3 Quick takes: Bohl addresses major needs on signing day
LARAMIE -- “This is the best class we’ve had since I’ve been the head coach here."
That was Craig Bohl's opening statement on Dec. 18 before he introduced 19 new Cowboys to the gathered media inside the Wildcatter high above War Memorial Stadium.
My first thought was -- where are the linebackers?
Another quick check of the new recruits ... where are the wide receivers?
Wednesday, moments after announcing five new recruits to the program on the second national signing day, Bohl said simply, "We hit the mark."
He was referring to landing two new linebackers and wide receivers in this class. He also mentioned the need for another cornerback. That man is Xavier Carter from Houston.
Wyoming's head coach admitted the need for speed on the outside in December.
The Cowboys lost Raghib Ismail, John Okwoli and Austin Conway to graduation. It was a major "point of emphasis" to find new, bigger pass catchers. He also brought up two words that left many fans scratching their heads during the 2019 season -- "one dimensional."
"We have to be more explosive and throw the ball better," Bohl said.
That is a true understatement.
Bohl said the team would add at least two, if not three, wide outs before the second signing day Wednesday. He did just that, inking 6-foot, 4-inch Joshua Cobbs and 6-foot speedster, Tyrese Grant.
Both of these Texas products were recruited by 27 other schools. Grant alone fielded 18 offers. Utah wanted him. Even Oklahoma State and the University of Texas showed interest. He was committed to Tulsa early in the process. From his de-commitment post on Twitter, it appears that Grant might have underestimated just how sought-after he was.
It's no secret that Wyoming struggled in the passing game last season. Whether it was Sean Chambers, Tyler Vander Waal or Levi Williams under center, the Cowboys averaged just 136 yards per game through the air. That ranks them 123rd in the nation out of 130 teams.
Only Air Force was worse through the air in the Mountain West. And it took a 234-yard performance from the right arm of Williams in the Arizona Bowl to surpass the Falcons.
Bohl, irritated by the constant questions about the passing game throughout the season, knows his squad has to improve -- drastically -- in that area in 2020. The Cowboys will be an early favorite to compete for a MW title. Play makers like Cobbs and Grant could make the difference.
Wyoming also added junior college tight end, Colin O'Brien, who will be another big target for Williams or Chambers next season. He is 6 foot, 6 inches and weighs in at 234 pounds. He and a healthy Jackson Marcotte should be more than capable of taking over for Josh Harshman, who also graduated.
These pass catchers need to make an immediate impact. The Cowboys return a host of experienced wide receivers in 2020 with Ayden Eberhardt, Gunner Gentry and Dontae Crow, among others. Those three combined to catch just 19 passes for 305 yards and two scores, both coming from Eberhardt.
Guys like 2018 recruits Alex Brown (6-4, 190), Devin Jennings (6-2, 175) and Isaiah Neyor (6-3, 195) also must take the next step.
Remember when Wyoming was regarded as "Wide Receiver U?" When you have names like Marcus Harris, Ryan Yarborough, Jovon Bouknight and Tanner Gentry, the name fits. That seems like a lifetime ago.
Imagine if just one of these guys steps up next season. Just one. Imagine the pressure that would take off this high-powered rushing attack? Imagine the running lanes that would appear? Imagine the play-action game that is supposed to be such a big part of Brent Vigen's pro-style offense?
Can you imagine?
Bohl says the talent is there. We will just have to see it for ourselves.
And about that linebacker ...
Connor Shay, a hard-hitting speedster from just outside of San Jose, California, might be one of the biggest steals out of this recruiting class.
Not to mention Wyoming has very few options to replace four-year starter, Logan Wilson, and Cassh Maluia. Could Shay be that guy? A few schools sure thought so.
Shay was offered by MW foes Nevada and Fresno State. Utah even came in late. He said no to two schools close to home and a Pac-12 school.
He waited until the second signing day to make his decision. He said he wasn't "satisfied with my options."
Bohl and Co. didn't come in until late.
"Wyoming didn’t offer me until after the first signing day so I am very happy I was patient," Shay said.
Sound like a guy you want on your team?
Plus, he said he likes cold weather and mountains. Win-win.
His highlight tape is an impressive display of speed, athleticism and attacking the ball carrier. At 6-foot, 2-inches and 210-pounds, he should only get bigger, faster and meaner. That's good news. He has gigantic shoes to fill.
Wilson finished his senior season with 105 tackles, a sack and seven pass breakups. He was also the unquestioned leader and quarterback of the defense. It will be a tall task, but Shay seemingly has all the tools.
Brent VanderVeen, who signed his letter of intent back in December, is another candidate to see the field early. Wyoming also has youngsters Isaiah Abdullah, Easton Gibbs, Ray Rabou, Shae Suiaunoa, Charles Hicks and Brennan Kutterer on the roster.
The Cowboys also recently added preferred walk-on, Sabastian Harsh, from Scottsbluff, Neb.
Chad Muma is all but penciled in the starting lineup. Other than him, only Gibbs and Raybou have playing experience. Gibbs played in the season finale at Air Force and Raybou, a Buffalo native, saw action in eight games.
This unit will be young and inexperienced. We heard the thing about the defensive line last year.
Will there be another Wilson? Probably not. But maybe a few guys can attempt to fill that gap. IT won't be for lack of effort on Shay's part.
"Fans can expect me to be a play maker and make a lot of tackles," he said.
Pokes add experienced kicker
Another big question surrounding the program this offseason is who exactly will replace Cooper Rothe?
Those might be the biggest shoes to fill of all. Rothe is the school's all-time leading scorer. He was a Lou Groza finalist his junior season. Though Rothe struggled through a senior season that saw him miss seven field goals, he was still thought of as one of the best kickers in the country.
Wyoming might have found that guy Wednesday.
Nick Null, a senior graduate transfer from Cornell, penned on Twitter that he would be coming to Laramie for the 2020 season.
Null was named a second-team All-Ivy League kicker and honorable mention as a punter. He connected on 6-of-8 field goals during his senior season, including a long of 49 yards at Harvard. One of Null's field-goal attempts was blocked.
Null also booted a game-winning 41-yard field goal with nine seconds left to give Cornell a win over Brown. Luke Glassock, a freshman from Buffalo, is the only placekicker on the Cowboys' current roster. He has never attempted a kick in a collegiate game.
Null has not yet signed so Bohl was unable to comment on his during his signing day press conference.