ANALYSIS: Coldon, Hearn lead young corner group into 2020
LARAMIE -- Fall camp is on the horizon. We hope.
We will pretend here all is right in the world and in early August the Cowboys will hit the practice field in Laramie to kickoff the seventh season under head coach Craig Bohl.
Wyoming finished 8-5 overall in 2019, including a 4-4 mark in Mountain West play. It all culminated in a 38-17 victory over Georgia State in the Arizona Bowl.
So, let's breakdown the current roster by position group.
Who are the play makers? Who's returning? Is there depth?
Today, we're talking cornerbacks.
(Fr.) Xavier Carter, 6-0, 175, Manvel, Texas
(Jr.) CJ Coldon, 6-1, 178, Belleville, Ill.
(Jr.) Taylor Dodd, 6-2, 205, Laramie, Wyo.
(Jr.) Azizi Hearn, 6-1, 193, Oceanside, Calif.
(Soph.) Jordan Murry, 5-10, 154, Riverside, Calif.
(Fr.) Mathew Posas, 5-8, 166, Madera, Calif.
(R-Fr.) Caleb Roberson, 5-11, 181, Eastvale, Calif.
(Fr.) Cameron Stone, 5-10, 175, Rosharon, Texas
(Soph.) Derian Vaughn, 5-10, 155, Carrollton, Texas
Benny Boyd (1st season)
105th in the nation in passing yards allowed
3,337 yards allowed
256.7 yards per game
1 interception (Tyler Hall)
No position group faced more adversity last season than this bunch.
Three-year starter Antonio Hull never played a down during his senior campaign. He left the team for personal reasons. Allen Smith was kicked off the team for off-field issues. Cornerbacks coach Willie Mack Garza resigned in late October after being charged with driving under the influence.
That's not all.
CJ Coldon was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 3 and Tyler Hall suffered a concussion in Tulsa that limited him and took him off kick return duties.
Hall and Hull were supposed to be one of the best corner tandems in not only the Mountain West, but the nation. Instead, by the fifth week of the season, Jordan Murry and Azizi Hearn were out on the island.
Murry, a 154-pound true freshman, started the season No. 7 on the depth chart. Hearn transferred in from the University of Arizona before the year.
So, it's probably no surprise that the Cowboys gave up explosive plays and big yardage throughout the season. Hall snagged the lone interception of the season from this group.
That speaks volumes, huh?
We might as well take a look at it. Jumping this route might have saved the game for the Cowboys down in San Marcos, Texas, last Septmeber:
At times, things looked grim on the back end. Wyoming's secondary was taxed. Safeties were trying to make up for deficiencies, which was leading to missed tackles and bad angles.
Here's an example:
The news wasn't all bad for the corners in 2019. They showed marked improvement during a four-game stretch against UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico and Nevada.
Murry was thrown into the fire, but made maybe the game-changing play against the Rebels when he upended the league's leading rusher, Charles Williams, sending the junior to the bench for the remainder of the game with a knee injury.
Hearn stepped up in place of Coldon, batting down four passes and tallying 37 tackles. He might have been the MVP of this group with his play late in the season, including holding Colorado State's Nate Craig-Meyers to just two catches for 19 yards. He also aided Hall in limiting Warren Jackson to under 100 receiving yards on six grabs.
It can only go up from here, right?
Sure, Wyoming lost four-year starter and dynamic kick returner, Hall, to graduation, but Coldon is back in the fold after missing the last 10 games a year ago.
Coldon, who scooped and scored from 30 yards out in an opening night upset win over Missouri, was supposed to add much-needed depth in 2019. This fall, he should be a starter opposite Hearn.
Both bring talent, athleticism and some size to the outside. That will be helpful against guys like Jackson, Romeo Doubs, Dante Wright and Alijah Cooks, among others.
Jackson, one of the most talented pass catchers on planet earth, should have a much harder time than this against the length of Coldon and Hearn:
Murry's redshirt was torched during his freshman season, but will bring that invaluable experience into the 2020 campaign.
After him -- your guess is as good as mine. That's the task of first-year cornerbacks coach Benny Boyd.
Cameron Stone is a three-star recruit out of southeast Texas. Kansas State was interested in him before he chose Laramie. Derian Vaughn spent a season at Tabor College in Kansas and will be a sophomore in Laramie this season. He was also a highly recruited two-way player from the Lone Star State.
The Cowboys should have a dynamic pass rush led by Garrett Crall and Solomon Byrd. Ravontae Holt, Mario Mora and Cole Godbout, among others, can also get after the signal caller.
Esaias Gandy and Rome Weber bring experience at safety and Keyon Blankenbaker will be hold down the nickle spot.
That should all help a young cornerback corps that lacks serious depth and experience.
Young guys, they are going to play. With that comes growing pains. They are going to happen. Not to mention learning a new scheme under a new coach. Coldon and Hearn are more than capable of forming a solid duo on the outside. They will be leaned on a lot.
But if we learned anything from last year, it doesn't matter who starts the season, it's who finishes it. Health will be a major factor in the corners having a successful season.
In 2019, the corners, along with the linebackers, were supposed to be the strength of the defense. A couple of bad decisions and injuries later, you saw what happened.