LARAMIE -- Jay Sawvel will have his eye on three components this spring: Production, execution and fundamentals.

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For a guy who is used to hanging around the safeties and running a defense, the rookie head coach knows he will also have to find his way on the practice fields.

"I'm going to be kind of in different positions," he said with a smile. "But the reality is, whenever I go, it's vision, footwork, fundamentals, hand placement, all those things that translate at all the different positions. That's going to be the biggest thing that I'm coaching and dealing with. That's the stuff that I want to see us get better at."

The Cowboys are returning 16 starters from last year's nine-win squad, including eight on the defensive side of the ball.

As for me, I'll be paying attention to a few specific categories as the Pokes take the field on Tuesday for the first of 15 practices, culminating with the annual spring game April 27 in Cheyenne.



You might have heard -- Sawvel is actually opening a few practice sessions to the media, starting tomorrow afternoon. That means we actually get to witness more than stretching lines and hitting pads.

You can get an up close and personal look at the Pokes, too, Saturday, April 6 and seven days later in Laramie.

Take advantage if you can.

Sawvel dropped a hint last Friday that this offensive scheme could look a tad different under new coordinator Jay Johnson. Sources have indicated to me there could be elements of a spread attack, which has been a curse word around these parts for more than a decade.

Johnson, who spent the last four seasons in the same role at Michigan State, said he plans to utilize the team's strengths. It's really that simple. He knows Harrison Waylee has been dynamic out of the backfield. A healthy Dawaiian McNeely is, too. He knows he has a veteran front, led by Caden Barnett, Nofoafia Tulafono and Jack Walsh.

He singled out one pass catcher, too.

"Jay Johnson said to me yesterday, he's like, 'Yeah, I'm trying to figure out a reason why I wouldn't try to get (tight end John Michael Gyllenborg) the ball, like, every couple plays,'" Sawvel said. "And I'm like, 'Well, that's why you're here because that's a good starting point because I would try to get him the ball all the time, too.'"

Wyoming ranked 103rd in the nation in total offense in 2023, averaging just 327 yards per game. Per usual, just 168.5 of those came through the air, which also landed the Pokes in triple digits, flirting with the likes of Air Force, Army, Navy and, yes, even Iowa.

Not the company you want to keep in that regard.

No one has been asking for this program to go full air raid. That would be a huge mistake considering the way it's built and the running backs at its disposal. Complimentary football is the key. Running the football to set up the pass should be the goal.

Will we see that this spring? Let's hope.



We've all heard about Evan Svoboda's arm strength.

Former head coach Craig Bohl used to say the junior could chuck the long ball with the best of them. Yes, even going as far as comparing him to Josh Allen. He even wears No. 17, something he requested when he strolled onto campus back in 2022.

Svoboda appears to have the temperament and composure for this demanding position. We all got a first-hand look at that during his lone start in Austin.

Facing the No. 3 team in the land -- in front of 100,000-plus fans, no less -- Svoboda looked calm in the pocket as he completed 17 of his 28 throws for 136 yards. The Mesa, Ariz., product did toss a pick-six, but that was late, the visitors trying to force things after watching a 10-10 tie in the fourth quarter turn into a 21-10 deficit in the blink of an eye.

Svoboda did again step in for an injured Andrew Peasley in the Arizona Bowl. He led the Cowboys on a 10-play, 60-yard drive, setting up a game-winning 24-yard field goal off the right foot of John Hoyland. He also scored the offense's lone touchdown in Tucson on the previous possession.

Imagine what those moments did for his confidence?

A source inside the program told me last week Svoboda wasn't exactly Joe Montana in practice last fall. That outing deep in the heart of Texas, though, proved he belonged and he only got better from there.

Sawvel claimed this offseason that this is now Svoboda's show. It's his job to lose.

"We have to put him in as many positions and situations as possible within scrimmages, within practices, things of that nature," Sawvel said. "You just want to come out of the spring with him having a great overall command of what we're doing and the accuracy and understanding of where that ball needs to go and when it needs to go and the timing he needs to do it with."

We'll be watching.

I'll also be looking at the back-up spot. Who will emerge there? The redshirt freshman Kaden Anderson, who spent last season rehabbing an ACL tear he sustained in high school? Maybe that guy is Jayden Clemons, a super senior who has one-career start under his belt? Iowa transfer and former four-star recruit Carson May could also be in the mix. What about true freshman Deyon Batiste?



It's no secret the Cowboys need to get faster and more dynamic on the outside.

We all got a glimpse of that with Ayir Asante in 2023. He could turn chicken you know what into chicken salad real quick. Just ask New Mexico. Remember the speedy wideout zigging and zagging all over the Lobos' secondary in Laramie? That all started with a harmless looking dump pass. It ended 66 yards later in the south end zone of War Memorial Stadium.

Sawvel said Wyoming needed a "Xavier Worthy type of player."

You might also recall his 44-yard jaunt to the house in Austin. The Longhorns' receiver hauled in a short pass and turned on the burners, blowing past Tyrecus Davis and Wyett Ekeler.

Worthy ran a 4.21 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. That's a new record.

TK King, according to Savwel, could be that guy for the Cowpokes.

"You go in and watch TK run -- he can run," he said, shaking his head and laughing. "He is fast. You're glad that he's here."

King, a Texas Tech transfer, excelled in the 200-meter dash in high school, hitting a personal-best mark of 20.74. He also ran the 4x100 relay, finishing with a school-record time of 40.50 during his junior year at Alief Taylor in Houston.

For good measure, King also ran a 10.20 in the 100.

Think that guy can help a receiving corps that has struggled to make plays over the last six seasons?

DJ Jones, a safety-turned running back from North Carolina, is another intriguing transfer. A three-star prep prospect, Michigan offered the talented back out of high school. So did Missouri, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wake Forest, among others.

With a loaded backfield in Chapel Hill and lingering injuries hampering Jones, he accepted a position move to safety. Now, he's back at his natural spot and Gordie Haug thinks he could be a special runner, coupled with Waylee, McNeely and others.

"He can move," Haug, the Cowboys' running backs coach and director of recruiting said of the 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior. "He's twitchy, he's fast, he's solid. I mean, he's a grown man. It's a good thing to get him."

Alex Conn is another transfer to keep an eye on. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive tackle played at Iowa Western Community College last season after beginning his career at Nebraska. Arizona, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and TCU also wanted a piece of the Derby, Kan., product.

Wyoming is in search of Frank Crum's replacement. Could that be Conn?



If we're looking at the new offensive scheme, the quarterback and a potential game changer on the outside, we need to look at the wide receivers as a whole.

Wyatt Wieland is gone. So is Ryan Marquez, Gunner Gentry and Asante.

Alex Brown, despite being introduced on senior day, has decided to return. Will Pelissier is back, too. This will be a big spring for those two, as well as Devin Boddie Jr., Caleb Merritt and Jaylen Sargent.

"You know, we've got some unprovens at receiver," Sawvel said. "... There's talent there, but, OK, what's that progression going to look like?"

Wyoming has lost 80 catches, 1,047 yards and 13 touchdowns to graduation. That's not even including the 33 grabs, 328 yards and two scores from the tight end combination of Treyton Welch and Colin O'Brien.

The Cowboys are returning just 23 snags for 255 receiving yards and a touchdown.

At the team's NFL Pro Day last week, Pelissier -- who said he has gained weight and is healthy for the first time since he can remember -- laid out to haul in a 60-plus yard pass from Peasley during his workout. The senior signal caller wanted the Big Horn native to catch passes from him. It was his request.

"I told him, 'Hey, you better be saving some of that for Tuesday.'" Sawvel joked. "The one thing that's nice to see with Will's situation is he's healthy. He's had a full offseason, he's in a really good place physically, you know? So I'm excited to see him next week."

I want to see if the vets can step up and finally live up to potential. Yes, I also want to see King's speed, but can Brown, all 6-foot-4, 201 pounds of him, be the outside threat this program has been waiting for? Can the speedy Pelissier stay in the lineup? Can Merritt and Sargent play a leading role?



Kolbey Taylor entered the NCAA Transfer Portal at season's end.

That came as a shock to exactly no one after the sophomore was benched with two games remaining in the regular season and suspended for violating team rules before the Cowboys September trip to Texas.

He wasn't in the future plans anyway, but he leaves a hole in the cornerbacks' room.

So does Jakorey Hawkins, who exhausted his eligibility. Keany Parks, a wideout-turned-defensive back, will miss the spring with an injury. Sawvel said Davis has already solidified himself as a starter. Who will be opposite of him?

"I think where we come along at corner, you know, with Ian Bell and Naz Hill," Sawvel said of paying attention to this unit in the spring. "How are those other guys coming along? I think that's a piece of it."

Bell appeared in 12 games last season, tallying six tackles out of the secondary. Hill was a redshirt freshman.

Wrook Brown should once again be the nickel corner and this program has the benefit of having two veteran safeties in Isaac White and Ekeler. Parks, according to coaches, has been on the fast track to earning playing time. Sawvel said the players who will miss the spring -- defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole, Barnett, McNeely and Parks -- are expected to return for fall camp.

Who steps up in the meantime? Either way, these practices will serve as experience, something these new guys sorely need.

University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

During the summer of 2021, counted down the Top 50 football players in University of Wyoming history, presented by Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Worthy of Wyoming.

The rules are simple: What was the player's impact while in Laramie? That means NFL stats, draft status or any other accolade earned outside of UW is irrelevant when it comes to this list.

This isn't a one-man job. This task called for a panel of experts. Joining 7220's Cody Tucker are Robert GagliardiJared NewlandRyan Thorburn, and Kevin McKinney.

We all compiled our own list of 50 and let computer averages do the work. Think BCS -- only we hope this catalog is fairer.

Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter: @7220sports - #Top50UWFB

Gallery Credit:

- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

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