Breaking down the ‘Boys: Wide receivers
LARAMIE -- The early offseason around here has been, shall we say, eventful, for Craig Bohl and his Wyoming football program.
First, there was the 52-38 victory over Kent State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise. Less than 24 hours later, the floodgates opened, spilling the first of 10 players -- seven of which still have multiple years of eligibility -- into the already overflowing NCAA Transfer Portal.
Has that caused a bit of worry among the faithful? You bet.
In what was billed as a year with championship aspirations, Wyoming won just six games in the regular season after starting the year 4-0. Underperformance, along with the exit of so many critical pieces to this roster, will do that to a fanbase.
We're not sure if the dust is completely settled from a wild first two weeks of the offseason, but here's a position-by-position breakdown and analysis of who we think will suit up for the Cowboys when the 2022 season opens next August in Champaign, Ill.
Yesterday we took a look at the quarterbacks. Today, it's all about the wide outs:
Who are they:
Alex Brown (Soph. 6-4, 190, Spring, Texas), Wyatt Wieland (Jr. 6-1, 197, Colorado Springs, Colo.), Gunner Gentry (Sr. 6-3, 208, Aurora, Colo.), Jaylen Sargent (Fr. 6-2, 170, Logan, Utah), Joshua Cobbs (Soph. 6-4, 196, San Antonio, Texas), Ryan Marquez (Jr. 6-1, 194, Arvada, Colo.), Caleb Cooley (Jr. 5-7, 170, Chico, Calif.), Will Pelissier (Soph. 6-3, 200, Big Horn, Wyo.), Chance Hofer (Sr. 6-0, 208, Green River, Wyo.), Caleb Merritt (Fr. 6-0, 181, St. Louis, Mo.), Charlie Coenen (Fr. 6-0, 190, Chanhassen, Minn.)
How they fared in 2021:
If the ball was thrown anywhere in his general direction, chances were Isaiah Neyor was coming down with it.
Not only did the 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore snag it, more times than not, the Texas product also ended up in the end zone. Neyor hauled in a team-high 44 passes for 878 yards. He finished with 13 total touchdowns, a dozen of which came through the air.
Now, he's in the NCAA Transfer Portal being courted by the likes of USC, Ole Miss, LSU, Texas and plenty of other Power-5 suitors after spending three seasons in Laramie.
Yes, Neyor was the go-to target, but redshirt freshman Joshua Cobbs had his moments, too.
MORE UW WIDE RECEIVER NEWS:
* Wyoming's lone 3-star recruit a true student of the game
* Joshua Cobbs looking to build on breakout performance
* Freshman wide out Jaylen Sargent checks all the boxes
* Eberhardt on UW's receivers: 'We've got to execute'
* Will Pelissier dreamed of being a Cowboy one day. Now, it's real
Cobbs caught 25 balls for 245 yards and a touchdown. His best day came in Logan, Utah, where he came down with six catches for 76 yards and that lone score in a 44-17 road rout of the Aggies.
The unquestioned leader of the receiving corps, super senior Ayden Eberhardt also finished with 21 grabs for 298 yards before a season-ending knee injury put a premature end to his UW career in a week 8 matchup with San Jose State.
Wyatt Wieland filled in for Eberhardt amicably, becoming a nice third-down option for quarterback Levi Williams. The Colorado Springs native hauled in four catches for 60 yards on the season.
Alex Brown was the only other Cowboy wide out to catch a ball in 2021. He hauled in three of them for 33 yards before a late-season injury derailed his progression.
Under Bohl, Wyoming will always have a run-first approach. That's no secret. In fact, he takes pride in that aspect of his program.
That's fine, but with a talent like Neyor on the outside, it's downright baffling that he wasn't a bigger part of the weekly game plan. Those numbers above speak volumes. Plus, it's hard not to think about the numerous times he was overthrown early in the season while running all by his lonesome down the middle of the field.
Imagine if Neyor's receiving numbers were doubled like they arguably should've been: 88 catches, 1,756 yards, 24 touchdowns.
Marcus Harris' best season was in 1996 when the Biletnikoff winner rolled up 1,650 yards on 109 receptions. Ryan Yarbrough caught a program-best 16 touchdowns in 1993.
Sure, it's not an exact science, but you get the picture.
Neyor is special. Lincoln Riley sees it. So does Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Brian Kelly and plenty of other high-profile coaches around the country.
It's criminal how underutilized this guy was in Laramie.
Though the biggest and best piece of the wide receiving corps is gone, Cobbs did show glimpses of becoming a dynamic playmaker. But even he admitted, with Neyor demanding the attention of the opposing secondary, getting open was a much easier task. Can Cobbs be that guy for a young group of inexperienced pass catchers in 2022?
The Cowboys will miss the leadership of Eberhardt, but the return of Gentry, who missed the entire '21 campaign with a knee injury, will certainly soften the blow. The Aurora product has been in this program a long time and nothing will be new to him.
Bohl and Co. told us during fall camp to keep an eye on true freshman, Sargent. He did get some playing time late in the season, but was never targeted. Merritt, an incoming freshman, is expected to land in the slot. He was recruited by Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Purdue, along with an assortment of Ivy League schools. That tells me he's intelligent and has the goods to play at a high level.
Bohl must like the group he has. So far, Merritt is the only scholarship receiver he has coming in the 2022 class. Coenen is a preferred walk-on.
This group is going to be unproven. We will all learn together who the next man up will truly be.
Can Cobbs take the next step and fill the shoes of one of the best wideouts in the country?
Can Gentry take over the leadership load from Eberhardt and become a reliable target on the important downs?
Can one of the youngsters step up and adapt to the college game with just a fall camp worth of practices under his belt?
While Bohl is scouring the portal looking for his next signal caller, will an available receiver jump off the page and earn an invite to the high plains? Remember, he did pick up Raghib Ismail Jr. from Cisco Junior College before the 2017 season.
There are certainly more questions than answers when it comes to this group -- especially when we have no idea who will be throwing them the football -- but it should be an interesting battle to keep an eye on.