‘Confidence definitely never faltered’
LARAMIE -- Gavin Meyer grew up exactly two hours south of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
So, you can imagine he has kept an eye on NFL Network as of late.
"Man, ARod needs to the stay home," Wyoming's freshman defensive tackle said about the ongoing saga of disgruntled Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. "I don't care what all those teammates are talking about, all that backside stuff. I mean, if ARod can stay home for the next couple years, it would be amazing."
It's no wonder Meyer has gravitated toward fellow Cheese head, Cole Godbout. He's from Hudson, which is closer to four hours away from hallowed Lambeau Field. Plus, they are both in the trenches on the Cowboys' defensive front.
"Absolutely, me and Cole being from the same state," he said of their quick connection. "Getting to know him out here is a great thing, having that home connection."
Now, maybe they can go watch their favorite quarterback play two hours down the road in Denver?
One can hope.
Maybe Meyer can revert to his own playing experience if the Packers do lose their MVP signal caller. Take this into consideration, Wyoming was supposed to have services of impact players like Ravontae Holt, Victor Jones, Mario Mora and Claude Cole littering the defensive interior in 2020.
Instead, the Cowboys were forced to rotate guys like Jordan Bertagnole, Justis Borton and Meyer himself, a true freshman, less than a year removed from playing high school football. Godbout was the lone veteran in the group throughout UW's COVID-shortened six-game season.
To make matters worse, defensive ends Solomon Byrd and Davon Wells-Ross opted out. Cameron Smith was suspended. Garrett Crall's offseason foot surgery wasn't cooperating, either. Jones, a hybrid player who could put his hand in the dirt at both spots, was suspended late in the season.
Meyer said it didn't matter where his confidence level was at. He didn't have time to be tentative.
"I think confidence was always through the team, kind of aspects," he said. "Me, Jordan Bertagnole, Ravontae Holt, all those guys early in the season, said, hey man, you're in. You just need to go. There was no question, I needed to be ready ... let's just got for it. Confidence definitely never faltered."
Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl knew his options were limited. He was all for pleasant surprises. He said he got one with Meyer.
"You know what, we're well pleased with him," Bohl said. "He's put on some lean muscle mass and that's helped this spring. We felt like he was a good player out of high school and we felt like he was going to be a developmental guy, which he was. He's developed, but certainly not the finished product right now. He's gotten better. He's proven that we can put him in and get some bonafide playing time."
MORE UW FOOTBALL NEWS:
* Will 'Big Horn' Pelissier impresses in UW spring game
* Turning point, unsung hero and what's next for UW football
* Behind the numbers: Spring game edition
* Titus Swen explosive in return to gridiron
Something that expedited the process were the guys Meyer lined up across from in practice. Daily, the 6-foot-4, 257-pound tackle went toe to toe with former All-American center, Keegan Cryder. If not him, it was big Eric Abojei or senior Logan Harris putting their mitts into the chest of No. 90.
"You don't get a break," Meyer said with a smile. "It really does leave wear and tear on you, but I think that's just kind of the iron sharpens iron deal. Having someone of that skill level to always go against and not taking a step back and always wanting to push yourself, especially against a guy like Keegan on the inside, man, just every play he's going to come after you and you know what you're going to get.
"It's always going to make you better no matter no matter how many times you go against him. Once you get thrown back a couple of times, you want to get them back."
Do those battles ever get ugly?
"It's a mutual respect thing," he added. "I got you this one, but hey man, if you got me in a bad way, I'm going to get you right back on the next play."
Reps -- better yet, double reps -- Meyer said also helped him get ready for the grind of a college football season. In three games last fall, Meyer registered just two tackles. But that doesn't tell the whole story.
Wyoming's defense was stingy on the ground. That all starts up front.
The Cowboys ranked 21st in the country, allowing just 125.3 yards per game on the ground. That number would've plummeted if not for a 223-yard rushing day from New Mexico in early December.
Meyer credits the culture that was already in place when he arrived as the main reason the Cowboys were so successful on the line of scrimmage, despite the youth and inexperience.
This fall that group could be fully intact and better than ever. Holt is returning from ACL surgery. Cole and Mora are back. So is Bertagnole and Godbout. Even Caleb Robinson has been making noise this spring. Same can be said for Cody product, Duncan Radakovich. If Jones' suspension is lifted in time for the opener Sept. 4, this could be one of the deepest units on the roster.
Here's that word again -- culture.
"I think the culture that we have here just attracts people," Meyer said. "I don't think people want to leave if they have an opportunity to keep coming back ... Having that short season, everyone wanted a little bit more."