came calling late Tuesday. Washington State joined the fray this morning.
Bohl eluded to the fact that the Cowboys should be getting their 19th signature soon, but it didn't sound like the fax would be coming from the Windy City. In fact, when asked if he needs to find another tackle, Bohl emphatically said "yes" and once again eluded to the one commit they are waiting on.
I'm not saying Smith is out of the mix in Laramie, but it doesn't look good.
Still some areas of need
Was this a successful 2020 recruiting class for the Cowboys? On paper, yes. But we all know time will ultimately tell.
"This is the best class we've had since I've been the head coach here," Bohl said. "That's a bold statement."
But plenty of fans pointed out one deficiency in this group. Where the heck are the wide receivers?
Some also mused, asking the question: "Do we really need wide receivers anymore?" Funny, but not true.
Bohl said that's a position the team needs to address soon.
"It's going to be important that we sign a couple. At least two, maybe even three at that spot," Bohl said. "... We cannot be one dimensional. We have to be more explosive and throw the ball better."
Wide receivers coach Mike Grant told me early in the season that he likes the young crop of pass catchers that are slowly coming up through the system. Guys like 2018 recruits Alex Brown (6-4, 190), Devin Jennings (6-2, 175) and Isaiah Neyor (6-3, 195).
Only Brown saw action this season, way back in week two against Texas State.
Remember, the Cowboys still have Gunner Gentry, Ayden Eberhardt, Dontae Crow, Mason Gallegos, Chance Hofer, Justyn Stindt and Wyatt Wieland on the roster.
Another question that often comes up -- and is warranted -- why didn't a majority of these guys get in for the four games the NCAA allows to keep a redshirt? If they were that good, they'd surely play, right?
Not on this team. Not this year.
Coaches always talk about the complexity of the "route tree." Seniors Austin Conway, John Okwoli and Raghib Ismail know how to run these routes. And let's be real, Wyoming didn't throw the ball near enough to warrant it this year, right?
My biggest question is at linebacker. Who will replace Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia?
"We'll probably sign one more," Bohl said, adding that incoming freshman Brent VanderVeen is slated to play that position. "We were in a dogfight with a couple guys there. It didn't go our way. But, there's a good pool.
"Like I said, if you get everyone you wanted, your bar isn't high enough."
Omotosho could help there, though at 225 pounds, some much-needed muscle is coming his way. Could freshmen Isaiah Abdullah or Easton Gibbs be the guy to join Chad Muma? How about Charles Hicks, Brennan Kutterer, Ray Rabou or Shae Suiaunoa.
Could Keyon Blankenbaker, the nickle back in 2019, slide down and play linebacker full time? He's a tackling machine, but he's also 5 foot, 10 inches and 175 pounds. He tackles receivers now. Could he handle a heavy dose of tight ends and 200-pound running backs through a 12-game season? Doubtful.
Another question that has been asked is about incoming local recruit, Thunder Basin's Caleb Driskill. He was named the defensive player of the year by the Casper Star-Tribune. He was the state's top tackler from his middle linebacker spot. He's also 6 feet, 2 inches and weighs in at 215.
I talked to him last week. He says the UW coaching staff wants him to focus on playing the fullback position. Bohl and Co. also brought Wilson in to play safety/ corner back.
We all see how that worked out.
The coaches know you that guy will be. After all, coming into 2019, who knew the names Cole Godbout, Mario Mora, Solomon Byrd, Jordan Murry, Jackson Marcotte, Crum, Muma and others?
They just need to play.