Craig Bohl, We have A Few Questions For You
LARAMIE -- "We're waiting in the weeds."
Those were the first words out of Craig Bohl's mouth during the 2019 version of Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas.
That group of relative no-namers went on to upset Missouri in the opener en route to an eight-win season, culminating with a blowout victory in the Arizona Bowl.
What will the Cowboys' 10th-year head coach say this week in Sin City?
That's to be determined.
Here's a good idea of some questions he will likely be asked. After all the chatter about NIL, the transfer portal, and the real elephant in the room -- San Diego State's status in the league -- Bohl, along with quarterback Andrew Peasley and linebacker Easton Gibbs, can focus on the real task at hand.
Can they lead this team to a league championship for the first time in three decades?
Will Wyoming's secondary be improved?
Tulsa had its way. So did BYU and San Jose State.
The Cowboys' secondary gave up 1,561 passing yards through the first six games. That stretch included games against Northern Colorado and Air Force. Wyoming snagged just two interceptions during that time frame -- one by a cornerback -- and allowed 13 touchdown passes.
When the dust settled, opponents averaged more than 217 yards through the air per game. That ranked the Cowboys 51st in the nation in that category.
That right there shows the improvement this unit made. It's also a product of playing New Mexico, Hawaii and a battered Utah State offense down the stretch.
Cam Stone bolted for the islands in the offseason, signing with Hawaii via the NCAA Transfer Portal. He's taking his 35 tackles, two interceptions and team-leading 10 pass breakups with him.
Not to worry, says UW defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel.
If there was an unofficial MVP of the spring it was Kolbey Taylor. The sophomore appeared in just a pair of games last fall, but by all accounts is ready for prime time. Tyrecus Davis, a transfer from Navarro Community College (Texas), has also drawn plenty of praise from this coaching staff.
Jakorey Hawkins also returns to the lineup after tallying 30 tackles and picking off a pass in '22. Deron Harrell has dealt with offseason injuries, but also snagged a key interception in Wyoming's 14-13 Border War victory over rival Colorado State.
Wyett Ekeler and Isaac White solidified themselves at the safety spot and Wrook Brown will likely be the starting nickelback. Brown, however, is being pushed by Buck Coors, who suffered what was believed to be a season-ending knee injury during the team's final summer scrimmage. The sophomore walk-on pestered Bohl all season, telling him he would return to the lineup.
Coors appeared in the Pokes' final five games, including the Arizona Bowl.
Texas Tech threw for 302 yards per game last fall. That ranks the Red Raiders No. 12 in the nation. Wyoming's secondary will face a big test out of the chute. Will these guys be ready?
Can Peasley go out with a bang?
The Wyoming coaching staff put a leash on Peasley during his first season on campus after transferring in from Utah State.
For one, he was learning an entirely new offense, Bohl has said repeatedly. The Aggies run a wide-open spread attack. Wyoming doesn't. The then-junior stepped under center for the first time in his college career last August in Champaign. The results were ugly. Peasley completed just 5-of-20 passes for 30 yards and a pick in a 38-6 loss to Illinois.
The following Saturday, he was named the Mountain West's Offensive Player of the Week after torching Tulsa to the tune of 256 yards and two touchdowns. He added 45 more yards on the ground in that 40-37 double-overtime victory.
That two-week stretch sums up the season for Peasley, who finished with 10 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 1,574 yards passing.
Peasley also has an injury history.
He only appeared in 17 games during his three-year stint in Logan. Wyoming wanted to keep him upright, not to mention no other QB on the roster had ever taken a single snap in an actual game.
We praised Peasley for throwing the ball away so many times last season. He didn't force things -- until late in the '22 campaign -- and often launched balls into the bench to avoid trouble. Running has always been a major part of Peasley's repertoire. Expect to see more of that this fall.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Oregon product has one more chance to prove he can lead a team to a championship. The choke chain is officially off and the senior will be counted on to make plays and keep this offense on the field and in the end zone.
It's time to let it rip.
Just how good can this defense be?
Sawvel knows he has a special group on his hands.
Wyoming's defensive front is anchored by one of the top tackle tandems in the country in Cole Godbout and Jordan Bertagnole. DeVonne Harris and Braden Siders combined for 15.5 sacks in 2022. The return of Sabastian Harsh, arguably the Cowboys' most-talented edge rusher, will only help matters.
These guys are All-Conference caliber.
Easton Gibbs could be named the predicted Mountain West's Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday. It's deserved. The junior tallied a team-high 121 tackles last fall and will only benefit from playing behind that front four.
Shea Suiaunoa, the Cowboys' outside linebacker, is coming off his first year as a full-time starter. Missed tackles were an issue, but he was seemingly always in position to make the play.
Ekeler and White will again be the starting safeties and Brown has solidified himself as the Cowboys' top nickelback.
If there was a weakness on this defense a year ago it was at the cornerback spot.
Sawvel and Co. think that issue has been rectified.
Hawkins, an Ole Miss transfer, returns to the cornerback room and Davis shined during the spring game, picking off Peasley for a pick-six just before the half. This staff is high on Taylor. It should be. The 6-foot-3 Texas product also jumped in front of a Peasley pass in the spring game. Bohl raved about his maturity and athleticism.
Bohl said one lockdown corner could give him the green light to bring a number of different blitzes. He may have found that in Taylor.
What could really make this unit special is depth.
Gavin Meyer, Connor Shay, Jaden Williams, Read Sunn, Ben Florentine, Harrell and Coors are just a few of the guys who will rotate in and out of this lineup. And there will be others.
Wyoming finished with just six interceptions last fall. It added eight fumble recoveries. Those numbers should only improve with fresh bodies.
Will this offense finally find some balance, consistency?
Wyoming ran the ball 479 times in 2022. Just 304 passing attempts came off the right arms of Peasley and Clemons.
Those kinds of numbers are to be expected from this offense.
The issue? Only 156 of those throws were actually completed.
Again the Cowboys should be solid on the ground. Northern Illinois transfer Harrison Waylee rushed for nearly 2,000 yards during his three-year stint in DeKalb. Dawaiian McNeely showed glimpses of what he could become last fall, rushing for 356 yards on just 63 attempts. That's nearly six yards per carry. A hand injury limited the sophomore.
DQ James, who is coming off a torn ACL suffered in early November, was also an explosive option in the UW backfield, rolling up 346 yards on 40 carries. That's an eye-popping 8.6 yards per carry.
Despite some youth and inexperience across the offensive front after the graduation of Eric Abojei and the abrupt departure of Emmanuel Pregnon to USC after the spring game, this unit still has plenty of options. Frank Crum is making the move to left tackle and Nofoafia Tulafono is one of the best centers in the Mountain West. Wes King, Caden Barnett, Jack Walsh -- you're up.
How can this passing offense get better?
Treyton Welch should help. The senior tight end was the second-leading receiver last season, hauling in 22 passes for 308 yards and a team-best five touchdowns. His running mate John Michael Gyllenborg also turned heads this spring.
Wyatt Wieland was much improved in '22. He caught 23 balls for 299 yards and a score. He also added one touchdown on the ground and became the Cowboys' go-to wideout on sweep plays. Bohl said he has gotten even bigger, stronger, and most importantly, faster, this offseason.
Can Alex Brown take another step?
Can Will Pelissier stay healthy?
Will Caleb Merritt or Jaylen Sargent emerge?
The real wild card here could be incoming transfers Ayir Asante and Devin Boddie Jr. Asante racked up 1,718 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns during his four seasons at Holy Cross. Boddie, a Vanderbilt transfer, brings that SEC speed and three years of eligibility.
Don't forget about Gunner Gentry.
The senior has suffered back-to-back season-ending knee injuries. Before that, though, wide receivers coach Mike Grant said he was looking an awful lot like a guy who used to play at Wyoming with the same last name.
Is the door about to get kicked down?
After a forgettable 2020 season that featured just two wins and a worldwide pandemic, Bohl made a proclamation: "We're kicking the door down."
Fast forward three years and that door is still firmly standing.
The Cowboys, one of the youngest teams in the nation, were in contention deep into November last fall, but the big dogs marked their territory late. Boise State and Fresno State, the programs that met in the Mountain West championship game, knocked off UW in the final two weeks of the regular season.
One was a heartbreak. The other, a blowout.
They say defenses win championships. So, why is the trophy case in Laramie collecting dust?
You know why.
Again Wyoming's offense was amongst the worst in the nation when it comes to throwing the football. How bad? Peasley and Co. ranked No. 125 out of 131 teams, averaging just 132.2 yards per game through the air. Peasley, along with back-up Clemons, tossed 12 interceptions. That duo connected on only 11 touchdown throws.
This broken record keeps on spinning.
Wyoming's defense could be historically good in 2023. There is depth across the board and the Pokes are sure to litter All-Conference lists in the preseason. It's warranted. This team also features one of the best placekickers in the country in John Hoyland.
Like it has been since Josh Allen walked across the stage in Dallas and hoisted that Bills jersey in 2018, consistency in the passing game remains the biggest question mark.
The Cowboys haven't claimed a conference title since 1993. If this offense can figure things out, that three-decade drought could be in the rear-view mirror in just a matter of months.
University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players
- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players