A confident Azizi Hearn looking to add turnovers to his résumé
LARAMIE -- Azizi Hearn has moved on. But he hasn't forgotten.
In last season's opener in Reno, Wyoming's junior cornerback leaped over the back of Nevada's Romeo Doubs near the goal line and appeared to haul in his first-career interception.
"You called it an interception, I didn't," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said postgame after the Cowboys fell 37-34 in overtime. "I was asking for clarification. They said they looked at every different angle. They said it was an incompletion ... It's their judgement."
Hearn can't lie -- he wanted that pick.
Not only would it have been his first, it would've halted what turned out to be a 10-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cole Turner that gave the home team a commanding 28-6 lead in the third quarter.
"Honestly, if I'm being real with you, I let that play go when it was over -- before that game was even over," Hearn said Tuesday night. "I mean, of course I wanted it, but they ruled it how they ruled it, so I had to keep moving."
Did he think he picked it?
"I for sure might have had that one," he continued. "I start watching it sometimes. It was a cool play."
Hearn, a transfer from the University of Arizona, has played in 26 career games, including 18 at Wyoming. He's been involved in nine pass breakups. As a freshman, Hearn was involved in a bizarre play that started when his U of A teammate, Colin Schooler, picked off a Brandon McIIwain pass and returned it 39 yards. California's Jeremiah Hawkins caused a fumble on the return. Unfortunately for the Bears, it landed in the arms of Hearn, who walked into the end zone all alone from 34 yards out.
Arizona won that one, 24-17.
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That kind of luck hasn't found Hearn yet during his time in Laramie.
"I'm making an emphasis on it right now for sure," Hearn said of forcing more turnovers."(I need) to get some interceptions on my résumé."
Just because the picks haven't come doesn't mean Hearn isn't one of the top cornerbacks in the Mountain West. Last fall, in just six games, he tallied 12 tackles and batted down four passes. In 2019, Hearn racked up 37 more stops and broke up four more passes.
Along with CJ Coldon, the Cowboys' corner duo in 2020 held opponents to just 202.7 yards per game through the air. That ranks them 29th overall in the nation. Wyoming was one of just 14 teams in the country to hold the opposition to less than five yards per play.
After a 420-yard passing performance from Carson Strong in that Week 1 overtime loss to Nevada -- one UW defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel takes full blame for -- Wyoming held Hawaii to just 110 yards passing the following Saturday.
They also held UNLV (158), New Mexico (92) and Boise State (181) to under 200 yards passing.
"I think we are the best cornerback duo in the Mountain West," Hearn said Tuesday. "Let me tell it because I know I'm working very hard -- I'm working to be the best in the nation, if we're being honest. I know CJ's working hard, as well. I feel like it will happen naturally."
You think that guy is confident?
It's not just in himself, either.
"This is all up to us," he continued. "We can win the conference if we want to. We can win every game if we want to. We just have to put the work in and be focused every day. After we win, we got to just forget about it and keep moving."
Hearn has not only shown his ability to stick to some of the best wide outs in the conference, he's undoubtedly done it with swagger and a colorful vocabulary.
Hearn didn't divulge what he said to coax Colorado State's Warren Jackson into a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty near the goal line in the 2019 version of the Border War in Laramie, but it was apparent Jackson was not thrilled. He grabbed Hearn by the facemask in the end zone. When the flags flew, CSU's star receiver went ballistic. His teammates were forced to hold him back.
"Yeah, I remember that," Hearn said with a wide grin.
That's just part of his game.
"It kind of gets me going and keep guys going around me on my team," he said. "... You know, sometimes it would be flat out there and that brings life."
As Bohl left the stage tonight after his press conference, he mentioned Hearn was coming up next. He joked and said he was very jealous of his "hairdo."
In all seriousness, he's been impressed with his play.
"Azizi is having a great spring and I feel really good about his progression," Bohl said. "If we can play well at the corner spot, we can do a whole lot of things."
Hearn has big plans for himself and his team this fall. He knows if the back end does its thing, guys like Garrett Crall, Solomon Byrd and Chad Muma, among many others, will have plenty of opportunities to rack up sacks.
"We want to win a lot of games this year -- all of them -- so we're going to have to play well," Hearn said. "So, I feel like it will happen naturally, just putting in some work. That's what we're doing right now."